If wintry drafts plowing through your windows are having you cling to that new cashmere throw this winter, then it may be time to consider switching out your window treatments (plus a few other nifty tricks) to improve energy efficiency.
And, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) agrees ─ windows on average account for 25-40% of annual heating and cooling costs in older houses. Thumbs up to homeowners who already have high performance windows, such as fiberglass window replacements and vinyl replacement windows! But if that’s not an option for now, we’ve pulled together this mini-guide of solutions we found so far, including the pros and cons of everything from layered curtains to shrink-wrap film.
Assess the Situation
First off, start by making a list of all of your windows, the situational aspects of each window and each room (i.e. living room windows face west & face the backyard), and the needs or concerns of each room (i.e. room gets too scorching hot during the summer, & need privacy from the two-story neighbor behind you). Sounds basic, but just keep in mind what direction your windows face, the type of windows you have, what happens near your windows during different times of day, and whether your window treatments are decorative or constantly being opened/closed. Here’s a couple of items to consider:
- What types of concerns/problems do you have with your windows?
- Now, from the above issues, prioritize between your life and space (i.e. energy efficiency, winter warmth, modern aesthetic, need for privacy)?
- Perfect, now which direction is the windows facing?
- Do the windows open? Are they insulated?
- What is the sunlight situation early in the morning, & afternoon? Does it change significantly during Summer and Winter?
- Are any of the windows out of reach or vaulted high into the ceiling?
- Do you need cordless window treatments?
- Are you planning on installing your own window treatments or do you need help from an expert?
How your home sits in relation to the sun has a huge image on heating and cooling costs, which is probably accounting for the majority of the energy consumption in your home. And, since that’s not changing anytime soon, strategically focusing on treating your windows is going to be one of the easiest fixes.
Photo by Vernich Interiors
Start With East & West Facing Windows
Let’s start by focusing on any of your windows with more sun exposure than others. For example, if the morning sun is dominant in east-facing rooms and you’re a morning person who enjoys lots of light, it might not be necessary to treat these windows with anything other than simple custom roman shades. West-facing rooms take in early evening light, which comes in at a low angle. In cold areas, this is the last chance of the day for a home to take in heat from the sun; and in hot areas, it’s the most important window to shade with trees or overhangs. Alternatively, North-facing rooms are going to receive the least natural light and therefore the greatest potential for heat loss through windows.
Photo by Brook Taylor Interiors
Selecting Custom Drapery “Lining”
“Aren’t custom drapes used for interior decor statements”, is probably what you’re thinking. But, here at Alva, we believe beautiful fabric can also up your energy-efficient quotient without the sacrifice of design. Drapery, when lined properly, insulates the home in the winter because it essentially acts like a blanket, keeping heat from escaping out of the window. Let’s start by taking a look at various “lining” options, and the benefits by the beyond the beauty. Before looking at “lining” options, keep in mind that this extra layer helps creates a more structured body and improves the drapability. Second, liners protects the fabric from outside elements, regulates the light & insulates your windows. And by adjusting your lining & interlining choices, you’ll be creating tailored results for each room. Here’s a quick overview:
- Privacy. Protects your face fabric from harmful UV rays, and adds a medium body & fullness to the drapes.
- Thermal. Adds protection to the face fabric from harmful UV rays, & moderate sound insulation. It also has hi-insulating properties for excellent energy efficiency in today’s homes.
- Black-out. 100% light control is sometimes a “must-have” feature for shift workers, babies, and students, who need to control their sleep environment. It too provides a better appearance and drapability.
- Privacy or Black-out with Interlining. The interlining for either of these two style is a material between the primary fabric and the lining. This provides a greater insulating factor & can dramatically add to the fullness of your custom drapes.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
- When it’s chilly outside, keep your drapery closed at nights. And, for window treatments that don’t receive any light, might as well keep them closed.
- Reduce heat exchange by hanging drapes as close to windows as possible. Let them fall onto the windowsill or floor.
- Get in the practice of “Daylighting”. This is the practice of lighting rooms with natural light rather than defaulting to the just hitting the switch! Our sheers and other select drapery styles actually diffuse light as it enters, and helps to draw it deeper into the room. By drawing natural light into a room many of our window treatments reduce your energy needs for other types of lighting.
- Layering two draperies hung together will create a tighter air space than just one drapery. Beyond the aesthetics of layering, the room-side drapery will maintain around the same temperature as the room itself, adding to a space’s comfort level.
- To get maximal efficiency, consider using Velcro or magnetic tape on the side seams and on the walls of the outside edge of the curtain. This will keep the drapery snugs on all sides, and restrict airflow. Essentially this creates an extra layer of still air between your windows and the indoors, cutting heat transfer in cold weather.
Photo by Marie Flanigan Interiors
When the Temperature Starts Rising
When the temperature guage really starts to climb, consider closing draperies on windows taking on direct sunlight to prevent heat gain. Studies demonstrate that medium-colored draperies with white backings can reduce heat gains by 33%. Another interesting aspect is that draperies can stay cooler in the summer than other window treatments because their pleats and folds lose heat through convection!
Custom Draperies help transform harsh exterior light by diffusing it. Some of Alva’s performance fabrics & layered looks actually help spread light evenly throughout the room, so you can maximize daylight hours and reduce your need for artificial light. Our beautiful European sheer fabrics also softly filter brightness, glare, & UV rays.
Quick Weekend Project: Window Insulation Strips
So...you made the plunge & decided to invest in energy-efficient draperies or custom roman shades. Congrats, we’ve got the perfect weekend project to seal your windows with plastic from the inside, and cut heat loss even more. Let’s start with the product:
The kit pictured on the left can seal up to 5 windows, up to of 3’ x 5’ each. They are a number of other kits out their for larger bay windows or patio sliding windows, but you get the idea.
- Start by taping a continuous rectangle around the window frame with the double-sided tape.
- Continue by cutting the plastic to a size about an inch wider in each dimension than the taped rectangle. Remove the plastic backing of the double-sided tape, & carefully press the plastic onto the tape, beginning at the bottom, then at the top, and finally on either side.
- Don’t fret if it looks wrinkled — just make sure you get the seal tight all the way around.
- Lastly, use a bathroom blow-dryer to heat the window up. Just be careful to hold the blow dryer at least 6 inches away from the plastic to prevent burning a hole in it. As the heat from the blow dryer begins to heat the plastic, you’ll notice it shrinks to form a tight, wrinkle-free, air-tight barrier between the window and the sheet.
Custom, full-length drapery has nothing to prove. It’s continuously fashionable and can be well utilized to make your space more energy-efficient.
Feature Photo by Brook Taylor Interiors