Firm Offers Film That Cuts Energy Bills And Eye Strain

May 14, 2002
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WALKER — David Poel says he likes lots and lots of windows because they often present building owners the kinds of problems that he makes a living solving.

Poel is the owner-operator of a firm that retrofits commercial buildings and homes with what looks like a heavyweight version of the plastic wrap used to cover foods in refrigerators.

The product is a Mylar laminate that bonds chemically to glass and which, he says, can virtually eliminate ultraviolet and infrared radiation that ordinarily streams into a building via its windowpanes.

Poel’s company is Realistic Energy Products, located at 2440 Vista Point Court NW.

Ultraviolet radiation is that part of the electromagnetic spectrum which, in the mountains, can turn clear glass into a cobalt blue. But it also tends to bleach both carpet and furniture. Infrared simply is radiant heat.

“What’s interesting,” Poel said, “is that architects will specify a certain type of glass to take care of sun problems but, later on, the occupants find out that the type of glass that actually got installed is not enough.

“They find that the windows make their businesses or their homes too bright or too hot. So that’s where I come in.”

Poel said that 90 percent of his company’s work is this sort of aftermarket tweaking which, as he sees it, can save both businesses and homeowners considerable amounts on cooling costs and sun damage.

He said his firm handles a range of films that cost from $4 to $12 a square foot. Some of the Mylar film is tinted to ease eyestrain, particularly in office settings where glare is a problem for workers. But clear or tinted, he said, the film eliminates 99 percent of the UV rays in sunlight, and 90 percent of the infrared.

In settings where obstructions make it impossible to apply a film to the interior of windows, he said, Realistic has a fine-mesh fabric — in effect a screen — that has much the same effect as the films.

In commercial applications, he said, the product is warranted not to peel or lose its effectiveness for a decade. In residences, it is guaranteed for the life of the property.

“It’s pretty tough stuff,” he said. “In all my time here, I only think I’ve had to replace a film three times. That was in homes where the dogs scratched the film on sliding glass doors. If the dogs can put scratches on your glass, then they can scratch the film, but that’s about it.”

He chuckles about people who think his firm has a tough time during the winter. “A lot of people think, ‘Well, this guy doesn’t do any business during the winter. We don’t get that much sun then. It’s cold out, too.’

“Well, my specialty still is UV protection,” he said, “and UV is just as strong and damaging in the winter as in the summer, and whether it’s clear or cloudy.”

Besides that, he said, in the winter the sun is much lower in the sky and hits southern windows at a different angle, often flooding offices and homes with sunlight. “And you get much, much more UV penetration during the winter.

“I can tame the UV and the brightness, and I can alter the looks of the windows or keep them just like they look now — whatever your company or your home needs.”

Very occasionally, he said, he will be called in to work on a project at the outset. “Some people will turn to decorators and the decorators will refer them to me.”

Poel is a native of West Michigan and West Michigan is his territory: Lansing to the east, St. Joseph to the south and Harbor Springs to the north.

“Most of my work, though, is in Grand Rapids, Holland and Grand Haven.”

He told the Business Journal he got into the business in the mid-’80s pretty much as a matter of survival.

“I started out as a teacher. I was a teacher for five years, but that was in the late ’70s when student population was dropping. So I went into real estate for five years, but that was when Jimmy Carter was in the White House and interest rates were running 17 percent. Guess what wasn’t selling?”

But window film was a product that would help make existing firms and homes more energy-efficient. As the ’80s progressed and the product went through three generations of improvement, Realistic became something more than a mere means of survival for Poel.   

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