What Are Light-Filtering Window Shades?

If you are looking for window treatments let us help by demystifying the popular term "light-filtering".

A modern bedroom features white cellular shades on a two windows.

“Light-filtering” is a term that comes up a lot in the window treatment world. But it is a vague term that leaves a lot of people wondering how these window treatments will actually perform. For instance, the question “Do they block heat?” comes up a lot, especially in the summer. The experts at Blinds To Go are here to help you better understand what it means to say that a window treatment is “light-filtering” and how such window treatments can enhance your home. Let's shed some light on these questions and guide you towards the perfect window treatment solution for your needs.

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What are Light-Filtering Window Shades?

To say that a window treatment is “light-filtering” most commonly means that it does not block all incoming light, but it is understood that it provides privacy or else it would fall under the description of “sheer”. Sheer window treatments may provide moderate to full privacy, depending on the incoming light and the time of day and they are often styled with other window treatments on the same windows. But alone on a window, a sheer window treatment would never be relied on for privacy unless it was one of the newer sheer shades that is a hybrid between a sheer shade and a light-filtering or room-darkening shade. New modern, sheer shades like Serenity sheer shades and Cascade® sheer shades are dual purpose and are composed of both sheer material and other materials that provide the dual function.


A modern home office has two large windows decorated with Serenity sheer shades.

What Material Are Light-Filtering Window Shades Made Out Of?

Popular and versatile, light-filtering window shades are most often cloth shades, made of linen, cotton, polyester, or some combination thereof. These shades are designed to allow soft, diffused light to pass through while still maintaining a level of privacy by obstructing direct views from the outside. Incoming light creates a warm and inviting ambiance in a room and fabric will further add to this ambiance by softening the light and lending soft patterns to that light, borrowed from the textures and patterns of the fabric.


Light-filtering cellular shades are paired with light-filtering drapery on three side-by-side living room windows.

Because fabric varies greatly in density of weave and thickness of fibers, some fabrics will naturally let in more light than others, so there is a wide range of light “filtering” that can come with your light filtering drapes or shades. Loosely-woven linen curtains in light colors will let in much more light than curtains with a denser weave and/or in a darker color. At Blinds To Go there is a wide range of light control options in a wide range of colors, so you are sure to find a color and density of fabric that gives your room the ambiance that you want. Contrast this with window treatments made of wood, faux wood or pvc; these are most frequently blinds and shutters, and in the closed position they will let very little light in because of the solid material from which they are constructed. They can be tilted to provide varying degrees of privacy and light control, but they aren’t really thought of as “light filtering”.

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Do Light-Filtering Window Shades Block Incoming Heat?

A question that we get a lot, as design consultants: Do light-filtering window treatments block incoming heat? Yes, light-filtering window shades do indeed help to block incoming heat. While they may not provide the same level of insulation as blackout shades or thermal curtains, they still offer significant benefits in controlling indoor temperatures and reducing heat gain. By doing so, they can help prevent your rooms from overheating during hot summer days. As a result, you can enjoy a cooler and more comfortable living space without compromising on natural light.

Used: Energy-efficient, light-filtering fabric vertical blinds gently diffuse sunlight coming in a bedroom's large window.

How Much Heat Will Light-Filtering Window Shades Block?

Even a sheer curtain would block a small amount of incoming heat and UV rays. Just as it is with incoming light, the looser the weave of the window treatment, the more heat and UV rays they will allow in. Sometimes less is more, if you want beautiful light to spill in then just know that it will bring some heat with it. Certain times of year and in certain climates you may want to bring in as much heat from the sun as possible. At Blinds To Go we have a wide range of window treatments in various materials, lined and unlined, to get you dialed in with the perfect amount of light and heat control for your needs.


A kitty basks in the sun of a large sunny window.

The Light-Filtering Window Shade that Blocks the Most Incoming Heat

It's important to note that the level of heat reduction depends on the specific fabric and material used in the shades. Some advanced options may offer additional thermal properties, providing a higher degree of heat-blocking capabilities. Take, for instance, one of our most popular window treatments, cellular shades, also called honeycomb shades, which are famous for their insulating qualities. They are constructed of cells that hold air and thus change temperature more slowly than flat one-layer window treatments. The beauty of cellular shades is that they can also be very lightweight and let a lot of light come through while still providing great insulation.


Day-and-night 
 light-filtering cellular shades cover three large sunny windows.

Practical Benefits of Light-Filtering Window Shades:

Versus having no window treatment, a light-filtering window treatment will provide privacy (with the exception of some solar shades). They will also offer some reduction of incoming heat and UV rays and in doing so will make your home more energy-efficient in the summer. Light-filtering window shades will also help to insulate your windows, which will help reduce energy costs year round, especially styles like cellular shades. And of course they provide a beautiful decorative element to your home, in beautiful hues and modern and classic silhouettes.

Are Solar Shades Considered Light-Filtering Shades?

I should mention that if you are interested in blocking heat and/or UV rays and privacy isn't an issue or you want to block heat and retain your view then you should consider solar shades , which come in a variety of “openness” options to allow you to see outside through them while they block incoming heat, light, and glare. Many of our solar shades do not fall into the category of light-filtering because they function more like a sheer, even though they are constructed of a material that is not shee, but rather is woven with so much space between the fibers that they provide a view of the exterior when they are fully closed. These are popular in high-rises with large floor-to-ceiling windows, commercial buildings, and home kitchens and sunrooms.


Beige solar shades cover six windows in a modern dining room.

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To learn more about solar shades and privacy check out this article on solar shades and privacy or learn all about solar shades, including the “openness” factors in this article solar shades.

Hopefully this article has demystified the term “light-filtering”. They aren’t sheer and they aren’t room-darkening, they fall somewhere in the middle. Light-filtering window shades are an excellent choice for homeowners looking to enjoy natural light and maintain privacy when needed. These versatile shades not only create a warm and inviting atmosphere but also contribute to the overall energy efficiency of your home by blocking excessive incoming heat. With their wide range of designs and styles, light-filtering window shades offer the ideal combination of functionality and aesthetics, making them a must-have addition to any well-designed living space.


Woven wood shades in the closed position allow light to pour into a living room.

If you're ready to upgrade your window treatments and elevate your home's ambiance, reach out to our window treatment experts today. Experience the beauty of light-filtering shades and transform your living spaces into an oasis of comfort and style.


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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.
A sales associate shows a customer swatches of fabric and an image of a map is layered in the background as if the two images were stacked.