Sherry Chen bought her hillside home in 2008 because of the beautiful view, but soon realized the wind was a nightmare.
She had remodeled her home to have windows with every view so she could always enjoy the scenery, and started looking into window treatments, but had so many requirements she wasn’t sure she could find something to suit her needs. The interior designers she worked with had no viable suggestions either, she said.
The harsh sunlight during the day kept Chen and her family away from the windows and ruined the hardwood floor. Then, when winds were strong, the family was kept awake all night. On top of that, the large number of windows and openings made the house energy inefficient.
“In the daytime it’s hot, and then at nighttime I wanted complete darkness in order to rest,” Chen said. On top of that, wind speeds went up to 150 mph on a bad day, even causing the windows to cave in.
“Before, the wind started [in the middle of the night] and it was like a 6.0 earthquake!” Chen said. She consulted with her neighbor, who then introduced her to rolling shutters that could completely seal out light and sound from the outside of her house.
After installing the shutters and talking to Mike Enany of European Rolling Shutters (ERS), she realized the shutters helped keep heat in at night as well, and there were other products ERS carried that could help with the rest of the problems. For example, sun screens blocked the harsh noon sun but still gave her the scenic view she had bought the house for.
Soon Chen realized there were more benefits than she had expected and contacted ERS to tell them that their products should really be benefitting more people.
“If we had not invested in these shutters, I would not be able to live here,” Chen said.
Paul Connor, vice president of European Rolling Shutters, listened to Chen’s testimonial and realized he should be reaching a wider audience.
“There are so many people we want to help in the Bay Area,” Connor said. “There are literally tens of thousands of clients that we have the opportunity to help today but we can’t reach them. I don’t have any competition here—that’s a problem. I have to create the awareness.”
Most companies selling the products ERS sells—sun screens, rolling shutters, and awnings—are not retailers. When Connor realized the extent of the benefits a homeowner could gain from his products, he started gearing his marketing toward protection.
“The shutters are the ultimate shield for your home because you block light and you block heat. You also keep the house warmer longer in the wintertime; you create another air barrier,” Connor said. “You block the UV from destroying furniture, wooden floors, from hurting you and your family. You also keep it cooler, and then in the winter you keep it warmer, and then you have the security side-benefit.”
Many people come to ERS after they’ve had damaged furniture and flooring, Connor said. “Once they have to resurface floors, or furniture, they don’t want that, that costs money, they never do it again, so they’ll come to us for these exterior retractable products.”
Besides houses on the hillside, Connor says ERS does many coastal installations.
“South of Santa Cruz, there’re a lot of homes right next to the ocean,” Connor said. “A lot of them are second homes, and a lot of people will use this for the security aspect. People will lock up against high winds and debris flying in the air, as well as people walking along the beach.”
Besides the retractable exterior shutters, which provide safety in the form of a security barrier as well, Connor says the sunscreens and retractable awnings also give protection.
The retractable sunscreens come in options that shield either 80 or 95 percent of the sunlight as well as UV rays, and awnings provide a shading mechanism for exteriors as well as interiors.
“It’s lifestyle, it’s comfort, it’s security, it’s green, and it’s also safety,” Connor said of the sunscreens and awnings. “You can shield your home and family from the dangers of the impact of the sun.”
After reaching out to interior designers and real estate agents, Connor realized that many people did not know how to reclaim the unused space in their houses.
“Imagine if you’re avoiding an area, or even a room—that 100-square-foot [area], in say, a $500,000 home with 2,000 square feet—that’s a bit of space in that home you’re avoiding. You’re not utilizing it,” Connor said. “Coming into the house and avoiding those areas, you’re losing value on the house, there’s no other way to explain it.”
Chen, who lives in the East Foothills, had harsh sunlight coming into her dining room during dinnertime, so the family was unable to eat dinner in the dining room.
“They could eat dinner in the kitchen, but they could barely cook dinner in the kitchen because all the afternoon sun, as it was going down into the evening, was just blinding them,” Connor said.
Chen and her family had chosen to use sunscreens as a window treatment, but if the space being avoided is outdoors, like a deck, Connor recommends retractable awnings.
“What you do is create extra living space,” Connor said. “If you have an awning that’s 20 feet wide and it goes out 20 feet, that’s potentially another 200 feet of living space that you’ve added to the home without having to do any sort of construction.”
By shielding sunlight, which causes heat, from coming into the house, you’ll save energy with the shading products, and even more so with the shutters.
“You’ve got all that radiant energy coming into the house and the HVAC—heating-vacuum-air-conditioning system—isn’t designed to help cool your house from very hot to cool. An AC is designed to help condition the house at a steady temperature,” Connor said. “You’re causing the AC system to overwork itself, and then you’re reducing the lifespan of the system because it’s not designed to do that.”
The heating system, likewise, is forced air designed to keep the house at an even temperature, and the retractable shutters help prevent heat from leaving the house at night. According to the Department of Energy, 40 percent of energy lost is through windows and doors because they are less insulated than the rest of the house, even when double-paned.
“It can help with reducing energy usage,” Connor said. “It’s environmentally friendly once you get it on the house. … You’re conserving energy. By conserving energy, then you also reduce the carbon footprint.”
Additional reporting by David Zhang