Comfortable Home Environs with External Solar Shades
Ever come across people who suffer from devastating sun allergies? A sad state of affairs, to say the least. Not being able to go out in summer clothes! Not being able to stay home with overhead lamps! Always being covered from top to toe! Feeling like a freak, especially when there’s some change of scene. And when the sun hits the skin, it’s like being tongued by flames, notwithstanding the itching and tingling that feels like a static shock. Not pleasant. But we learn to deal with this, like all people with ‘abnormal’ conditions, I guess.
It started when I was eight, and it was a nightmare! I loved the outdoors when I was a kid, and I was naturally athletic, having enjoyed swimming from the time I was a baby if my mom is to be believed! But all that had to stop. And no one really knew what the problem was, except that I was extremely sensitive to light. Even low energy overhead bulbs and fluorescent light gave me terrible reactions, so much so that my school life became erratic, then non-existent – homeschooling became my only source of education. I lived the life of an owl or vampire or some nether-worldly creature. Whatever! Life was no fun. But I learned to live with it, even managing college. Canada actually has the ideal weather for my condition, except that I needed to avoid the glare from the snow, and summer, yes, difficult. But what broke my heart was when my 5-year-old son showed the same symptoms. A bright, outgoing child, Ned was much like me when I was his age. And now this.
What is Erythropoietic Protoporia (EPP)?
• EPP occurs when there is a build-up of a chemical called protoporphyrin in the blood.
• The skin is more sensitive to longer ultraviolet wavelengths (UVA) and visible light.
• It is caused by a shortage of an enzyme in the body that normally converts the protoporphyrin into a substance called haem.
• As a result of this enzyme deficiency, protoporphyrin levels build up in the blood.
• As blood passes through the skin, the protoporphyrin absorbs the energy from sunlight, and this sets off a chemical reaction that can slightly damage surrounding tissues.
• The nerve endings in the skin interpret this as itching or burning pain, and if the blood vessels are affected, they can leak fluid, causing swelling.
• The condition is hereditary and symptoms include developing tingling, itching and burning when exposed to sunlight.
• There is currently no cure.
The above has been defined by the British Skin Foundation, the most accurate I’ve come across. An extremely rare condition, I was determined to shield my child from the trauma I went through and refused to pull him out of school. Instead, I conferred with educators who were sympathetic and helped me work with his teachers in creating an environment that was conducive to his remaining in school. In fact, I got the school to start using the exterior solar shades I’d researched and found to be awesome at keeping the debilitating effects of the sun on his skin and mine during the day, especially as I’ve found that my skin is getting even worse as I’m growing older.
External Solar Shades to Combat the Sun in Canada
When I was growing up, my parents had the glass windows treated with that dark, ugly film on the windows. When I started my home, it became possible for me to use blackout shades in tandem with light filtering ones, even Top-Down-Bottom-Up options for the north and southern oriented windows. As I researched, I found so many improved products that offer fabulous shading properties, like the DayNight Cellular Shades and the Dual Roller Shades, but my research also showed me that studies on solar gain and loss has proved that exterior solar shades are the best products to combat the sun before its rays even reach the windows, reducing solar gains, UV damage, and glare, yet making for significant view-through and diffused light transmission. Internal solar shades even come with metallic finishes that face the exterior to make them even more efficient in both winter and summer. But I like the idea of annihilating the harmful effects of the sun before it even reaches the windows. The shades possess a refractive quality as the fibers or strands of the shade fabrics are mainly round, increasing the possibility of the entry of diffused light. The amount of sunlight absorbed or deflected or transmitted by the fabric is dependent on the openness of its weave and color, with darker colors providing the best heat gain, glare reduction, and visibility, and can provide UV protection from 75 -99%.
I finally opted for Graber’s 3% Exterior Solar Shades in a Charcoal-Alpaca V3224 – dark enough to maintain an excellent view and cut the glare, combatting the UV rays by 97%. I sold the concept to Ned’s school too, and they are exploring the option of using it on all their window to maximize daylighting (natural light has been shown to improve academic performance) and to manage solar heat gain. On the home front, I won’t have to use the blackout shades all the time, if at all, during the day. And as working at home has never been more pleasurable, with Ned happily playing inside, with natural light giving him the confidence I never had. I’m even considering the same for my patios, and I am infinitely seduced by the idea of a pool!