In spite of the “greenwashing” going on these days, it is critical
that we call attention to the things we can do here and now to cut energy costs
and generally use less. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt to save some money, would it? Let’s
face it, green terminology can be very confusing. R-value, u-factor,
detrimental energy loss… it’s often difficult to decipher what all of this
means. For starters, visit EcoHome Magazine
. It is a wonderful resource, filled
with easy-to-understand information and tips you can use to make your home more
energy efficient. In regards to window treatments specifically, here are some
things you absolutely have to know to make good, environmentally conscious
decisions when outfitting your abode:
1. Window treatments increase
R-value. R-value is a material’s resistance to heat flow. In other words,
how well will your window treatments prevent that expensive heat from escaping
through the cracks in your old windows? To put it in perspective, The R-value
of a standard single-glazed window is 1. A double-glazed window has an R-value
of 2. A low-E double glazed window (which is fairly standard on new
construction) has an R-value of 3.5. A double-cell honeycomb shade with a
blackout liner can have an R-value of nearly 8.
2. Window treatments
reduce U-factor. 5% of your home’s total energy lost is lost through
closed windows. U-factor is the rate at which heat escapes, so if you live
in cold climates, the last thing you want is heat escaping. In warmer climates,
cold air will escape through your windows if the U-factor is too high. The
lower the U-factor, the better. Inversely, the higher the R-value, the better.
3. Inside mounted
blinds and shades are more insulatory than outside mounted. Shades that
hang on the outside of the window frame allow air to slip between the shade and
the wall more easily. If you have the option, order inside mount shades that fit snuggly
within the window casing to prevent this. If you have no other option than to
hang an outside mount shade, drapery side panels will prevent the inside air
4. The sun is a on a one-way
street into your house. Once the rays filter in, they cannot escape. This
creates a mini-greenhouse effect inside of your home. Make sure the shades are
down while the sun is at its high point. Your best option here is a cellular shade. Something light-filtering or blackout. Stick with a shade instead of a blind so that when it's down, solar radiation can't seek through the slats.
5. Window treatments
allow for dynamic control of solar heat gain. The lower the Solar Heat Gain
Coefficient, the better. This number is somewhere between 0 and 1, with 1 being
no window at all (just a hole in the wall), and 0 being a black trash bag covered with aluminum foil
taped tightly over a double-paned low-E grade window. You want SOME heat gain, to naturally heat your home in
the winter, so installing light filtering shades, or window treatments that can
easily let you control the amount of solar radiation is a good investment
(think solar shades, cellular shades, and shutters).
6. Make sure your
window treatments are Green Guard certified. This means
that your window treatments will emit the legal level of VOC’s (Volatile
organic compounds) into the air. Protect your kids, your pets, and yourself by
ensuring your blinds are made by a reputable company that inspects its products
7. Daylighting will
save you money. Window treatments are light diffusers. Ever turned on a
light in the middle of summer and though “Well this is dumb”? Daylighting is the
practice of using and controlling natural light to light up internal spaces using
blinds, shades, and other window treatments (like screens and window tapes). This is not new technology, folks. This is an ages-old, tried and true method of using the sun to light homes instead of energy-sucking 60-100 watt bulbs. At
times of the year when the sun is at its brightest, install light filtering
shades or solar shades to let natural light diffuse throughout your home. These
shades have the ability to draw the light more deeply into a room than a window
without a shade could, keeping it bright while blocking sun radiation and heat.
Use this trick, and you’ll save money on your energy bill.
Small changes made by everyone equal big changes in the long
run. Though these may seem like tiny steps, each individual effort truly does
go a long way to increase the quality of life in your home and your neighbor’s
home. For more information, visit
EcoHome Magazine, and the Efficient Windows Collaborative. Begin your green education today so that you'll know the difference between products and practices that make your home more efficient and those that just won't.
Thank you to Hunter Douglas and the Efficient Windows Collaborative for providing research and useful statistics.