Windows serve as a major source of energy loss, with up to 10 percent of heat escaping through closed windows in winter and 40 percent of unwanted solar heat entering through windows in summer. Virtually any type of window treatment can help improve energy efficiency, but for the biggest efficiency boost, consider adding multiple layers of window treatments to your home. This strategy ensures your home will stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter while keeping heating and cooling costs as low as possible.
Awnings serve as your home's first line of defense against unwanted solar heat gain. Cut heat gain by 65 percent by placing awnings over south-facing windows, or up to 77 percent when placed over west-facing windows. For best results, keep in mind that hot air rises, so give that heat energy somewhere to escape by picking awnings with grommets or some other form of ventilation on the top or sides. Pick light colored fabrics to reflect the most sun away from your home.
Shutters not only protect your windows from storms or break-ins, but can also keep unwanted heat out if you close them during the peak of the afternoon to keep the sun out. Choose either interior plantation shutters -- which can be operated from inside the home -- or exterior shutters, which add curb appeal. Keep in mind that wood shutters will generally offer greater energy efficiency than vinyl ones, but wood also comes with a higher price tag on average.
Shades and Blinds
In addition to awnings and shutters, blinds and shades can also help you maximize efficiency. Highly-reflective blinds can cut heat gain by 45 percent if closed tightly during the day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, while honeycomb shades are excellent insulators because they contain pockets of air between layers of material. This makes honeycomb shades a good choice for both hot and cold climates.
Curtains and draperies offer aesthetic appeal, but insulated varieties can also go a long way towards improving energy efficiency. Insulated curtains actually consist of four layers, including foam insulation, a moisture barrier, a reflective layer to radiate heat back into the room and a decorative finish layer.These four layers combine to boost efficiency and comfort for your family.
Remember, most window treatments only help to minimize thermal transfer, and do little to help with air leaks. Combine layers of window treatments with caulk and weatherstripping to make windows as efficient as possible.