By Katie Marks, Networx
The first thing I tend to do when I move into a new home is hang up some window treatments. I like my privacy, thank you very much, and I also like to filter and control light levels for maximum comfort! In my office, that means a nice rollerblind so I can cut the glare when the sun is peeping in as I try to work, while in the living room, I go for sheers to let lots of light in and keep prying eyes out.
But there's another reason I'm so into window treatments: they're an easy way to make my home more energy efficient, helping me save money on heating and cooling costs right out of the gate. Which is good, since I tend to overspend on home decor and I have to get that money from somewhere!
Big, sweeping windows are great, but sometimes, the light that flows through them is a big problem. In the summer, solar heat gain can cause temperatures to rise rapidly, and if you don't want to suffocate, you have to turn up the A/C, which isn't so great for the environment. Winter solar heat gain, on the other hand, can allow you to take advantage of the natural light of the sun to heat your home, but an exposed window can result in almost 50% of heat loss right through the glass. How do you strike the right balance?
Blinds, shades, and curtains offer a lot of light control, and insulation, if you choose the right products. Honeycomb shades are basically custom-designed for this (literally, they were invented during the energy crisis), and they've come a long way since the early days. Now, they come in tons of colors and styles to match a wide range of interior decor, so you don't have to compromise looks for energy savings.
Here's why honeycomb shades are so great: they can admit varying levels of light in, depending on the materials they're made from and how much of the window they're covering at any given time. Furthermore, the cellular-style construction creates a formidable layer of insulation that keeps heat in during the winter time, and keeps your home cool in summer because you get the great feel of natural light, without the solar gain. Paper and fabric finishes are available in all sorts of colors and thicknesses so you can go to town with your interior decor and save big time on your heating and cooling.
Other shade and blind styles can offer similar benefits. One advantage to their design is that they create an air cell between the blind and the window, which acts as a layer of insulation. The ability to adjust them in several different ways also creates needed flexibility when it comes to setting things up just right to protect interior temperatures and get the right light level.
Drapes are always classic, with thicker drapes acting like blankets during the cold winter months. If you're worried about drapes blocking needed light, go with a light color like white or cream, and a heavy canvas fabric for insulation. You'll get the best of both worlds with tons of natural light but no cold! (And, if you're ambitious, you can plan ahead and replace your heavier winter drapes with lighter summer sheers when the days start warming up.)
Another option is shutters, which are popular in very hot regions of the country. Shutters allow people to close out most of the light, keeping their homes cool and comfortable while they minimize solar gain. They're also perfect for people who like taking long siestas in the heat of the day and don't want to be woken up by the merciless sun!
There are some pretty cool modern technologies that increase efficiency with style. HEX Curtains, for example, cast an amazing shadow on the inside of your house while responding in real time to changing light levels, offering a very high level of insulation and natural light depending on what you need. Cordless, top down bottom up, remote-controlled, and other options are available for blinds and shades, allowing you to really customize your environment's looks while also saving money. Window films can control heat loss and light levels but still leave windows wide open for gorgeous views.
A handyman can help you install the window treatments of your dreams, and you can also consult with a window treatment expert. Some things to consider when you're planning an installation include the direction your windows face and how the room is used. New parents might want soft, diffused light for a nursery, for example, while a library might benefit from heavier shading to protect the books from harmful UV light.