Stoneside Custom Solar Shades

Solar Shades vs Roller Shades: What’s the Difference?

By: Brandon Albertson

Updated: 9/28/2023

They might look similar, but they perform differently. Here’s how to tell whether roller shades or solar shades are better for your space.

Are Roller Shades and Solar Shades the Same?

While solar shades are in the roller shade family, roller shades and solar shades are actually different window treatments.

While roller shades and solar shades offer different functions, there are some similarities in the way they look and operate:

  • Roller shades, like solar shades, have a clean modern look that transfers well to any space.
  • They also come in a very wide array of colors and textures, allowing you to choose a material and design that works with your preferences.
  • Both have a small stack at the top of the shade — meaning they take up minimal room at the top of a window or door.
  • Both offer a simple, clean aesthetic, and options for cordless and automation.
  • Roller shades and solar shades are also flat, meaning the material used to create the window treatment doesn't ripple or fold like on drapery and roman shades, nor does it have a cone-shaped structure like cellular shades.

These similarities between solar and roller shades make it difficult to discern between them but there is one main difference: their primary function.

Roller shades and solar shades function differently.

Roller shades are not specifically built to control sunlight in your home, but rather the visible light only. This seems like an odd concept because most window treatments are meant to address light control, but aren’t always built to address all aspects of sunlight.

There’s more to sunlight than just visible light. Because of this functionality difference, the fabric and structure used on roller shades will be different than on solar shades, even though they appear similar.

Stoneside Custom Roller Shades

Solar shades help you control heat, light, and UV rays.

While both offer light control, solar shades are actually created to control all aspects of sunlight. ‘Sunlight’ refers to heat, light, and UV rays. Essentially, it’s the visible sunlight, the feel of the heat from the sun, and the UV radiation.

  • Solar shades are made with material that controls what is referred to as ‘heat transference.’
  • The weave of the fabric controls the intensity and dispersion of visible light and glare.
  • The technology applied to the window treatment controls the UV rays which come into contact with the window treatment.

Solar shades not only control visible light but also UV rays and heat transference. You can block out unwanted light, but you can also control the climate in your home much more effectively with solar shades. Depending on the openness factor, you could even get that control without entirely blocking your view.

When would roller shades work best for me?

Roller shades are an excellent addition to your home if you are prioritizing privacy, style, and convenience. Roller shades don't typically have open factors as high as some solar shades, giving you more privacy. (No awkward moments with the neighbors, and no worrying about grabbing your morning coffee from the kitchen in your bathrobe!)

What rooms are best suited for roller shades?

If privacy is your main motivator, consider using roller shades. Keep in mind that roller shades are best suited for rooms where direct sunlight or glare is not an issue.

Common areas like living rooms and playrooms will do great with roller shades. Roller Shades are also perfect for north-facing windows and do best in moderately lit rooms with little or no direct sunlight. Private areas such as low sunlit bedrooms will also do well with roller shades.

Sunrooms, south-facing windows, or large windows with a lot of light streaming through are better suited to solar shades, which are equipped to deal with intense sunlight and keep out extra heat.

Stoneside Custom Roller Shades

Use solar shades or roller shades for your sliding glass doors.

Unlike French doors, sliding glass doors move horizontally, making it difficult to find a window treatment solution that will still give you access to the outdoors, but also maintain sunlight control and privacy.

Both solar and roller shades are a great option for those looking to add a window treatment to their sliding glass doors, but if your doors face bright sunlight you’ll want to stick to solar. (This is especially true with strong afternoon sun.)

For even more climate and privacy control, layer these treatments with brand new custom drapery.

Choose roller or solar shades for french doors.

Similar to sliding glass doors, french doors can add a lot of character to a space but can still be a problem when it comes to privacy and light control.

Some window treatments won’t fit well above a doorway because of their stack (the part of the window treatment that rests above the window). However, roller shades and solar shades have a relatively small stack, making them uniquely suited for things like French doors, sliding doors, and bay windows.

So you can get the light control and privacy you need without detracting from the architectural features of your home.

Mix roller shades and solar shades for an open-concept home.

Open-concept layouts have posed a challenge for many homeowners when it comes to creating cohesive style — especially with window treatments. You want your window treatments to look cohesive, yet each room will have different needs from their window treatments.

Roller shades and solar shades are very similar aesthetically, so mixing the two is a great option for open-concept homes. Roller shades and solar shades have the same shape and style, so you can use these window treatments throughout your home without looking too dissimilar.

By using the two different window treatments, you can address the needs of each window and room.

Imagine you can see both your dining room and your sunroom from the living room. With solar and roller shades in your open concept home, your window treatments look intentional and stylish. From afar, they look the same — but each performs exactly as you need it to. You get the light and heat control you need in the sunroom, while roller shades in the dining room are there to provide privacy and light control at your next dinner party.

You get all the convenience and function of the right window treatment without sacrificing style.

Stoneside Custom Roller Shades

When should I use solar shades?

Solar shades are best suited for rooms with a lot of sunlight.

Solar shades will help mitigate inconveniences such as too much glare on screens and even coming from surfaces in your home such as countertops and tables. It also addresses the heat transfer from too much direct sunlight pouring in through windows.

As such, solar shades make an excellent choice for rooms that receive a lot of direct sunlight in these areas:

  • Home offices where glare needs to be addressed
  • South-facing windows for glare, light, and heat control
  • Dining or living rooms with French or sliding doors
  • Open-concept rooms with high windows
  • Sunrooms where some light may be too intense at times
  • Any room where the light in the afternoon turns its focus on living room furniture

UV rays can actually damage your home's furnishings so solar shades with UV blocking technology are especially useful for situations like these.

Where should I use room-darkening solar shades?

Low openness factor solar shades offer superior light control. At Stoneside, our solar shades can come with Koolblack technology, and low openness factors allow minimal heat transference and light dispersion. You won’t have any more sunlight streaming in through the fabric in your window treatment, and you’ll have more control over that unwelcome heat creeping into your room each afternoon.

Low openness factor solar shades work wonderfully in a bedroom where a street light shining in at night or sunlight in the morning disrupts restful sleep. Perhaps you have a home theater or office where glare needs to be avoided. In both situations, layering with blackout curtains will complete the look and make a world of difference.

Stoneside Custom Solar Shades

Are solar shades and roller shades interchangeable?

There are many benefits to both types of shades, but they don’t work exactly the same. They aren’t interchangeable for all kinds of spaces.

Solar shades provide:

  • Light control
  • UV Ray protection
  • Climate control
  • Clean, modern look

Roller shades provide:

  • Privacy
  • Light control
  • Clean, modern look

Think about what you need the most from your window treatment, and go from there.

Go modern with motorized solar and roller shades.

Even though roller and solar shades have unique benefits, one of their main advantages is they’re available with motorization and compatible with smart home automation systems.

Imagine the convenience of not awkwardly maneuvering around living room furniture to reach your window treatment’s pulley system. Imagine having an open-concept home where you needed window treatments for your tall upper-story windows that get intense sunlight during the afternoons. If you opted for motorized window treatments, this would no longer be a challenge. Motorized window treatments can be controlled from a click of a button, or simply put on a timer so you don’t even give it a passing thought.

This and more is possible with roller and solar shades. Upgrade your window treatments for maximum convenience, without sacrificing functionality and style.

Solar and roller shades will go great in your home — we’ll help you figure out which one you should choose.

Consider the priorities you have for your home. If light control and privacy are your main priorities, roller shades will do perfectly. However, if you're opting for more climate control, light control, and UV protection, solar shades are the best for you.

If convenience is an even higher priority, check out all our options for motorization to operate your shades at the touch of a button. Want to set it and forget it? Your home automation system can be paired with our motorized window treatments through your chosen smart home hub.

Find out more about how home automation can give you even more from your window treatments.

You have so many options whether you choose solar or roller shades. Different openness factors, colors, and fabrics are available for each kind of shade.

And the even better news? You don't have to make this decision by yourself.

Book a consultation with our expert design team and your personal design expert will come to your house to ensure that they understand this piece you're working with. They'll discuss all your options with you and help you make the best choice for your home.