Main Content

Using Reflective Tint to Boost Energy Efficiency in Historic Windows

Posted on by Mitch

Using Reflective Tint to Boost Energy Efficiency in Historic Windows


During a presentation on historic windows last weekend, I was asked a question about using reflective tinting to reduce heat transfer in windows.  As I live in South Texas, this is an important topic, especially in the summer.

Adding reflective tint to historic wood and steel windows can significantly enhance their energy efficiency while preserving their historical look. Reflective tinting acts as a barrier against solar heat gain during hot weather, reducing the need for AC and minimizing overall energy consumption. By blocking a portion of the sun’s rays (sometimes up to 70% or more), reflective tinting helps maintain a cooler indoor environment, thus reducing the strain on HVAC systems and potentially lowering utility costs.  The best part?  Reflective tinting can be nearly clear and imperceivable to the naked eye.

For historic wood windows, reflective tinting can be applied to the glass without compromising the aesthetic appeal of the sash and wavy glass. Modern advancements in tinting technology allow for subtle and virtually invisible applications that preserve the beauty of the wood and glass while enhancing the window’s thermal performance. A homeowner can also reduce the cost of adding tint by choosing only certain windows to apply the tint too.  For example, you can reduce a lot of the summer heat in a historic home by choosing to just tint the western side of the house, or even just in particular rooms, or by increasing the tint level in some rooms.

Similarly, historic steel windows can benefit from reflective tinting, particularly in buildings where preserving the original windows is paramount. While steel windows provide durability and strength, they can also be prone to heat transfer, leading to discomfort and higher energy bills. Reflective tinting offers a cost-effective solution to improve the energy efficiency of steel windows without altering their appearance or structural integrity. Additionally, tinting helps reduce glare and enhance overall comfort, making it an attractive option for historic buildings with steel windows.  In the video below, I show how tint dramatically increased the energy efficiency of steel windows in my co-working space, and added to the overall comfort level inside the building. 

In summary, the application of reflective tinting to historic wood and steel windows offers a practical and sustainable solution to enhance energy efficiency while maintaining the architectural integrity of historic structures. By reducing solar heat gain and minimizing energy consumption, reflective tinting contributes to the preservation of historic windows and the overall sustainability of historic buildings for future generations.

A video on how you can add reflective film to increase energy efficiency on single pane windows.  This is especially helpful in hot climates.



MINS 0:00-END.  Adding Reflective Film to the Glass.  I discuss with Clay how he significantly reduced heat transfer in his co-working space by adding reflective film to his building’s windows.  We are based in Texas, and the film significantly blocked external heat and sun, creating a comfortable environment and reducing energy costs.

Note: He used 3M Reflective Film.  He used medium-reflective for some windows and full-reflective for the windows on the western side of the building.

See also the articles below:

National Park Service Article: The Repair and Thermal Upgrading of Steel Windows. A great little pamphlet on restoring historic steel casement windows. LINK
National Park Service Article: Installing Insulating Glass in Existing Steel Windows LINK
National Park Service Article: Repair and Retrofitting Steel Windows LINK
US General Services Administration A weird webpage that gives government guidelines on cleaning painting steel windows. Maybe it’s process government contractors must follow? Not sure. LINK
Sullivan Masonry A contractor that restores historic metal/steel windows! Based out of San Francisco. LINK

About Mitch

Hello! I built this website to help people learn to repair and restore historic windows. I love these ol' windows and want to help save as many as I can. I hope these blogs posts are helpful to you and inspire you to begin your own restoration journey. If I can do it, so can YOU! Cheers ~ Mitch View all posts by Mitch →

Leave a Reply