Curtains That Can Handle a Hurricane

Presenting the winner of Popular Science's Grand Award in Home Technology

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Now bracing for category-4 mayhem means simply pulling down your shades. Storm-A-Rest manufacturer JHRG managed to turn a few pounds of .025-inch-thick fabric into stronger storm protection for windows than plywood. Faced with two-by-fours shot at 34 mph from an air cannon (one of the tests for category-4 certification in Florida), Storm-A-Rest panels survived undamaged; the boards punched right through plywood.

Best of all, the shades let in about 80 percent of sunlight, so you’re not in the dark when the power goes out.

The fabric’s brute strength comes from Honeywell Spectra fiber—the same stuff used in some bulletproof vests—adapted to stand up to Florida’s tough building codes. To make a wind- and waterproof coating (typically used on outdoor gear) stick to Spectra’s slippery polyethylene strands, the company spent two and a half years finding the correct mix of time and heat for an even coating. Engineers also had to determine the right weave pattern and density to stop large projectiles. It turned out that a slightly loose weave worked best to dissipate the energy of an impact.

“After [a string of hurricanes in] ’04, everyone got into the storm-protection business,” says Florida contractor Michael Faraone. “We’ve used some of the other products. This is the only one that really is storm protection.” $20 per sq. ft.;