best insulating window treatments?

kirsten27January 26, 2008

(I admit - the following is a cross-post. I originally posted this in the windows forum a while ago, but it seems to be a slow forum and haven't gotten any responses and I'm really hoping for some advice on this...)

____________

Hi - I was wondering if you all could help me. We are looking for the best way to keep out the cold this winter (and heat in the summer).

We currently have good insulating curtains, but we really need some kind of treatment that raises and lowers vertically (like roman shades or cellular blinds) because we have some furniture in front of our windows pushed up against the wall (which we currently move in and out to open/close the curtains - what a pain!)

Can anyone recommend the best insulating window treatment that raises and lowers vertically?

Thanks a lot--

Kirsten

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grainlady_ks

I don't think there is any single thing that is "best", but a combination of things.

I have Levelor (honeycomb) energy-efficient blinds, and they are very good IF you place them within the window frame. Our problem with them is condensation on the windows in the winter to the point the dripping moisture stained the wood trim.

FYI: ANY type of window-covering that is placed on the outside of the frame - even energy-efficient curtain panels - (without a pelmet to stop air cirulation) only creates a "chimney" effect - hot air rushes under the bottom and goes out the top by the rod, of the window covering. While in transit, the air cools on the window and re-enters the room as cold air. Not your best energy-efficient window covering.

An even better choice are window quilts (you can Google for information and how-to-make-your-own). I made them for our previous townhouse. They include a layer of water resistant material (I used 98-cent mylar emergency "blankets" I bought in the camping dept. at Wal-Mart), a layer of insulating material, and a decorative fabric, all quilted together. You can make them into Roman Shades so they are easy to raise and lower. I also had a strip of plastic magnet (metal magnets will rust from condensation and moisture) so they stick to the inside of the window frame ALL THE WAY AROUND THE WINDOW. Once again, these MUST fit inside the window frame in order to be energy-efficient.

Something we did this winter that has really helped, even though we have high-quality blinds and energy-efficient windows....we added one more layer of inexpensive insulation by putting bubble wrap on the windows. Mostly because we've had such cold weather this winter.

Easy to install... You spritz the window with water and press the flat side of the bubble wrap on the windows (hint: you want to cut the bubble wrap to fit, or a tiny bit smaller than the window). (see link below for more information and pictures) It AIN'T pretty, but it was cheap and it worked VERY well (we don't raise 90% of our window blinds when it's this cold, anyway). It's easy to remove and reuse.

Our neighbor, also a new house, nearly the same square foot, has an electric and gas bill that is double ours. They only have shears on their windows, so their window covering does nothing to help keep heat OR cold out/in.... The bubble wrap had a surprising secondary benefit - no more dripping condensation on the windows.

Last year we also replaced all our half-screens (window screens that only fit on the lower half of the windows) with full screens. We used low-UV screen (diffuses up to 80% of the UV rays) to help with the hot summer sun (it gets VERY hot in Kansas - temperatures over 100F are common in the summer). We only have windows on the east and the west, so we don't get any passive solar from the windows in the winter so we left the full screens on. They are thicker than regular screen and we think there is a small benefit to that, as well.

Those are some of my experiences....

-Grainlady

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 5:12PM
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Cynic

Grainlady, are you sure about the flat side of the bubble wrap going on the window? Your link suggests the opposite, that the bubble side should go against the window and I would think that would be preferred since the additional pockets where the bubbles didn't contact would make additional airspace for additional insulation.

Not nitpicking if it's a typo, but curious if you have found a better way.

I've thought about bubble wrap before. I use it as insulation around my window a/c unit and it's great. Great link to interesting reading. BTW, Grainlady, thanks also for the suggestion about the window quilts. I read your recommendation a while back, "googled" and found very interesting info. Just got a couple quilts and am going to try some quilts sometime.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 9:07PM
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Carol_from_ny

JoAnn Fabrics has insulating window fabric which you can use to make Roman shades. I will warn you it's not cheap BUT it does work.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 7:33PM
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kirsten27

Thanks so much for all the advice. If I were the curtain-making kind, I'd love to make my own. I am, however, not.

Grainlady, a special thanks for all of your info, esp about keeping the treatment within the frame. Makes total sense but I'm not sure I would have thought of that.

So, it sounds like I can probably go with whatever treatment I want as long as it stays within the frame. Good advice.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 8:20PM
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Cynic

Not getting a response from Grainlady so I assume she wants the flat side. Pondering this for quite a while my only guess is that she does that for more contact area to the glass for adhesion.

But I still think it'd be advantageous to go the way the site recommended. Either way, it's bound to give some benefit either way.

I've come up with some ideas for some various insulating methods for winter and summer. Now to find the bubble wrap so I can try them out.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 7:23PM
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azzalea

Just a tip--for both health and to save you expense down the line.

It's not a good idea to make your windows too air-tight. A house needs to breathe. Radon, for example--can become a problem if a house is air-tight. It tends to build up and become dangerous at that point. The 'fix' for radon is actually to ventilate the house properly. Secondly, some years back DH went around sealing all the windows with that recommended plastic stuff each winter. And what happened? Not only did the sealing material (which was supposed to be harmless) stripped off a lot of paint, but more importantly, within just a couple of years, we had some serious rot on our windowsills because not only were the windows airtight, but they were accumulating moisture that had noplace to go.

Personally, I find that a little air exchange with the outside is healthier and cheaper in the long run.

The curtains and quilts are, IMO, a good alternative. They help with the worst of the drafts, but you aren't sealing your house so tightly that it's unhealthy for you and dangerous for the household materials.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 9:05AM
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Cynic

azzalea, I think that's a good point and I agree with you. My house isn't air-tight and will never be. And I think my utility bills show that I have a good compromise.

I still go outside and get fresh air. Maybe I'm a bit claustrophobic or something but just like to get outside even for a minute or two in most any weather. Get a breath of air, see what's going on and the like.

Your post is a good reminder to apply things correctly and think through a bit of possibilities. Yes damage can result at times.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2008 at 5:00AM
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mikie_gw

I make it a point to only smoke outside in fresh healthy air.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2008 at 7:07PM
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cathytx3

Where can I find directions to find a window quilt? I "Googled" it but all I'm getting is instructions on how to make a regular quilt - not how to apply it as a window covering.

TIA,
Cathy

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 1:14PM
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grainlady_ks

Cathy -

Google - Instruction for making insulating window quilts.

-Grainlady

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 1:25PM
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Cynic

Here, this should get you started.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 10:51PM
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sumnerfan

I love the bubble wrap idea. I've been looking for a way to insulate my sunroom windows without losing all the sunlight (it is a sunroom, ya know). I am definitely going to try this. Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 10:17PM
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