Rene Castro’s dad asked him a simple question – could Rene make a solar screen for one of the windows in the house.
“I went to Home Depot, bought the material and made it,” Castro said. “Then he just said you should do this on the side. But I knew nothing about the solar screen business.” A few weeks later, he decided to start RRC Quality Solar Screens and now, nine years later, he’s making screens for all window shapes and sizes, both for residential homes and commercial businesses, servicing from Rio Grande City to Brownsville.
“I just started to look into it and decided maybe it was something I could do,” said Castro, who works out of his McAllen home, which he installed solar screens all around. “It sure has made a difference in my house and it makes it more comfortable.”
Unlike shades, which are on the inside of the house, screens are on the outside. The sun will hit the screens first and much of the blistering South Texas heat will be absorbed by the screen before it reaches the actual window, thus keeping the house cooler. “They act as an insulator,” Castro said. “They make the home more energy efficient.”
Castro said 30 to 40 percent of energy is lost through windows; the more windows, the larger amount of energy lost. “You can still see through them (from the inside of the house),” Castro said. “But inside they make the home so much more comfortable. If you usually keep the air let’s say at 78 degrees, you can actually turn it up to 79 and it’s still comfortable.”
Castro also installs roller shades, which go on the interior. His biggest job was installing screens in all 34 Fred Loya offices. Unlike screens, which can come at and 80 or 90 in its tint rating, shades can be 100 percent black where you can’t see in or out. Castro said the 80 or 90 indicates how tight the mesh is for the screen. You can see a little better through a lighter screen. “Let’s say you’re looking at a license plate in front of the house. You can read it with the 80 but it’s a little blurry with the 90.” Possibly the biggest misconception clients have is that the blinds will act as extra security protection at night. That’s not the case; they act just like windows at night. If there’s more light inside the house than outside, you can see right through the screen.
On an average-sized home, Castro estimated that it would take about 2.5 years to break even on the investment through energy savings, and that doesn’t count any A/C maintenance; since the screens keep the house cooler, the A/C doesn’t need to work as hard, and won’t turn on as often. And since the screens don’t need to be replaced for 15-20 years due to fading from the sun’s constant beating, the savings just keep increasing over the years.
Most of Castro’s work comes through his Facebook page or his website. He will then go visit the home, and give the estimate. He requires half down and the other half after the project is done. In an area where sunny days are aplenty and there’s never a shortage on heat, there is some stiff competition in the business. Castro says what separates him, besides the nine years in the business, is the website and Facebook page. “People see that I’m an actual and credible business,” he said. “A lot of the people who install solar screens are just random people and it can make clients skeptical. They don’t want to give any money because they’re afraid they may not see them again.”
The personal contact with possible clients might be Castro’s favorite part of the business. “I’m really thankful to still do it,” he said. “The first two years, it was hard and I was learning and there were a couple times I felt like I was going to quit. Screening would take me eight to 10 hours, straight time. I also work a full-time job so having to do a house that would take that much time, if I would have three houses in a week, it was incredibly difficult. But now I can screen a house in three to four hours, so I’ve increased my efficiency.
“I’ve been fortunate. This is a family-owned business and I don’t want to make it any bigger, well, maybe a little more work – but what I like the most is getting to meet different people and talk to people; see what other people do. It gives you a sense of community a sense of your community. Been happy about that.”