If you own a retail business, you're probably always looking for ways for reduce costs, control the interior environment, and make your facility more appealing to customers and workers. If that's the case, then look no further than your windows. The right widow products can not only boost your energy efficiency, but also improve the aesthetics of your storefront. Here are four smart options to consider.

1. Tinting

Tinting a commercial window is one of the quickest and easiest ways to reduce both incoming and outgoing light. This strategy offers several benefits. Tinted films on windows can reduce sun-related glare and eye fatigue while allowing retail stores a greater degree of light control so they can display their wares more effectively. A nice dark tint also provides a nice contrast to make externally-applied window graphics (such as static-cling films) "pop" dramatically. Tinting also looks cool on its own terms, if that aesthetic consideration matters for your particular industry or product line. 

It's important to choose a tinting product that gives you the right amount of light reduction for your needs. If your customers require privacy, for instance, you may need to opt for a darker tint than you might otherwise have considered. If your building exposure or natural climate doesn't offer a great deal of sunlight, then go for a lighter tint.

2. Low-E Glass and Films

While tinting does a wonderful job of reducing the brightness of sunlight streaming into your retail space, it doesn't offer insulating properties as well. For that, you need to turn to a product called low-E (for "low emissivity") glass. This glass contains a layer of tiny metallic particles that reflect incoming light. The more concentrated the metallic layer, the more your windows may take on a silver or bronze appearance from the street.

Keep in mind that while low-E glass helps to reduce the amount of solar energy invading your business, it doesn't always reduce visible light (and therefore, glare). In fact, some varieties of low-E glass are specifically designed to resemble clear glass as closely as possible, trading some light reflectivity in exchange for more thermal reflectivity. But these days, you can select low-e films that also include various degrees of tinting. If you already have ordinary windows, tinting them with a low-E film will be more cost effective than completely replacing them with low-E glass.

3. Double Glazing

Two panes of glass can do a much better job of insulating your retail facility than a single pane could ever hope to manage. That's why modern commercial structures generally use double glazing. Double glazing involves installing windows with two panes of glass surrounding a space filled with inert gas. This triple layer of protection reduces the amount of heat that can get in or out of your building, making it equally valuable for summer or winter.

Of course, double glazing by itself won't reduce visible light or provide privacy for your clientele. But that's fine, because double-pane glass accepts traditional tinting and/or solar control films just as easily as single-pane glass. If you're willing to pay more, you can even order double-plane glass with these layers built in.

4. Shades and Blinds

Window shades and blinds are one more great option that can complement any of the others beautifully. The greatest advantage of these physical light barriers is the degree of choice they offer, giving you the ability to control precisely how much light is coming in or how much privacy you can obtain. If you own a retail space where customers sit next to the windows, such as a coffee shop or restaurant, adjustable blinds can make a big difference in how amenable your shop seems and how long people choose to linger in it (hopefully encouraging more business in the process).

But internal shades and blinds have one disadvantage you should be aware of. They may prevent incoming thermal energy from hitting your customers in the face, but they still allow that thermal energy to enter the room. The trapped heat drifts upward, making the overall temperature harder and more expensive to regulate. Your best bet is to add shades or blinds to windows that have already been tinted or otherwise treated to make them more energy efficient. You may also want to consider installing external blinds so the solar energy has no opportunity to enter your facility at all.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to make your windows work for you to reduce energy consumption in your retail space. Talk to your local provider of windows or window treatment products, like Alberta Tinting & Graphic Services, to determine which combination of smart strategies makes the most sense for your building and budget.