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Green Interiors


Cool Off with Window Coverings
by Pamela Portwood


Now that the summer sun is pummeling our windows with heat, desert dwellers will do just about anything to stay cool. One homeowner I know boarded up and dry walled over her west windows. That certainly will increase a home's energy efficiency, but there are ways to deal with the desert sun without giving up the views and light from your windows.

If you are building a new home or have the funds to remodel your current home, installing energy-efficient windows is the best place to start. Selecting new windows can seem like a maze of statistics, acronyms and certifications: U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient, low emissivity and visible transmittance, not to mention double-paned windows filled with argon glass.

I'll save the details for another column on windows and doors. Meanwhile, you can check the federal Energy Star website (www.energystar.gov) for information on window performance and details on the tax credits available through Dec. 31 for window replacement in existing homes. There are also tax credits for the installation of window film, heating and cooling systems, insulation and more.

I know that you've heard this before, but if you're not replacing your windows, start by caulking them. It's cheap and it's easy. If your windows aren't well sealed, your heated or cooled air is just leaking out the windows.

Simply reducing the amount of light coming through windows will increase their energy efficiency. For new homes, the right size of roof overhang can heat and cool a home using passive solar design. Adding a patio or awning can create a similar effect in terms of heat reduction for an existing home.

New windows typically come with a solar reflective coating. Adding window film to your existing windows will decrease your heat gain in the summer and help protect your furniture and flooring from the fading caused by UV light. In selecting film, try to maximize the film's energy efficiency while maintaining your view and avoiding highly reflective films that are more appropriate for commercial buildings than homes. Energy-efficient window coverings are a great way to save energy and add to your home's style. Drapes and curtains can be lined with blackout cloth and kept closed during the heat of the day.

Both louvered blinds and interior shutters can reduce heat in the summer, and their adjustable louvers allow you to control the light. Like other window coverings, the lighter their color, the better they reflect the light and reduce the heat. Unfortunately, neither interior blinds nor shutters retain much heat in the winter.

Double- and triple-cell designs for cellular or honeycomb shades are more energy efficient than single cells. Hanging cellular shades in between double-pane windows is a boon for allergy sufferers because the shades don't accumulate dust like exposed window coverings do.

While we can't change the orientation of an existing home without literally lifting the building and turning it onto an east-west axis, we can make our window coverings fit the homes that we already have. Combining two, energy-efficient window coverings, like window film and lined drapes, on your west and east windows can be a good solution. We need to save energy, but daylight is essential to human health and well being.

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Article is reprinted courtesy of The New Southwest (formerly Tucson Green Times).



 

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