For the average US household, heating and cooling accounts for over 40 percent of utility expenses yearly. It's a lot of money!
And with energy costs on the rise, understanding how we can lower the amount we're spending on maintaining our home's temperature without compromising on comfort is a question that's top of mind for many Americans.
You might not think it, but your windows can be a significant contributor to sky-high heating and cooling costs — but the right treatments (aka the right window coverings) can provide a range of benefits, including, you guessed it, energy savings.
Here's everything you need to know.
Before we get into the different types of energy-saving window treatments, it's essential to understand exactly how your windows impact your home's energy efficiency — and that impact can change from season to season.
Although windows only account for roughly 10 percent of the average home's surface area, your home loses approximately 30 percent of its heating through your windows during the colder months. That's 30 percent of your heating expenses being used to heat the great outdoors — not ideal!
In the summer months, the opposite occurs, with approximately 75 percent of the sunlight that hits your windows transforming into heat that counteracts the hard work your air-conditioning is doing to cool your home.
Fortunately, investing in quality, energy-efficient window treatments can go a long way to counteracting both the warm and cold weather impacts our windows produce — and their benefits extend far beyond simply saving energy!
For starters, they help keep you more comfortable! Better insulation and draft control help your home maintain its internal temperature while providing added privacy.
They also offer greater control over the natural light entering your space, allowing you to reduce glare and excess sunlight during the daytime.
Additionally, they make your space look nice! The wide range of energy-efficient window treatments available today makes it easy to find options that suit your style, giving you the practical benefits you need with the interior design appeal you desire.
It's clear there are some pretty significant benefits to investing in energy-efficient window treatments. The question remains, though: which ones should you invest in?
Truthfully, the answer can vary. It comes down to several factors, like the climate you live in, your personal preferences, and where your windows are located.
An excellent place to start your search is with the Attachments Energy Rating Council (AERC) Energy Improvement database. The AERC provides ratings for window treatments based on both warm and cold weather climates, allowing you to see if a treatment is the right fit for you, whether you live somewhere hot, cold, or a combination of the two.
To start your search, we've outlined a few energy-saving window treatments you may want to consider below.
First up, we've got curtains and drapes. Now, the energy-saving capabilities of curtains and drapes vary greatly depending on factors like fabric type and color.
According to the US Department of Energy, studies have indicated that medium-colored curtains with white-plastic backings are ideal for reducing heat gains by as much as 33 percent.
As a good rule of thumb, the thicker the material (or tighter the weave), the better insulation your curtains will provide — and don't forget layering is always an option!
Generally, you'll also want to hang your curtains or drapes as close to the window as possible, ideally with the ends touching either the base of the window sill or the floor.
The Department of Energy also recommends installing a cornice (a device that covers the upper part of your window), using velcro to secure the ends of your curtain to the walls, and allowing enough material for your curtains to overlap in the middle to maximize your treatment's effectiveness.
Another great option to level up your window's energy efficiency is roller shades. Roller shades are affordable treatments fitted to a bar just above your window, where they can be rolled out or tucked away as needed.
These types of window treatments tend not to offer high insulation levels (although opting for a thicker material can help) but excel at blocking out sunlight, making them ideal for warm weather climates where your primary concern is keeping heat out.
Next, we have cellular shades, a treatment frequently touted as the most energy-efficient of them all. Cellular shades are made from pleated material, with honey-comb-like pockets that trap air and effectively insulate against both hot and cold temperatures.
In fact, according to the US Department of Energy, cellular shades can effectively reduce solar gain during warm weather seasons by as much as 60 percent and reduce heat loss during colder months by 40 percent or more — a number that equates to about 10 percent savings on annual heating expenses!
If your goal is insulation, opt for a cellular shade with a side track that attaches each side of the treatment to the window frame; this creates a tighter fit that provides greater thermal resistance.
Finally, consider installing solar reflective film on your windows. Unlike the treatments mentioned above, reflective films are installed on your window's exterior. They're an ideal option for homeowners who don't want to obscure their views with more intrusive treatments or worry about UV rays fading furniture and artwork in the interior of their home.
While a window film's ability to capture and protect against heat depends on many factors, including window size, placement, and the surrounding climate, they can be a great option, especially for east and west-facing windows.
To understand a window film's effectiveness, we recommend looking at the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label, which provides information on a film's ability to combat solar heat gain and light transmittance.
Now, of course, in order for your window treatments to save you energy (and money), you need to put them to use! Once you've installed your selected treatment, consider adopting the following routines.
Close your curtains and shades during the day in the summer months and open them when the sun goes down!
Earlier in this post, we mentioned that just over 75 percent of the sunlight that hits your windows gets transformed into heat, and that means during the summer months, leaving your curtains or shades open during the day is a recipe for a warmer house!
Opt for covering your windows during daylight hours to keep sunlight out and preserve the cool temperature inside. Open them back up when the sun goes down to assist with nighttime cooling!
If you need to leave some curtains open for natural light during the day, try your best to stick to north and west-facing windows as much as possible, as they tend to be the most shaded, even during peak sunlight hours.
Open your curtains and shades during the day in the winter months and close them when the sun goes down.
You may have guessed where we're going here. In the winter months, do the opposite.
With over 30 percent of your home's internal heat getting lost through your windows, closing window treatments during the day, especially when you've invested in well-insulated ones, can help trap heat inside your home, making it easier for your home's heating system to maintain its temperature.
Whatever route you choose, remember that some form of window treatment is always better than no window treatment at all when it comes to energy savings.
And if you don't have time to adjust them throughout the day? Plenty of automatic options on the market today can be scheduled to suit your needs, so you can set it and forget it while still reaping the rewards of a more energy-efficient home!