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winter window covering drapes

High quality window coverings will keep warm air from transferring to the outdoors through the glass.  Here are ways to balance style and energy efficiency.

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Window coverings, or window treatments, have always been a vital part of room décor. They can be a focal point, a backdrop, or the source of colors chosen for furnishings and accents. Why not combine their beauty with the practicality of energy efficiency?

Why use window coverings

Window treatments are important in interior design, but they are equally important in saving energy. Up to 50% of indoor heat is transferred to the outdoors through exposed window glass (glazing). That’s a lot of fuel and money being wasted! The same holds true in summer – heat comes in through uncovered windows raising your cooling bill. Even though window coverings serve a year-round purpose, the focus here is winter, since it’s close by.

Window coverings are more cost effective than replacing windows. The glazing is what needs to be covered, and you’d probably hang curtains on a new window anyway! Save a bundle of money, and invest in good window coverings on your existing windows.

Seal your windows first

First caulk around the trim, and weatherstrip the window frame. This cuts air infiltration, which causes heat loss, too, but in a different way. Window coverings won’t help with this, so it’s important to get it done. While you’re at it, do all your exterior doors, too.

Be sure your windows are locked for the tightest seal. Do any repairs and adjustments necessary to make sure you have eliminated drafts.

Honeycomb blinds

Honeycomb blinds get their name from their appearance. Multiple layers of fabric air cells create a honeycomb look from the side. The air spaces are insulating pockets that keep heated air from moving out a cold window. Air has excellent resistance to heat transference.

honeycomb blinds

(image: Blinds Online)

Honeycombs are simple, elegant and colorful. They used to have a very utilitarian look, but now they come in colors and bi-colors for fun and visual interest. They have the option to open on the top and bottom only for privacy, natural daylight, and views.

Beauty + function = energy efficiency that’s easy to look at.

Drawbacks

Honeycombs can block all the light from a window, so you may need artificial lighting during the day. That’s the opposite of saving energy! They are now made in translucent fabrics, but they may be so light as to let people see inside at night. An additional layer of drapes would solve that problem.

Drapes are not a bad idea, though! The honeycombs do not completely cover the window. They hang inside the frame, and do not connect to the sides. Air can escape through that small space.

Honeycombs also tend to make condensation on the windows in cold, wet climates. This can damage the blinds, the window, and the trim.

These are beautiful blinds, but they are pricey. An average window could cost $300. If that is in your budget, payback time will be long.

Drapes

As I mentioned, drapes are effective as a second layer of insulation over honeycomb blinds. With blinds or not, they need to completely cover the window to seal it.

The tops should go to the ceiling or hang them from a cornice. They should hang at least to the bottom of the sill, but to the floor is a better option.

drapes stately living room antique furniture

Two panels are better than one, and they should be wide enough to cover the sides of the window. Hook and loop fasteners on the wall or trim can fasten them snugly to keep out the cold. There should be enough fabric for them to overlap and fasten in the center for best coverage.

Drapes are fairly heavy fabrics with a lining, and sometimes an inner lining. The air pockets in the fabric help with insulation. Fabric should have a tight weave to keep air movement to a minimum.

Save twice

Any energy saving measure will cut your heating and cooling bills, and save you money. Window coverings will buffer you against unexpected fuel price increases over the winter, too.

As they save you money in winter, they will help you save in summer, too. You may want to replace them with something visually lighter for warmer months, but be sure to keep your sunny windows covered in summer, too.

Check with DSIRE to see if your state or utility has tax credits or incentives for installing certified window coverings.

Now is the time to prepare for winter! Cover those windows!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.