Does your house suffer from heating and cooling pains? Instead of complaining, seize your (literal) windows of opportunity to not only upgrade energy efficiency and reduce utility bills but also enhance your home’s privacy and style.
Loss of energy through windows can account for 10 percent to 20 percent of a home’s heating and cooling costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Unfortunately, few homeowners have the time or money to replace their windows with new energy-efficient models. A simple and effective alternative is to add insulated window treatments, and many options are inexpensive and can be customized to accent your home’s décor.
When choosing insulated window treatments, you’ll need to consider several factors, including R-value (the materials’ resistance to heat flow), the effectiveness of blocking sunlight and UV rays and the features and styles you prefer.
R-value is determined by the type of insulation (materials, thickness and density) a treatment uses — the greater the R-value, the more effective the insulation. To calculate the R-value of a multilayer window treatment, add the R-values of each layer. Combining several window treatments can create higher R-values. Products that block all or most of the sunlight and UV rays also help to reduce heat flow and protect furniture, flooring, paint, etc. from fading and other sun-related damage.
Modern window treatments come with a variety of snazzy features, so explore your options to find products that will meet your needs, recommends Cessy Brown, marketing communications manager for window-fashion manufacturers Levolor and Kirsch. For example, light-blocking and cordless features are useful in kids’ rooms because they allow you to darken rooms for daytime naps and eliminate safety concerns about cords. Shades that open from the top of the window work well for bathrooms, as they provide privacy while still allowing natural light to enter.
Style selection depends on personal preference. Drapes provide texture and can be used to conceal window imperfections, whereas inside-mount shades appear cleaner and can show off a window’s architecture. Look to your home and furniture for clues about what style will blend in with your existing décor. Here are some examples of the latest and most effective types of treatments to consider.
Designed with small air pockets between layers of fabric, cellular shades trap air inside, reducing heat flow. According to manufacturer Hunter Douglas, cellular shades can reduce heating and cooling costs as much as 25 percent. The company’s new Duette Architella honeycomb shades (photos, p. 35) feature R-values between 5.48 and 7.73, depending on pleat size and fabric opaqueness. They can be customized with a variety of features, fabric textures and colors.
Levolor’s Evening Star Blockout cellular shades have a fabric R-value of 3.8 and block 99 percent of light entering windows. To learn how to measure your windows and install the shades, see “Smart Shades.”
The insulation value of drapes varies greatly, as many fabric types and liners are available. During cold weather, most conventional drapes can reduce heat loss by as much as 10 percent, according to the DOE. The organization also says drapes remain cooler during summer months compared with many other types of window treatments because more heat is exchanged through pleats and folds.
Gardenside Insulated Curtains from Plow & Hearth (photo, left) are backed with a layer of 100 percent white acrylic foam, which reduces heat gain and loss and blocks light and sound. To learn how to enhance existing drapes by adding thermal lining, see “Cozy Curtains.”
Adding outdoor awnings, such as those from Sun Setter and Shade Tree, during warmer months saves more energy than most other window treatments. According to the DOE, awnings installed over west-facing windows can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by 77 percent.
Matching window awnings to your home’s exterior features also adds eye-catching curb appeal. When shopping for awnings (or having them custom-made), choose tightly woven, light-color outdoor fabric, such as Sunbrella’s Carlton in Plantation, that can withstand weather and reflect sunlight. The DOE also recommends incorporating eyelets or other small openings along the tops and sides of window awnings to allow ventilation.
When fitted snugly against window frames, solid shutters work best at reducing heat transfer compared with louvered or other ventilated shutters. Louvered shutters are more suitable for summer shading, as they block the sun’s direct radiation while still allowing some natural light and air to circulate around windows.
Interior Polywood shutters from Sunburst Shutters are about 70 percent more energy-efficient than traditional wood shutters, according to the manufacturer. And the synthetic Polywood material will not fade, warp, crack or discolor when exposed to extreme heat.
Exterior shutters add weather protection and security to their list of benefits. With such a wide selection of window treatments available, why stop at just one per window? Combine two or more to achieve the utmost in energy savings, light control and features. You’ll notice a pleasant difference in your home’s aesthetics as well as in your utility bills.
Some quick measurements and a few tools are all it takes to equip your windows with a set of Levolor’s Evening Star Blockout cellular shades. Here are the basic steps:
1. Before measuring your windows, select the shade features and colors you desire. Levolor offers various mounting and cord options and about 20 colors in its Evening Star Blockout line. We chose navy-blue inside-mount cordless shades.
2. For inside-mount shades, measure the width inside the window frame at the top, middle and bottom, rounding down to the nearest 1/8 in. Record the smallest of the three measurements. Then measure the window height at the left, middle and right, rounding up to the nearest 1/8 in. Record the largest measurement. Submit your order online, or bring the measurements to your local Levolor dealer (The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards, JCPenney).
3. Installation brackets are included with each shade. First, place the brackets on the inside top of the window frame, 2 in. from the sides and no more than 30 in. apart. Mark the screw locations through the holes in the brackets (an awl or ice pick works well for this); then drill the screw holes. Align the brackets with the holes and screw them into place. Finish by attaching the shades to the brackets.
Add insulated Warm Window fabric to your existing drapes without sewing a stitch. Here’s how to do it:
1. Before you begin, note that the channel quilting lines on the Warm Window fabric should hang vertically. Measure and mark the cut lines on the Warm Window fabric according to your cover-fabric dimensions. Your cover fabric must be at least 1 in. longer than the Warm Window fabric along each edge to allow for hemming (excluding the length of the rod pocket or other built-in hanging device). Your width marks should be as close to the nearest channel quilting lines as possible, as keeping the seams intact will help hold the insulation layers together at the hems. You can adjust your hem allowances to accomplish this. Cut along your marks.
2. To save an existing rod pocket, attach the top of the Warm Window fabric to the top of your cover fabric just below the rod-pocket seam. Stack the edge of the Warm Window fabric on the edge of your cover fabric, only overlapping to about 1 in. below the rod-pocket seam. (Note: The smooth liner side of the Warm Window fabric will be facing the back of your cover fabric. You will flip the Warm Window fabric after attaching it.)
Cut a strip of 3/4-in.-wide Heat N Bond hem adhesive equal to the width of the Warm Window fabric. Place the strip between the cover and Warm Window fabrics just below the rod-pocket seam. Use an iron (set to low heat) to fuse the fabrics together. Trim any excess Warm Window material at the bond to about 1/4 in.
3. To finish your insulated drapes, fold the hem allowances of your cover fabric over the Warm Window fabric along the side and bottom edges. Iron the hems to help them stay in place. (For a more secure hold, you may want to apply a light coating of spray-on fabric adhesive between the cover and Warm Window fabrics before hemming.) Using an iron and strips of Heat N Bond cut to length, fuse the hems along each edge. Allow the Heat N Bond to cool completely before hanging the drapes.
For a tighter seal and even more energy savings, use hook-and-loop fasteners (inset, left) to attach the drapes to the wall along the sides and bottom of your window.
Glen Raven Custom Fabrics LLC (Sunbrella) (336) 221-2211
Hunter Douglas, 800-274-2985
Plow & Hearth, 800-494-7544
Shade Tree, 800-894-3801
Sun Setter, 800-876-2340
Sunburst Shutters, 877-786-2877
Therm O Web (Heat N Bond), (847) 520-5200
The Warm Co. (Warm Window fabric) (425) 248-2424
U.S. Department of Energy, 800-342-5363