8 Energy Saving Window Treatments

By Scott Sidler September 11, 2017

8 energy saving window treatmentsWhen people think about energy saving upgrades to their house the first thing they think of is their windows. While it’s true that windows are a source of heat loss in your home there are bigger sources of heat loss like attic insulation you should focus on first.

With autumn just on the horizon it’s time to start thinking about weatherizing your house to get it ready for the cold winter weather and windows are an important part of that equation. So, I thought I’d put together some easy and effective ways to soup up the efficiency of your old windows with eight energy saving window treatments anyone can do.

These are all time tested ideas that don’t require a contractor or serious work on a deep energy retrofit. A weekend, a tape measure, and a drill will help you get most of these treatments in place before the colder weather hits and heating prices go up.

Window Replacement…NOT

I’ll keep saying it on this blog, but window replacement is not the solution to most window issues you are facing. There are times when it makes sense, but don’t head down this route first without looking at some of the much less expensive and more effective energy saving window treatments in this post.

Still thinking about window replacement? Read some of these posts below and see if the facts can convince you, like they have me, that window replacement is not what it’s cracked up to be.

1. Shutters

Exterior

A lot of shutters today are simply decorative and don’t function, but once upon a time shutters were a very important part of every window. Along with protecting the window during a storm, exterior shutters are excellent at keeping out the hot sun and cold winds.

Putting operable exterior shutters on your house and opening and closing them accordingly can make huge gains in energy efficiency. Close your shutters on the west side of your house before the afternoon sun starts pouring through your windows and you will notice a marked difference.

In the winter close them during those winter storms keep the cold winter wind off the glass and cut down on both condensation and heat loss.

Interior

Plantation shutters are a popular and attractive way to provide privacy and upgrade the energy performance of your windows too. Angling the slats upward during the winter and downward in the summer keeps the heat where it belongs. Simple, effective, and attractive.

You can buy traditional interior and exterior wood shutters from places like ShutterCraft.

2. Storm Windows

Exterior

If you live in the northern states then you know the benefits of exterior storm windows. The selection is huge and there are dozens of reputable manufacturers to choose from. Exterior storms can be expensive, but they arguably provide the greatest improvement in energy efficiency of almost any window.

Interior

Interior storm panels made by companies like Indow, Innerglass, Magnetite and others are another option that are even better at air sealing your window than an exterior storm. They don’t provide protection from the weather like exterior storms, but they are an easy to install, DIY project compared to exterior storms which usually require a contractor to install.

3. Cellular Shades

cellular shadesCellular shades, sometimes called honeycomb shades, are lightweight attractive shades that come in a wide variety of styles and functions. They are particularly effective at blocking both heat and cold because their design creates an air pocket between the window and the room that provides insulation.

A little more expensive than run of the mill blinds, cellular shades are more effective and you get what you pay for in terms of energy performance.

4. Window Film

Talk about simple and inexpensive! Window film is possibly the easiest to install and least expensive of these eight energy saving window treatments. At a couple dollars per square foot and an easy DIY installation this would be one of the first things I’d try on my windows.

Window film doesn’t make a big difference for cold climates but in southern climates where the sun can come through your windows and cook you this is almost a must. There are a variety of films that offer different levels of UV blocking and appearances. Check out all the options to get the right one for your needs.

5. Solar Screens

I didn’t understand the effectiveness of solar screens until I stood beneath my father-in-law’s new pergola in the July sun. Across the top of the pergola he had run some solar screening that claimed to block out 85% of the heat and boy did it! The moment I stepped below that screen I could feel a huge difference in temperature. It was still hot outside but I didn’t feel the heat of the sun on my skin like before.

The great thing about solar screening is that you can easily upgrade your existing screens whether they are historic wood screens or newer aluminum frames. You just replace the screening and keep the frame. You can get different levels of coverage from 70-95%. I like the 70-75% versions because I can barely notice the decrease of light for those versions. You can find solar screening here. 

6. Draperies

Drapes may seem old fashioned but they are very effective at keeping heat where it belongs. Closing heavy drapes during the day is very effective at keeping heat out and for the winter months closing them at night keeps the heat in. The style doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is using them as the weather dictates.

7. Awnings

Look at old pictures of almost every big building before the advent of air conditioning and you’ll notice awnings. Even the White House was covered in awnings back in the day. That’s because awnings are the perfect passive heat blocking window treatment.

Here’s how it works, awnings block the hot summer sun from your windows, yet allow the winter sun (which is lower in the horizon) to shine through and warm the house when you need the heat. It’s ingenious. No work is required from you to make adjustments as the seasons change. Awnings just work, plain and simple.

8. Blinds

Interior blinds are in almost every house and there are a multitude of styles and prices for any budget. Just like shutters you turn the slats up in the winter to keep the heat in and turn the slats down in the summer to keep the heat out. Another easy and inexpensive energy saving window treatment anyone can do.

What else have you found effective to keep the weather at bay and make your home more comfortable? Tell me in the comments the treatments you’ve used with success so we can all benefit.

1 thought on “8 Energy Saving Window Treatments”

  1. I live up North and have found these to be helpful:
    –roller shades, simple but effective to keep summer sun out, and blocks drafts
    –shrink wrap plastic window film with tape, Most stores have these in the fall–put the tape up on the inside of the window frame, stick on the plastic and tighten with a hair dryer. I have large picture windows and these have been up for years and are barely noticeable.The tape can pull off paint and finishes if you remove it every year, but it dries out and is easy to remove after several years.
    –Removable caulk, foam backer rod and grey window putty weatherstripping (comes in rolls)–all can help fill in gaps around windows inside, and the removable caulk can be used outside. I have even used the removable caulk outdoors for temporary masonry repairs for my stone facing. The removable caulk can get sticky if used in a humid place. The backer rod can be used on old casement and awning type windows and barn sash and fill bigger cracks. I use the putty on hard to seal cracks, like around the sash lock and on the edges of my slider windows.
    –Bubble wrap–just spray the window with water and apply inside the window-doubles the R value of the glass itself (from 1 to 2) and still lets in light. I keep some up all year round on the bottom half of my bedroom and porch windows, and on my basement windows, and the effect is similar to decorative window film. Can be hidden behind sheers or curtains. I got this tip from University of Maine energy tips, which are really good: //extension.umaine.edu/energy/homeowners/
    –homemade interior storms–magnetic type kits can be ordered online with acrylic cut to size locally. You can also make your own “air panel” which is a simple window frame made out of wood strips, edged in weatherstripping (brush or simply backer rod cut in half) and covered in plastic shrink wrap window film on both sides. John Leeke has full instructions on how to make them, and they tested to be nearly as efficient as a full wood window restoration with storm.
    Summary of links to different types (commercial and homemade)
    //view.officeapps.live.com/op/view.aspx?src=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ci.independence.or.us%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Ffileattachments%2Fhistoric%2Fstorm_window_contractors.doc

    John Leeke style with DIY tips:
    //blog.jonudell.net/2014/09/28/a-cost-effective-way-to-winterize-windows/

    –Making drapes or shades out of quilts or thermal blankets can add even more protection at night. Mother Earth Jones has instructions. My stepsister used the woven thermal blankets as drapes for her house, which once was a summer cottage, and they looked great and worked well, and they even allowed some light in.
    –This may seem obvious, but it made a big difference in my home. Although full-length curtains should touch the floor according to interior designers, raising my pinch pleat custom drapes to above the baseboard heaters allowed the heat to go into the room, not get trapped inside.
    And of course, don’t forget your tips on bronze weatherstripping and door sweeps and threshold weatherstripping for doors. Saving original wood doors needs as much attention as windows, and there are ways to improve locks and jambs to make them more secure too. See so many being tossed or made into decorative objects. These tips can even be used on interior doors to cut down on drafts and provide sound privacy, depending on your heating system configuration.

    When you live up North in snow and ice country, you learn to be creative. Having a wardrobe of soft long johns, cozy socks and sweaters, and lots of soft blankets works for us too to stay cozy during the long winter months.

    .

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