Air conditioning is blissful during the summer, but running it nonstop during a heat wave will have you cursing when you get your utility bill. Fortunately, clever use of blinds, curtains, and other window treatments can help keep your house cool and your bills in check. The Department of Energy says that smart management of window coverings can reduce heat gain by up to 77 percent. And, as a bonus, these same practices can reduce heat loss in the winter. Here are some energy-saving suggestions from the DOE that will pay off immediately.
Curtains and drapes.
On summer days, keep your curtains closed. “Particularly on the side of the house or apartment where the sun is coming in,” says Allen Drury, a representative of Con Edison.
The ability of curtains and drapes to reduce heat gain depends on fabric type (closed or open weave) and color. Studies show that medium-colored draperies with white plastic backings can reduce heat gain by 33 percent, according to the DOE. Hang the curtains as close to the window as possible. For maximum effect, install a cornice at the top of the draperies, seal the draperies at the sides, and overlap them in the middle using Velcro or tape.
When properly installed, window shades are one of the simplest and most effective ways to save energy, but they need to be drawn all day to work. Mount them as close to the glass as possible within the window frame, creating a sealed space. Reversible shades that are white on one side and dark on the other can be switched with the seasons with the white side reflecting the sun in the summer and the dark side absorbing it in the winter.
Cellular shades are the best and most energy efficient window coverings you can buy. They use a series of cell pockets to trap air around your windows, keeping your rooms warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The cells use a unique design shape similar to a honeycomb and are often referred to as honeycomb shades.
Quilted roller shades and Roman shades with several layers of fiber batting act as both insulation and an air barrier and are more effective than other soft window treatments.
Because of the horizontal slats, it’s difficult to control heat loss through interior window blinds, although they do offer some flexibility. Unlike shades, you can adjust the slats to control light and ventilation. When completely closed, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45 percent, says the DOE. They can also be adjusted to block and reflect direct sunlight onto a light-colored ceiling, which diffuses the light without much heat or glare.
Window films are best for homes in regions with long cooling seasons. Silver, mirror-like films typically are more effective than colored, more transparent films, and east- and west-facing windows benefit most because of their greater potential for heat gain. Keep in mind that reflective films are tricky to clean and may affect your view.
For more information, visit https://www.consumerreports.org/energy-efficiency/beat-the-heat-with-window-coverings/