Maintaining the film requires caution. It is subject to scratching with even the slightest abrasive. Chemicals often found in off-the-shelf window cleaners also can damage the film and should be avoided. However, it is easily cleaned with a solution of warm water and vinegar applied and dried with a soft, clean cotton cloth. I recommend an old cotton T-shirt or cotton (not polyester) diapers. Do not use paper towels, which can scratch the film. Do not use detergent and water, which will loosen the film adhesive.
With proper care, a quality window film will last for years, although a life span of more than 10 years is exceptional for even the best of widow films. Installation can be difficult and in most cases I would recommend that you leave this to the professionals.
If you are adept at do-it-yourself installations, it might be a job you can tackle yourself. Smaller windows are much easier to do than larger ones. But beware, the better warranties are those generally offered when film is installed by professionals (voided when installed by the homeowner).
Instructions are provided by most dealers selling film retail. Generally they include the following steps:
Thoroughly clean the window surface, removing any stubborn particles with a razor blade. Measure the windowpane, and then cut a piece of film larger than the pane by about 2 inches overall. Mix one teaspoon of liquid dish detergent with one quart of water in a spray bottle. Spray this mixture on the windowpane, thoroughly wetting the surface.
Next, peel back the liner paper on the film to expose the adhesive surface. Drench the adhesive side of the film by spraying it with the detergent solution.
Now for the difficult part. Position the adhesive side of the wet film against the wet window. Carefully smooth the film out over the glass surface with your hands, eliminating wrinkles. Spray the surface of the film now facing you. Continue to smooth the film against the glass using a rubber squeegee, carefully working from center to side, then vertically top to bottom. When the film is firmly in place, trim the edges using a straightedge and razor blade.
GILA Heat Control-Insulating window films is one major brand that encourages do-it-yourself installations. The firm offers free product samples and complete installation instructions on its Web site at www.gilafilms.com, or the company can be reached at 800-528-4481. 3M Co. markets Scotchshield window film, with a micro-layered construction that resists tears and penetration, and makes the window stronger. If the glass breaks, Scotchshield helps hold the glass together and prevents flying glass shards. It comes in different grades and must be installed by a certified Scotchshield installer. Contact 3M for a dealer in your area by calling 800-480-1704).
Q: I read your advice on ceiling fan installation and balancing. I have a ceiling fan which has an annoying hum in the motor. Do you know what might cause this? Can it be corrected?
A: If the motor is not faulty, your problem might be in a wall switch installation that is mismatched. This is very likely if your ceiling fan and the wall switch are different brands. If you are unable to find a wall switch which matches your brand of fan, there is a special switch on the market, the De-Hummer Fan Control (marketed by Pass & Seymour/Legrand at 800-531-1012). It is designed to work with any brand of ceiling fan to eliminate motor hum. Look for it at shops specializing in fans, the lighting/fan department of a home center, or contact the manufacturer direct for an outlet in your area.
Q. We are in the process of remodeling a vacation home, using a professional building contractor. Our contractor has recommended tempered glass on some view windows that cover a large expanse (almost floor to ceiling) on the upper level. Is this necessary?
A. It probably is not only necessary for safety reasons, but a mandatory requirement in your local building codes. Although codes vary from state to state, most areas required tempered glass in glass installations located close to the floor or doorways. Tempered glass is a lot stronger than ordinary window glass.
Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the column.