Do Solar Shades Provide Privacy?

Find the Perfect Blend of Privacy and Natural Light.

As a Design Consultant, one of the most common questions I am asked is if there's a shade that you can see directly that will also provide privacy. The thought may sound magical, but solar shades are the option that comes the closest to achieving that magical balance. In this article, we will look at what solar shades are, how they work, and how the right solar shade can provide you with all the privacy you need.

Semi-transparent solar shades cover three windows above a large free standing tub in a contemporary bathroom.

Sunglasses for Your Window: What Are Solar Shades?

Solar Shades are roller shades made with a super durable woven material specifically designed to protect against UV rays, glare, and heat from the sun. Think of solar shades as polarized sunglasses for your window. Solar shades will reduce glare and keep a room cooler while protecting upholstery, wood, and other materials from fading in the sun. For many styles the weave is loose enough to allow you to see through the material itself, just like the sunglasses you put on every day, while other styles are completely opaque - more like putting on a blindfold.

A dining room with a wall of windows features beautiful caramel-colored cascades sheer shades.

Do Solar Shades Provide Privacy?

Privacy is a key consideration when choosing solar shades. While solar shades can provide privacy, the amount of privacy they offer depends on several factors, including openness, time of day, and color. Ask yourself what privacy means to you. So customers who come in to Blinds To Go want window treatments where people outside can not even tell if the lights are on in the room they are in, while others don't mind if onlookers could see a silhouette through their shade or sheers. Solar shades cover most of this range so you just have to decide how much view you want to trade for privacy. For some, total privacy is necessary and nonnegotiable but if your windows are on one of the upper floors of a high rise building you might be willing to trade some privacy for a little sun shade. Same if you live in an area with a gorgeous views of nature. If the room is a common space and not a bedroom or a bathroom you may feel more flexible about the amount or privacy required. For this reason solar shades are very popular in office and commercial spaces.

Openness: How Much Can You See Through Solar Shades?

Openness is a rating, expressed as a percentage from 1-10%, of how tightly the fabric is woven. Openness tells you how much light will pass through the material, and as a consequence how much privacy it can offer. To continue the sunglasses metaphor, this is the polarization for your lenses. A solar shade material with a 10% openness will allow the most light and best view, which also means the least amount of privacy. A material with 1% openness will allow very little light to pass through the shade, and give total privacy.

Opaque white roller shades in a modern kitchen.

Time of Day: How Much Light is Coming Through the Shade

Time of day is another factor of how much privacy your solar shade can offer. With shades of the same openness, you will have more privacy on whatever side of the shade has less light hitting it. During the daytime, solar shades will give you more privacy because the amount of light outside the house is greater than inside. This is reversed as soon as night falls, since the light from your house is greater than the light coming from outside. So in the evening, or anytime it is lighter in your home then it is outside, onlookers will have a full view of the inside of your home if you choose a solar shade with a high openness factor like 7-10%. But during the day you will enjoy a lovely view of the outdoors through your closed solar shades.

What Color Should My Solar Shades Be?

Color plays an important role with solar shades. Dark colors absorb more light, which makes them easier to see through. Conversely, white and light colors will reflect more light, which gives slightly better privacy. Ultimately as a Design Consultant, I recommend you base your color selection first on the décor and use privacy as a tie-breaker between two options if need be.

Black solar shades with a 10% openness allow a great view of the outdoors in a modern kitchen.

What Is The Best Solar Shade?

Now that you understand the factors to consider around solar shades and privacy, take a few moments to think about the unique needs of your space. Some rooms like bedrooms and bathrooms where privacy is essential may not be the best fit for solar shades on their own. You may want more privacy in a common area, if it faces a busy street. As mentioned above, you can get full privacy and even a blackout lining on our most tightly woven solar shade collection, Dublin, but solar shades really shine in scenario where you want to preserve some or most of your view when your shades are down and that comes at the expense of privacy.

Once you have a plan, I recommend ordering free samples directly from Blinds To Go. If you're unsure of what percentage is perfect for you, order one of each! Your sample order should include at least one swatch of Tokyo (10%), Manhattan (5%), Melbourne (3%), and Dublin (1%), preferably all in a similar color.


Tokyo 10%



Manhattan 5%



Melbourne 3%

Winter White


Dublin 1%


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Shop our full selection of blinds, shades, shutters and drapery at your nearest Blinds To Go showroom or with a FREE in-home design consultation.
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