Now You See Me
Now You DON’T
by SEAN DAVIES
The Physical and Environmental Benefits of Retractable Screen Systems
Picture the humble bug screen; simple, often overlooked, always taken for granted—except when it isn’t there.
As useful and necessary as they may be, the inherent problems associated with fixed screens in particular are well-known to window manufacturers and homeowners alike. Most manufacturers of windows with fixed screens experience problems with proper fit, particularly with tall, narrow screens which tend to “hourglass” as the mesh is tightened into the frame. This can result in warping, causing poor fit and allowing insects to enter the home through the space between the window and screen frames.
In addition to manufacturing issues, fixed screens are responsible for blocking much of the desirable daylight from penetrating the window. Daylighting, as it is known, can have a major effect on occupant health and productivity.
Because the concept of daylighting is so new, many architects fail to recognize its importance when designing for residential or light commercial use. Over the past 100 years, as North America has shifted away from an agriculturally-based society to that of an industrial economy, people have spent less and less time working outdoors. In fact, the average person in North America is now exposed to only 90 minutes of full spectrum daylight levels per day.
Recent studies show that humans require sustained exposure to natural daylight in order to maintain the body’s natural rhythms. Lack of daylight exposure can result in several psychological affectations such as seasonal affective disorder, also known as the winter blues.
Daylighting can be controlled by several different methods in residential and commercial construction; however, windows continue to be the most natural and cost effective way to introduce healthy natural light into any environment. Because of im-provements in glass and window manufacturing technology, windows can now be built much larger, allowing more light to reach the occupants and increasing the overall aesthetic value of the structure.
However, screens remain the enemy of daylighting, blocking up to 50 percent of the natural light from penetrating the window, affecting its thermal characteristics. Current National Fenestration Rating Council tests to calculate the U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient of windows are performed with the screens removed. This provides unreliable results since most homeowners retain the screens in place year-round, which can have a direct effect on overall heating costs.
Letting in the Light
Recent advances in screen-cloth technology have led to the introduction and stunning success of retractable screen systems by several aftermarket manufacturers. By retracting the screen when it is not required, owners not only improve their view and aesthetic quality of the window but also reap the physical benefits of natural daylight.
The human eye adjusts to changing light levels constantly and focuses between short and long-range views forging a physical association with weather and time, often causing eye fatigue. Roll-away screen systems provide a clear, unobstructed view when not in use and maximizes the daylighting properties of the window.
From the manufacturer’s point of view, the evidence is well-documented that the market for retractable screen systems exists. The runaway success of add-on roll-away screen systems has proven that the consumer is willing to pay a premium for the convenience and benefits that such a system offers.
Because of the popularity of retractable screens, window manufacturers are beginning to realize the advantages of providing an integrated roll-away screen as a standard feature on their windows and patio doors.
Additionally, roll-away screen systems tend to remain much cleaner than fixed screens which are constantly exposed to the elements. Consumer polls indicate that homeowners are twice as likely to choose a window with a retractable screen as one without because of its real and perceived value.
Manufacturers seeking a clear market differentiator over their competition while increasing bottom line profits would be well advised to consider integrating roll-away screen systems into their window designs.
Sean Davies is chief executive officer and director of engineering for Preferred Engineering Products Ltd., based in Ontario.
Out of Sight
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