Roller VS. Solar Shades

Window Shades

Roller and solar shades have quickly become one of the most popular window treatment options in the Black Hills market today—and for good reason! These versatile, easy to operate, and functional shades fit into just about any style from traditional, to eclectic, to ultra-modern. At first glance, solar and roller shades seem to be identical. However, there are some key differences to take into consideration when determining, which is right for you and your space. In this blog, we will discuss the key differences and similarities between the two products.



First, let’s look at their similarities. Both solar and roller shades consist of a single piece of fabric that rolls up on a tube at the top of the window opening. Both products are like a roll of toilet paper. I know this is an interesting comparison, but essentially both are comprised of a single fabric or material—offering a clean, sleek appearance void of louvers, slats, and other obstructions.

roller shades roll


Roller and Solar shades both share the same lifting mechanisms. Each manufacturer names them slightly different, but essentially, the options are cord loop, cordless control, and our favorite—motorization.

motorize solar shades


Solar and Roller shades both have the same header types. The most popular options consist of various styles of cassettes, 3” or 4” metal fascias, or open roll (no header with the tube exposed). Both shades ability to roll up and disappear make them both great choices for consumers wishing to have a full view through their windows with no obstructions when raised. Unlike blinds, which are generally designed to stay down and utilize the tilt feature for light control, and shutters, which are a permanent fixture in the window.

header styles for shades



Now for the main difference—the material. Solar shades are designed to reduce UV rays. They are made of a vinyl material that is essentially an open weave, allowing different opacities of light and UV rays to enter. The available opacities are 1%, 3%, 5%, 10%, and 14%. 1% opacities block 99% of UV rays and are the tightest weave— blocking the most view. In contrast, 14% opacity blocks 86% UV rays and has the greatest openness, allowing for the greatest view through.

Solar Shades Openness

This image shows the different opacities and the corresponding view-through.

In contrast, roller shades, offer a light filtering and room darkening fabric, but do not provide view through to the outside unless a sheer material is selected, which are limited in choices.


Solar shades are a perfect choice for commercial settings where there is a need for temperature and glare control, but a view is still desired. Like roller shades, solar shades offer daytime privacy which is perfect for working hours. However, unlike roller shades, the reverse becomes true at night and privacy is gone once the sun goes down and the interior lights are still on.

commercial shades

Here is an example of a solar shade in a commercial setting. The shade is block glare and UV rays, providing daytime privacy, AND allowing a view to the outside.

In contrast, Roller shades provide privacy when drawn in day, and at night. This makes roller shades, the best choice for people desiring privacy at night, which is most residential applications.

Patio Solar Shades
Solar shades are also perfect for exterior use as seen above. The material is durable and waterproof making them an excellent option for exterior applications. Roller shades are generally made from polyester fabric which would be destroyed very quickly with outdoor elements making them a terrible choice for exterior use.

Roller shades also offer a variety of black out and room darkening fabrics, making them perfect for bedrooms and media rooms. We always like to educate our customers that if a black out affect is desired, that side channels are greatly encouraged. This is because roller shades (and solar shades) have light gaps on the side due to fabric deductions for clearance on the tube, keeping them from hitting the edges of windows. Side channels would be fixed into your window, and the roller shade would be fit perfectly in between eliminating the light peeping in from the edges.

Bedroom Shades

Example of a room with no side channels. As you can see, there is quite a bit of light coming in from the sides. This usually is not an issue, however, if a black-out effect is desired we strongly recommend side-channels (as seen in the image below).

LivingRoom Shades

This image shows an example of side channels doing what they best – blocking light. This would be perfect in a bedroom or media room.


The final difference we will discuss is fabric variety.  Roller shades, unlike solar shades, have hundreds of different fabrics, textures, colors, and patterns to choose from allowing them to easily fit in with just about any room decor. Solar shades, while extremely versatile, offer a lot less color and fabric options than roller shades.

roller shade bedroom graber

Here is an example of a patterned roller shade that compliments the room décor perfectly. This is just one of hundreds of the different pattern, texture, and color options. The variety of roller shade fabrics far exceeds that of solar shades.

Hopefully, now you can see that while solar and roller shades seem to be identical, they are quite different. If you still need help deciding, we are here to help! Contact us to schedule a complementary, in-home design consultation where we will walk you through selections step-by-step. We will measure your windows to the closest 1/8 of an inch for a perfect custom fit. When you choose us, we will make sure you have it “Made in the Shade!”

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