instructions: installing switchable smart film for windows and glass

Please note: If you require pricing for this material, please see our smart film pricing system.

Our self-adhesive electronic glass film material can be switched instantly from its opaque state to a transparent state with our wireless remote controls and automation systems. You can also use a dimmer control to vary the transparency. This article covers the general installation of your shipment of smart film, after it has been unpacked and tested (see smart film unpacking instructions and smart film testing instructions).

We highly recommend that you do not skip the testing in the previous article as it will save you a lot of trouble later, in case you have a damaged or defective section. This is a high quality product that we test thoroughly when the electrodes are installed, but there's always the possibility of shipping damage.

installed film: window in opaque mode   installed film: window in transparent mode

Precautions On Handling of Smart Film

First, a word about safety. The 65v AC power is not normally enough to give you a shock, but you should still take precautions and wear shoes while doing this, and make sure the power is off while connecting wires. You could, in theory, suffer a critical shock if you had a weak heart and were standing in the basement with bare feet on a wet concrete floor, or if you were grounded in some similar way.

If you do not feel comfortable doing this, any electrician or electronics technician can help you do this safely.

The PDLC film can be mis-handled and damaged, and this can happen mainly when it is folded or curved the wrong way. If you unroll the film on a flat surface, you will have no problem, as long as you keep it flat.

Hold it by the corners when you pick it up, and don't let it fold inward. Keep it flat, as in the pictures below. It cannot be formed into a compound curve (eg. saddle shape), and it must not be folded (no creases).

improper handling of smart film, can cause creases improper handling of smart film, can cause creases correct handling of smart film, no creases

Each side of the film has a thin protective layer of plastic, so you do not have to worry about fingerprints. If you are using the self-adhesive type, the self-adhesive side is clearly marked, and there is another thicker protective layer that will be removed when you are ready to apply it to your glass surface (a total of 3 protective layers). The non-adhesive type just has the thin peel-off protective layer on each side (2 protective layers).

Once installed, if you need to clean it do not use water and soap, or glass cleaner like Windex. Rubbing alcohol is best.

Preparing The Self-Adhesive Switchable Film

This article will deal with the application of the self-adhesive film as this is the most common type. If you decide to laminate the non-adhesive type between two glass panes, the procedure will be very similar.

  • Clean the glass surface with 99% Isopropyl Alcohol mixture only; make sure there is no residue left behind on the glass to interfere with the application.
  • Before you peel the protective coating, place the smart film against the glass that it will be attached to, checking for fit. Do not attempt to force it into place if it is too large.
  • If your original measurements were slightly off, making the film too large, you can cut it down with scissors (not a knife). If you have to cut through an electrode to do this, make sure you wrap a small piece of copper around the edge to maintain electrical continuity.
  • If the film is too small, you can compensate with some molding, which you will probably use anyway to hide the wiring. We found that 5/8" drywall/sheetrock edging from our local home builder's store worked very well.
  • Give some consideration to how the wiring is to be run, as this can affect your placement. Keep in mind that you may have two sets of electrodes, if the smart film is tall and narrow, like what you see in these pictures. The two electrode sets will need to be connected in parallel, and we often run the connecting wires down the side, underneath the moulding, which works well.
  • If you have a dual electrode setup, you could also run the electrode wires directly into the wall, if you prefer to join them in some unseen spot. When placing an order, please be sure to discuss with us the electrode placement that will best fit your requirements.

Applying The Switchable Film

smart film applied to front door side windowJust to give this installation a bit of context, here is a picture of the doorway that we used as a 'how to' example for the installation of the smart film.

You can see the smart film on the right hand window, in its opaque state, with no power applied. The electrodes at the top and bottom are exposed, as is the wire pair that connects both sets (top and bottom), prior to having the moulding installed.

The adhesive side of the smart film is clearly marked with a peel-off label, but keep in mind there are two peel-off layers on the adhesive side. One is a thin outer coating, which can be completely removed. Then there is a slightly thicker layer that can be peeled back to expose the actual adhesive compound that sticks to the glass.

We suggest you start at the top and peel this layer away as you go, so that you minimize the chance of any dirt particles getting trapped between the film and the glass. Do not remove the protective layer on the non-glass side, it does not need to be removed until you are finished, and it will help protect the film during the installation process.

The process of applying the smart film to a glass surface is not unlike the application of wallpaper, except the film is considerably more rigid. Like wallpaper, the biggest issue with installation is (a) alignment and (b) the trapping of air bubbles between the glass surface and the smart film adhesive layer.

We usually start at the top center, using the palm of our hand to apply some pressure to make it stick to the glass (it doesn't take much). It is important to start at the center and work your way left and right to the outer edges. This will keep the film uniform and flat, and any air bubbles will escape out the edge. You may also want to use a roller of some kind to help with this procedure, but be careful not to score the film if you do.

Please Note: Do not rush this, it is better to watch carefully for bubbles and eliminate then now rather than later. It may also improve the result if you have someone assisting you.

It also helps to make sure you get the top edge square with the glass section, so that it goes on straight. If you get this wrong, you can still peel the film off, being careful to do it evenly, without causing any creases.

Connecting The Switchable Film Wiring

As previously mentioned, the piece of smart film used in this demonstration is tall and narrow, so it has a set of electrodes at each end to guarantee proper distribution of the electrical field that controls the transparency. Here's what it looked like at the top, prior to making the connections and installing the moulding:

top of smart film showing electrodes

We had measured wrong and had to cut the width down with scissors, which meant that we had to cut through the electrodes at both top and bottom. If this happens to you, just peel back the inner end of the electrode about 1/2" and cut a small piece off, then wrap this piece around the end so that the conductive copper electrode on both sides of the plastic has continuity restored.

We suggest that when you take your measurements, allow for a small gap between the film and the very edge of the glass, especially if you are going to use moulding to conceal wires.

We attached some standard lamp cord to run from the electrode wires to the DC/AC inverter, which is hidden around the corner, by an AC outlet that the 12v power supply plugs into. In this particular case we found that we could minimize any visible wiring by drilling stright through to the outside, concealing the wire underneath the exterior cladding.

We then ran it back through another concealed hole into the area where the AC outlet is mounted, taking care not to hit any electrical wiring (a stud finder is very useful for this purpose as they also have AC line detectors). We made sure the holes were sealed with silicone.

electronic control of glass transparency: window in transparent modeThis is the final result, with the wireless remote control system in place, applying power to activate the transparent mode of the switchable smart film.

The wiring is completely concealed by the drywall edge moulding, and if you looked at this without knowing what it was, it would look like an ordinary window, with some kind of obscuring privacy film on it (if it was turned off).

But you might wonder what the remote control does, not realizing that it allows you to quickly see who is at the front door.

Once you have installed the smart film, you can proceed to the next step of controlling the smart film with a remote control and phone app.

Articles in this series:

Smart Film - unpacking your shipment

Smart Film - testing your smart film

Smart Film - installing your smart film (you are here)

Smart Film - setting up remote control & phone app

Please note: If you require pricing for this material, please see our smart film pricing system.