The use of screened enclosures helps eliminate worries about bugs, wind, debris, the sun’s glare or, as new research reveals, extreme temperatures. Screens also create an outdoor room to be enjoyed in both chilly climes and during the high heat of summer.

This has been made possible by the flexibility of newer screen products. Dual-roller applications, for instance, allow homeowners to opt for mesh screen that allows in a breezes on a warm day, or solid vinyl screening that to retains heat on during colder evenings. But the benefits of solid versus mesh screening can be surprising and even counter-intuitive.

Creating comfort

My company, Phantom Screens, conducted research to identify areas of heat loss, both with and without the benefit of vinyl and mesh screens. We retained an independent sustainable building consultant and verifier, Two Trails, to complete an infrared survey of two homes located in significantly different climates in the United States. One study was conducted on a cool Las Vegas night; the other on a warm and humid Southern Alabama day and night.

The results were surprising.

At the Las Vegas home, heat mapping and infrared technology revealed how solar mesh screens actually retain warmth by reducing convective and radiant heat loss from the home. When a heat source was added, such as a fireplace or patio heater, the homeowners could enjoy their outdoor room during cold desert nights.

Further, because of the screens’ heat-trapping ability, these appliances only needed to be used minimally to keep the space warm, reducing energy costs. The use of heaters alone without screens, as seen in temperature data logs, showed how quickly heat loss occurred, requiring the appliances to run continuously.

The converse proved true, too. In hot, humid Mobile, Ala., Two Trails discovered that the addition of vinyl screens significantly reduced temperatures. While the home air conditioner was running, the outdoor living area was able to maintain an average of more than 7 degrees cooler than outside temperatures. The outdoor living area also was able to maintain an average 9% reduction in humidity.

Researchers also examined how the screens performed during non-air-conditioned hours from 11:00 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. Although the temperature in the outdoor room appeared to almost equalize with exterior temperatures, the relative humidity was held at 26% less than outside conditions. This shows a significant benefit of vinyl screens for maintaining a comfortable environment within the outdoor living area.

Over the period of 24 hours, with cooling and non-cooling cycles, the outdoor living area appeared to maintain an average of more than 3 degrees cooler and over 16% reduction in humidity.

Fresh air

Screening for attached outdoor structures also can be used to enhance energy savings in the home itself.

This can be done by adding cross ventilation, combining screens on both the front and back side of the house. The use of the retractable screens with mesh fabric surrounding an attached outdoor space in the back and retractable screens on the front doors of a home allows for the continuous flow of fresh air throughout, the home, further reducing air conditioning costs.