Solar Shades vs Roller Shades

As windows sizes on new homes and condos get larger and larger, homeowners are seeking more minimalistic appearing window covering solutions that are both functional and enhance the look and feel of the space. Solar Shade and Roller Shades are two category of window coverings that has caught on with the market to meet the needs of covering large windows. These products also work well with small windows too.

From a mechanical assembly and operating perspective, both Solar and Rollers shades are virtually identical. The fabric (whether Solar Shade or Roller Shade) rolls around a tube that includes a manual or automated lift solution and is held by brackets on the end or held by end caps within a cassette assembly. For end bracket supported shades, they have the option of valance covers in various styles and materials to give a move finished look at the top. Cassette enclosed shades come in different sizes depending on the height of the shade and thus the amount of fabric rolled up.

The fabrics that are classified as either solar or roller shades serve different purposes and have key distinguishing features.

Solar Shades


  • Designed primarily to block UV rays and reduce glare while maintaining visibility to the outside.
  • They are beneficial in rooms with a lot of sunlight, helping to protect furniture, flooring, and artwork from fading.


  • Transparency: Solar shades are available in various opacities or “openness” percentages, determining the amount of light filtered and visibility to the outside.
  • UV Protection: They offer UV protection, reducing the amount of harmful radiation entering the room.
  • Energy Efficiency: They help in maintaining room temperature by reflecting sunlight, contributing to energy efficiency.


  • They typically have a sleek and modern appearance.
  • Available in various colors, patterns, and textures.

Roller Shades


  • Primarily focused on providing privacy and light control.
  • Suitable for bedrooms, bathrooms, or any room where privacy is a priority.


  • Opacity: Roller shades are available in a range of opacities, from sheer to blackout, allowing for versatile light control.
  • Simplicity: They have a simple, minimalist appearance, suitable for various interior design styles.
  • Customization: Roller shades are usually more customizable in terms of fabrics, patterns, and designs compared to solar shades.


  • They are available in a wide range of colors, textures, and patterns.
  • They offer a clean and uncluttered look with the fabric rolled up at the top of the window when open.


  • Visibility: Solar shades usually allow for more visibility to the outside compared to roller shades, depending on the level of openness selected.
  • Light Control: Roller shades might offer better light control options, as they are available in blackout fabrics, making them suitable for bedrooms or media rooms.
  • Privacy: Roller shades generally provide more privacy compared to solar shades, especially at night when interior lights are on.
  • UV Protection: Solar shades are specifically designed to provide better UV protection and reduce solar heat gain.
  • Aesthetics: Both shades can be aesthetically pleasing, but roller shades typically offer more options for customization in terms of appearance.

Details and Nuances

Above are the broad differences between Solar Shades and Roller Shades.  However, there are more details and nuances to consider.  Traditional Solar Shades are partially made of PVC, which gives the fabric a plastic sheen look and thicker feel.  Solar Shades were originally invented primary as a form of window coverings for offices.  While working at the office in the daytime, UV protection and light control, while being able to look outside, were highly desirable features.  At night, even though one can see inside the office if the lights were on, that was not a concern as it was non-working hours when no one is at the office and the lights were typically off.

With concern of indoor air quality and off-gassing and the GreenGuard certification gaining widespread recognition and acceptance, there was a desire to have more eco-friendly solar shade fabrics without PVC.  There are now non-PVC solar shade fabrics made of 100% polyester that have a look and feel that is more suitable for residential applications.

Blackout Roller Shades

For Roller Shade, there are two broad categories based on light control: light filtering roller shade or blackout roller shades. Blackout, as the name implies, blocks 100% of the light from passing through the fabric. However, light can still get through the gap between the shade and the end of the windows. In order to block out light, the blackout shade fabric has a coating applied to the back (street-facing) side or has an internally sandwiched layer that blocks the light.

Light Filtering Roller Shades

Light filtering roller shades, allow some of the natural light to come through while providing visual privacy day or night. At night, with the lights on inside the room, someone outside may see a silhouette of a person if the person stands near the window, but no further details can be seen.

The amount of light that can go through a light filtering shade, depends on the colour of the fabric, the tightness of the weave, and the thickness of the fabric material.

Nowadays, there are also semi-sheer and sheer-like roller shades. This type of shade provides daytime privacy and preserves outside viewing. This category of roller shade, has become a popular substitute for traditional drapery sheers. Instead of applying two layers – sheer panels and drapery panels window covering solution to a window, one can pair a roller shade and drapery combination. The advantage of this approach is not just potential cost savings, but less encroachment into the room space as there is only a single track of drapery instead of a double track of sheers and drapery.

Choosing Between Solar and Roller Shades

When choosing between solar and roller shades, consider the primary needs for the room:
• If the priority is to reduce glare and UV rays while maintaining a view, solar shades are the better option.
• If privacy and light blocking are more important, roller shades would be more suitable.

Additional Consideration:

  • Dual Shades

If you are having trouble deciding between solar and roller shades, some manufacturers offer dual shades – a combination of a solar shade and a roller shade in one product. This can be a versatile solution as it allows you to enjoy the benefits of both types of shades, depending on your needs at different times of the day.

  • Roller or Solar Shade paired with Drapery

For certain windows, the homeowner may want outside viewing while retaining privacy during the day time and full privacy at night.  Using a solar shade or a semi-sheer or sheer-like roller shade paired with drapery, could be that perfect solution.

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