Summertime is upon us and with it, temperatures will begin to rise. As that heat comes in through our windows, doors, or skylights, our energy bills rise too. According to the US Department of Energy, 30% of our home’s heating or cooling energy is lost out of our windows. The DOE also points out that 76% of sunlight that hits our windows enters our home and heats them up. That’s extra work our air conditioning (and wallets) have to make up for! The technical term for this is “solar heat gain”. Windows are rated with solar heat gain coefficient ratings (or SHGC ratings) to describe how much energy passes through a window and how much is absorbed. ENERGY STAR windows do a better job at prevention, but no window prevents all heat gain.
Fortunately, there’s plenty we can do to add window coverings that help prevent that heat from coming inside and save you money!
How Window Treatments Improve Energy Efficiency & Save Money
Like we mentioned, sunlight hitting windows, even double-paned, still warms our homes on the inside. This applies to cold insulation as well, but we’re going to focus on heat for the summer here. Window coverings can not only prevent heat from entering the home through blocking sunlight, but they also can insulate windows. Insulation varies by window covering, of course, but we’ll break that down later. Utilizing natural light also reduces our need for artificial lighting, which saves on electric bills too.
Another money-saving benefit to window coverings is UV protection. We don’t always give thought to UV rays inside, but they do play a factor! UV rays that enter our homes eventually fade our wood floors, carpet, artwork, and furniture. They can even cause them to be brittle by weakening the fibers, change the color, or make them look worn and old prematurely. No one wants their beautiful wood floors bleached in one spot by the sun, so taking precautions early prevents the need for repair work or replacements later on. That’s money and time saved!
What Window Coverings Help Most for Blocking Heat?
Cellular Shades Are Great Help in Keeping Out Unwanted Heat & UV Rays
Cellular shades have a reputation for being great at insulation for a reason. It’s what they’re designed for! Each little pocket within the shade traps air the same way a poofy winter jacket does, and that trapped air creates an insulation barrier between your window and room. The internal honeycomb shape gives cellular shades one of the highest R-values of any type of window covering. (The R-value is a measurement of the ability to resist heat flow – that’s heat into your home in the summer, or lost out your window in the winter).
There’s a variety of cell sizes, and even cells-within-cells (like the picture above). The cell size and number do make a difference! The more places air is trapped and the more layers of it, the more insulation, essentially. That said, the difference is relatively small so unless you’ve got a window in direct sunlight most of the day that’s bringing in loads of heat, choosing based on aesthetics is still going to give you great results. Cellular shades also provide high levels of UV protection and one of the highest levels of sound absorption!
Well-fitted cellular shades can reduce unwanted solar heat through windows by up to 80%. That’s huge!
Cellular Shades for Skylights are an Ideal Solution for Heat Management
They also work beautifully on skylights! When you add motorization, you can open and close the shade with the touch of a button, your smart device, or even your voice. Skylights, especially south-facing, bring in plenty of beautiful natural light, but they’re just as guilty of letting in unwanted heat and UV rays as any other window. Since skylights are an architectural accent meant to be seen as much as they are a window, it’s important to choose coverings that complement your room’s overall style. Thankfully, helping you find the ideal window treatments that not only keep out heat but look beautiful in your unique space is our specialty!
Shutters are Surprisingly Great at Helping Keep Out Unwanted Heat
Shutters are underrated when it comes to energy efficiency. Not only do they offer superior UV protection, but they even offer great wintertime insulation. Both wood and vinyl shutters help create a comfortable space with their natural insulating properties. They sit nice and tight against the window as well, which helps prevent the amount of air heated up in the first place. Shutters are actually so great at this that some European countries are suggesting the installation of exterior shutters on all homes moving forward to help with increased temperatures without any additional impact on their power grid. After all, simply closing louvers when it’s chilly or light is hitting a window takes no electricity at all, but has a big impact!
Plus shutters are a beautiful, modern touch to many homes. There is a wide variety of wood grains, stains, and even paint colors to ensure you have the perfect style for your home. Many are also quite moisture-resistant, making them a perfect solution for bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
Solar & Roller Shades Offer Unique Summertime Benefits
Roller shades and solar shades can be great options if you prefer a sleeker appearance and want sound absorption. While they don’t provide their own high level of insulation like cellular shades, they still offer great benefits. Solar shades especially offer incredible levels of UV protection, while still allowing plenty of natural light. They offer little in the way of winter cold insulation, however. If summer sunlight (and some heat) is something you’d like to see in your home, but just without harmful UV rays, they’re a great option.
Layer shades for increased versatility & function
Layered shades are also a great option. You can have multiple layers of roller shades, one solar and one a more opaque roller and up the levels of insulation and UV protection without any excess hardware or materials. If you layer roller or solar shades with outside drapery, you’ve got a perfect winter insulation solution, and a more finished and beautiful window to boot. It’s a win-win!
Roman Shades & Drapery Are Wonderful Heat-Prevention Options
Fabric is one of the most customizable and versatile products available for window coverings. Weight, color and type of fabric all play a role in how much sunlight enters your room, and how much insulation is offered. As window coverings go, fabric is always a great way to help keep out heat, cold, light, and UV rays! Thicker fabrics will provide more insulation than sheer, of course. White backings can often help reflect light back out the window as well, and its associated heat. Some HOAs require white backings. Many homeowners prefer them anyway for a cohesive outdoor view of the home too!
Everything from the tightness of the wave to color makes a difference. The installation matters when you’re aiming for energy efficiency or temperature control. The closer the fabric is to the wall, the better it helps prevent unwanted heat gain (or loss during the winter). The addition of a cornice or valance over the top helps create even more temperature control. Plus they look beautiful! Because there’s such a wide variety of fabric options, it’s hard to generalize on their heat gain ratings. That said, we’ll certainly design with that in mind for you, and help teach you tips to utilize them for the full energy-saving effect you desire!