6 Window Treatments that Lower Energy Costs

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Besides contributing to the design aesthetic and general coziness of a room, window treatments help minimize heat transfer from windows. Drapes, blinds, shutters and shades can all block sunlight from heating up the house on hot days and keep warm or cool air from escaping through leaky windows. Some materials do a better job than others.

Here are six eco-chic window treatment suggestions that just may work for you.

Curtains, in their basic form, consist of panels of fabric that are gathered on a rod attached by tabs, ties or rings. Eco-friendly fabrics such as organic cotton and hemp are available in a growing number of colors and patterns for custom window treatments. Our current quick and organic curtain solution is to buy ready-made linen drapery.

These are a mainstay of window treatments. By definition, drapes are pleated panels that hang from hooks and attach to small slides on the rod. When choosing a drape, a layered look delivers the most options for light control and energy efficiency. By lining a medium-toned drapery with a white plastic backing, you could save up to 33% on heat gain in the summer and 10% on heat loss in the winter. Seal the drape on the sides and overlap the center to save up to 25%.

Shades are one of the most practical and hard-working window treatments. For optimal efficiency, install shades as close to the window glass as possible. They offer easy light control, instant privacy and a clean tailored silhouette in a wide range of colors and materials. The options include simple roller shades, insulated honeycomb shades, woven shades, wooden shades and soft fabric shades like Roman and balloon styles. Naturally woven shades made of bamboo, reeds, and grasses have a handmade feel and an organic texture.

Blinds and Shutters
Blinds and shutters have adjustable louvers and veins that can be tilted to filter the light, leveled to reveal the view or shifted to completely block the view. Blinds can be used on their own or under top treatments made of fabric for a layered look and extra insulation. Look for shutters made of FSC-certified hardwood and finish them with no- or low-VOC stains and sealants. Avoid plastic shutters and blinds, as well as polyester fabrics that won't biodegrade as these are reported to reduce heat gain by up to 45%

These top treatments provide the crowning glory for a window. Valances are generally shortened versions of curtains, drapes or fabric shades, 12 to 18 inches long. Used alone, they bring style to an otherwise plain window. Place over another treatment and they can seal the heading and add a flourish. The extra layer sitting atop the face of the window will capture any cool air that may seep in.

Because their edges are so clearly delineated, cornices add architectural interest. Like valances, they can be used alone or paired with other window treatments. When covered in batting and fabric, cornices soften the overall look of the window and absorb extra heat and chill. Wood cornices can mimic the look of deep crown molding and should coordinate with the other woodwork and trim in the room. Here again you will want to use FSC-certified woods and no- or low-VOC stains and paints to finish the wood.

What will you choose for your home's window treatments to be both beautiful and energy-efficient? To track your improvements, be sure to start benchmarking your energy usage first with an online utility tracking tool like WegoWise.

Interior designer Kerrie Kelly, ASID, writes on energy savings and window treatments for The Home Depot and is the author of Home Decor: A Sunset Design Guide. Many of the efficiency ideas Kerrie refers to can be found on the Home Depot window treatments section of its website.

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