Bring on spring! When the weather is balmy and mild outside, it brings out your inner sun worshipper. Most homeowners find that they can’t get enough light in their homes this time of year, especially if they have heavy or outdated window treatments. When done correctly, though, curtains and shades can offset electric lighting costs and provide a little passive heating or cooling in your home. Read on to shine a little light on your window treatments and get a rundown of the most energy-efficient, light-loving options.
Install a Solar Canopy and Get Shade Plus Energy
Perhaps the king of energy efficiency in window treatments, a solar canopy or awning offers protection from intense rays while using the light it blocks to produce helpful solar energy. Canopies installed over south- or west-facing windows demonstrate especially positive results. The Department of Energy estimates they lower solar heat gain by 65% for south-facing or 77% for west-facing. Meanwhile, depending on your climate and the amount of sunlight you receive annually, a solar canopy could also generate enough energy to totally offset your home’s electricity consumption.
Using Dual Blinds for All-Year Passive Heating and Cooling
Spring is known for its temperamental weather – one day it’s freezing, the next day you’re outside in shorts! One of the limitations of passive features, like solar canopies, is that most homes don’t have the same needs all year round. For instance, while your canopy may be great in the summer, it would partially block the helpful solar heat during colder weather. Dual blinds, which are double-sided, benefit you during both seasons. With one heat-reflecting white side, and one heat-absorbing black side, they maximize heating and cooling in a variety of different weather extremes.
Fit Your Home with Exterior Blinds for Maximum Comfort
Interior blinds are effective at blocking solar heat – and they can be opened when you’d rather make use of the daylight. However, indoor blinds block solar gain after it’s already made its way into the room. For this reason, they’re nowhere near as efficient as exterior blinds, which are installed over windows on the outside of the home. Motorized roller shades work well installed over extended sliding glass doors or large picture windows, two styles that are dominating houses this year.
Retrofitting a Home with Overhangs
More and more modern buildings are integrating overhangs as a method of passive cooling. When designed with the proper orientation, overhangs can block a significant portion of solar heat, while allowing for passive heating and lighting in the winter and early spring. However, for older homes, the question has been, “Can overhangs be added as retrofits?” It’s difficult, but certainly not impossible, to add passive features to an existing home. Roof overhangs can be added by nailing rafter extensions onto existing eaves, particularly on south-facing walls.
Get a Replacement Window
If all else fails, it could be time to buy an entirely new window. You’ll know it because you’ll see condensation between the panes if the window is insulated — or you may notice that the windows fog up or don’t offer a clear view, even after they’re cleaned. Perhaps you felt chillier this winter than usual, or notice that it’s stuffier than you’re used to in a particular part of your home. All of these are signs that a window replacement is imminent. To maximize the energy efficiency of your new windows, look for models with reflective Low-E coatings or high-performance insulation, and make sure you gather at least three (3) estimates to ensure you’re being quoted a fair window replacement cost.
With solar heat gain and air infiltration effectively blocked, you can choose any window treatments you like. That ought to put a little spring in your step!
Lauren Pezzullo is a writer, editor, and musicophile who's passionate about vegetarianism and sustainable eating. As an editor for Modernize, she writes about energy-efficient living in the home. She's currently writing her debut novel.