Window treatments are one of those home purchase decisions that can affect the look and feel of your home as much as the balance on your energy bills .
The right window treatment can minimize heat loss in winter and heat gain in the winter, which can significantly lower both heating and cooling costs. It can look good too, with more options than ever, from fabric to fiberglass and everything in between. In some cases, window treatments can also provide a tax credit.
New motorization and automation features from companies like Bali make it easy to operate your window treatments from just about anywhere. Whether you’re doing it from a remote control or a switch on the wall, you no longer need to deal with hanging cords that are both cumbersome and worrisome, especially if you have kids. In some cases cords are now built into the product; in others they’ve disappeared altogether.
A few companies have introduced apps that allow you to operate window treatments from your smartphone. “You can set it to sunrise or sunset and have it run on its own all week long,” says Joe Jankoski, vice president of merchandising for Hunter Douglas, whose Platinum app allows you to control each window treatment individually, by room or throughout the house.
Before investing in window treatments, think about the room the treatments will be going into, what the room is used for and how much you plan to open or close them, recommends Karen Groppe, executive director of the Window Coverings Association of America. Also pay attention to the rhythm of the space, such as where it tends to be brighter or warmer at certain times of day. Once you’ve got that nailed down, you’ll find window treatments to be a lot less costly than buying new windows.
Here’s a rundown of the most popular window treatments, including those that can lower your energy bills:
Perhaps the least expensive and most popular of the bunch, choosing the right fabric makes all the difference.
Upside: Drapes are excellent for privacy control when the proper fabric is selected. It’s also easy to match these to your home’s aesthetic and can be made to fit any window.
Downside: If you choose a light fabric, the energy savings won’t be significant.
I recently opted to apply window films in my Florida room, which is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. When combined with cellular shades, window film helps reduce heat gain and provides plenty of ventilation, something most other treatments don’t.
Upside: Good for controlling light and glare, especially in rooms with a lot of windows. The mirror-like, high-reflective options provide privacy, too.
Downside: If you live in a climate that’s either extremely hot or cold, you’ll have to pair this with another window treatment to maximize energy savings.
Shades are a good option if you need insulation in both the summer and winter. Exterior shades protect windows from the elements.
Upside: Glare control and privacy are tops with shades, especially if you opt for roller or cellular shades, which create pockets that trap air against your windows, keeping the temperature stable.
Downside: Shades are generally not ideal for noise control.
Interior and Exterior Blinds
Louvered blinds, often referred to as Venetian, can be hung horizontally or vertically. They’re good at reducing glare and heat gain, keeping homes fairly comfortable year-round.
Upside: Louvered blinds allow for a good degree of control when it comes to both daylight and views.
Downside: They don’t do much for insulation or sound absorption.
Awnings are sort of like tilted roof extensions, providing shade to both interior and exterior spaces. They’re available in a variety of colors and materials, including metal, fabric and wood.
Upside: They’re better than blinds and shades at shielding windows from sunlight and keeping interiors cool, hence the rewards are best felt in summer.
Downside: Awnings provide little privacy, unless you opt for the retractable variety, which also allow you to take control of the view.
Shutters can be used inside or outside, though the latter is more common. They provide a custom look and reduce unwanted heat much more significantly than blinds or shades, making them popular in warm climates.
Upside: Shutters do a good job of protecting your privacy while allowing you to control heat and glare. Roller varieties are better insulators, thus providing the most comfort in both winter and summer, and they’re better at protecting against storm damage and other environmental factors.
Downside: Shutters are generally expensive, especially if they’re motorized and programmable.
Screens come in two varieties, fixed or roller, and can be installed on the interior or exterior side of any window, though the latter assures more heat control. Roller screens also come with the benefits of automation. Reflective screens are among the newest and do an even better job of keeping out bugs and heat during summer and trapping heat during winter.
Upside: Screens provide both air flow and up to 99 percent protection from UV rays. New, retractable and automated varieties let fresh air in with the push of a button.
Downside: Interior varieties don’t provide as much heat control and neither will give you much privacy, but they’re generally affordable.
Ana Connery is the former content director for the Parenting Group and has edited several magazines, including Florida Travel & Life and Cooking Light, where she oversaw the construction of the FitHouse program. She lives and writes from her Florida bungalow.