If you’re reading this, chances are you already know that the world of window film is vast. With so much innovation in one industry, it can make for an overwhelming number of options. 


Believe it or not, this sprawling and fascinating industry is split clean down the middle, and there’s good reason for that. You’ll find the primary classes of window film come in two distinct camps: automotive film and architectural film. 


You might be surprised to learn just how many essential differences separate these two similar kinds of products. Here are just a few of them:


One of the biggest differences between automotive and architectural window films becomes obvious during the installation process. Unlike architectural films, automotive films are designed to shrink upon installation. This is to help fit them snugly to the curvature of virtually all car windows, which varies from vehicle to vehicle. 


Architectural films, on the other hand, have no practical reason to shrink — to do so would be to risk shattering the very windows they’re installed to protect.


Likewise, automotive films are typically made of a thinner material. Once again, this is for fitting purposes: the thinner dimensions allow these films to better align with the shape of the window when heated. 


Because architectural films are not meant to shrink, heated or otherwise, the thinness provides no practical benefit. This is why architectural films are generally thicker, and likewise require more precise cutting and measuring during installation to ensure a proper fit.

Heat Rejection

Another essential (albeit subtle) difference between automotive and architectural films can be found in the method by which they handle heat from the sun. Reducing the amount of heat allowed through a window, often called “heat rejection,” is a primary goal of both automotive and architectural films. But due to fundamental limitations, they must handle this job in two distinct ways.


Automotive films absorb the sunlight, which is then dispersed by the wind that rushes over the vehicle in motion. Because buildings don’t share this trait, architectural films are instead designed to reflect the sunlight away from the building. This is because buildings tend to require more extensive heat rejection measures to keep them cool, whereas cars are typically occupied for shorter periods and may rely on air conditioning to maintain a comfortable temperature.


A third key point of distinction between these two categories of window film is the materials used to compose them. Automotive films are typically made of a thinner, more flexible material that can conform to the shape of the window, whereas architectural films are often thicker and more rigid. 


Due to the number of electronic devices (many of which require a clear signal) in personal vehicles, many automotive window films are not able to take advantage of metallic materials, which could interfere with the signal. For this reason, vehicle films are typically made with dye or carbon. 


Architectural films, on the other hand, take advantage of metals in their composition, and many of them do so to great effect. Certain substances like aluminum can significantly aid in heat rejection from architectural windows.


Perhaps one of the most apparent differences between automotive and architectural films for windows is the discrepancy in their available varieties. While a predominant selling point of both classes of window film is their ability to reduce the negative effects of sunlight, this is by no means the only issue they might seek to address. Plenty of window film varieties are designed to improve privacy, security, or even aesthetics, but not all of these features are compatible with both mediums.


Whereas many architectural windows may be able to take advantage of specialized film varieties such as frosted glass or one-way mirror film, such features would be undesirable — or even dangerous — for use in vehicular windows. 


It’s all a matter of safety. Automobiles must prioritize visibility to maintain safety on the road, while homes and commercial facilities focus on safety in the form of enhanced privacy and security.


As you’ve probably already gathered, there are some essential differences in the ways these two kinds of window films are installed as well. Automotive films, which are designed to shrink to size, are typically installed in one piece per window. These sheets are often applied to the window with a squeegee. 


On the flip side, architectural films are commonly installed in sections, which may require more precise cutting and measuring. This factor, coupled with the fact that many architectural windows are far larger than those of a typical sedan, makes architectural film installation a more time-consuming effort. 


Both practices make for a delicate process. A window film is only as good as its installation, so professional service is recommended for either case.

Professional Installation for Your Architectural Film

While our company found its earliest roots in automotive window film installation, today our specialty at U.S. Film Crew is in the realm of architectural film. Homes and business facilities of all kinds across the nation have varied and precise needs for their window films, from security to privacy to style. 


That’s why we have made it our mission to provide top-notch architectural film solutions and impeccable installation services. 


Looking for the right team to handle your building’s window film installation? U.S. Film Crew has the experts for the job.

Want to learn more about architectural film? Contact U.S. Film Crew today.

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