Archives, Motorized Shades, Roller Shades, Solar Shades

The Master Weaves of Phifer – Hitech Solar Sheerweave Shades

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The Solar SheerWeave Fabric Story.


I’m sure everyone’s heard of Phifer at some point or the other, not least in relation with window shading. The Phifer story is not new, not by a long shot. Established in 1952, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA, Phifer Incorporated started off manufacturing aluminum insect screening, in the day when the mosquito menace was so strong that numerous folks died of the mosquito-borne Dengue Fever, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and Malaria, all deadly in their own right. It became imminent that protective measures be adopted to curtail the rampant spread of these diseases, then in pandemic proportions! One of the mandated requirements was that buildings be shielded from mosquitoes, as people generally spend a substantial amount of time indoors. That was where J. Reese Phifer came in to establish an invaluable service to the community of Tuscaloosa – manufacturing mosquito meshes for windows and doors. We in Canada can certainly empathize with the mosquito menace! I remember some of Louis L’Amour’s Western tales that spoke of ‘clouds of mosquitoes’ and ‘mosquitoes engulfing a man’ in Canada, back in the days of the wild west!


As air conditioning started replacing natural breeze (more than a million a/c units were sold 1953 alone) in the post WW2 economic boom, Phifer saw an opportunity to capitalize on his weaving expertise to develop sunscreens to control heat gain at the window. To cut a long story short, there was no stopping J. Reese Phifer; keeping to his major goals (excellence in quality and service),technology driven opportunities have ensured that Phifer leads in the insect screen, solar control fabric, engineered product, designed fabric, and drawn wire industries.



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Sun Screens are of paramount importance in our world today, what with our summers getting hotter, and our winters getting colder – thanks to the great seesaw of global warming, the scrooge of the 21st century! Solar Shades are designed to minimize direct sunlight while maximizing the exterior view. We all know that shading devices are used for many reasons, most of them unrelated to energy savings. An understanding of how different shading devices affect summer and winter energy consumption means that ‘smart ‘selections can be made. Consumers must perceive a trade-off between energy performance and cost/visual and thermal comfort/aesthetic considerations.


The National Research Council of Canada (NRC), in association with the Institute for Research in Construction (IRC), conducted a study ‘to clarify the extent to which shading devices can reduce energy demand for heating and cooling’, among other factors. The study also considered potential condensation on windows, both conventional and high-performance. The shading types under study were:

· Typical interior blinds
· Interior reflective blinds
· Interior reflective roller screens
· Between-pane, metallic reflective blinds
· Exterior Insulating roll shutters, and
· Exterior screens


The main points from the research can be summarized as follows:


1. Windows with typical interior blinds (the most widely used shading devices in Canada) are energy-efficient and cost-effective in terms of annual energy savings compared to unshaded windows, also they may reduce cooling energy utilization and cost (by up to 12%), and *on-peak cooling power demand (by up to 12%).

2. Exterior Insulating roll shutters and shades are the most effective shading devices for reducing heating and cooling energy use, *on-peak cooling power demand and the risk of condensation on the interior surfaces of windows. They also improve thermal comfort conditions near windows.

3.Exterior roll shutters and shades are more effective when used with conventional windows than with high-performance windows. This means they are worth considering for renovating old houses with standard windows.

*Peak cooling power demand refers to the maximum power used by the cooling system – air conditioner and circulation fan – during the hottest day of the cooling season to maintain comfortable conditions indoors.


The proof is in the pudding! But exterior shading solutions can be enormously expensive, and almost always require additional shading for windows from the inside of a house; because of the nature of the weave adopted for roller solar shades, come nightfall, interior illumination makes for visibility from the outside. Modern innovation from Phifer has ensured that not only can you use solar shades on the outside of a house – they can also be used inside, on rollers mounted on window frames. And because the weave lets some air through, it is not considered air tight, and remarkably brings down the risk of condensation. A broad range of GREENGUARD certified interior sun control fabrics from Phifer (all 100% recyclable) serve to reduce solar gain, improve indoor air quality, and preserve interior surfaces and elements. These qualities in turn protect our natural environment by conserving energy.


The openness Factor (OF) of Solar Sheerweaves Shades.

The amount of shading solar shades provide depends on the openness of the fabric weave. They come in OF’s of 0-25%. The higher the percentage of openness, the more the light let in (better view), but the less the shading.


The Color of Solar Sheerweaves Shades.

Solar Sheerweaves Shades come in a variety of light and dark colors. The lighter the color of the more the heat and light deflection and the illumination. The darker the fabrics he more the heat absorption, glare control, and view.

In heating dependent countries such as Canada, it would be sensible to use dark colored fabric with low OF’s in winter, as they would absorb he sun’s heat during the day and serve to keep it in during the night, especially with an additional cover that would give privacy at night, such as opaque Roman Shades or Drapes.

As Canada reels from an unprecedented cold winter, we at Zebrablinds hope that everyone makes the sensible choice of using dark-colored roller solar shades, made with Phifer fabrics, with low OF’s, to provide optimal energy efficiency and warmth in their homes.



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