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Installing Sunscreen Retractors to Minimize Solar Gain

5 of 5 in Series: The Essentials of Cooling Your Home the Green Way

In addition to using solar energy to provide power for your home, you can also take steps to minimize solar gain in your home. This simple act can keep your house cooler in the summer, thus decreasing your energy bills and reducing your carbon footprint. Installing sunscreens is the cheapest way to prepare a window for the summer season, and it's also one of the best in terms of practical effect. Sunscreens reflect a lot of sunlight and create an insulation barrier on the outside.

Most sunscreens are dark, heavy-duty fabric screens with a shiny surface. Some are a flexible, tinted plastic film. They can reflect up to 90 percent of all sunlight, which makes a big difference inside the house.

Only windows that get more than a few hours of direct sunlight a day benefit from sunscreen installation. The best candidates are tall windows facing south, but east and west can also get very hot. Of course, part of the effect is the psychological comfort of shading, and you may want that anywhere.

You don't want sunscreens in the winter, so they're only temporary. The solution is to mount them in removable frames or tack them up. You can also roll them up like a blind or buy a finished blind that has solar screen. Or get automatic, electric controllers so that, with the push of a single button, you can command every solar screen in your house. Once you get them installed, you can create a manual retractor:

Make a manually operated screen retractor that works reliably, is easy to use, and costs very littl
Make a manually operated screen retractor that works reliably, is easy to use, and costs very little.

You need a wooden mount that's slightly wider than your window, three eyelets, a sunscreen, tacks, a dowel rod (as long as the mount), and screws or nails (to install).

  1. Drill three holes in the mount and attach the eyelets.

    The first two holes are 6 inches from each end of the mount; the remaining hole should be 1 inch from the end. Screw in the eyelets, making sure that all three holes are lined up, facing the ends of the mount.

  2. Using a box cutter, cut the sunscreen to size.

    You want to make the sunscreen larger than the window by about 4 inches, although if you don't have the room, any size will work, even if it's smaller than the window. A size smaller than the window will just be unsightly from inside, looking outside.

  3. Tack the sunscreen onto the roll-up rod (dowel) and the mount.

  4. Put the cords in place.

    Tie a cord to an eyelet that's 6 inches from the end, loop the cord over the top of the mount and under the rod, and go back up through the eyelet. Repeat on the other side. Then thread both cords through the end eyelet, the one that's 1 inch from the end of the mount.

  5. Screw or nail the mount onto the window frame.

    To retract the screen, simply pull the cords.

    If you like, paint the wood to match your house. You can use pulleys instead of eyelets and get smoother performance. If wind is an issue, get some fishing weights (the kind with holes so you can get a nail through) and nail them into the ends of the roller dowel, equal weight on each side.

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