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
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
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).