Choosing the right window treatments and using them strategically can help you save energy and keep your home comfortable year-round. While window treatments are sometimes thought to be purely decorative, they also can increase privacy and security and provide insulation and protection from the heat and cold.

Almost one-third of your home’s heating and cooling energy is lost through windows. If you can’t afford new high efficiency windows, you can still save energy by installing cellular shades, draperies or vinyl or wood blinds and using them to manage the temperature inside your home.

Cellular shades can provide considerable energy savings. The air pockets in these honeycomb-shaped shades act as insulators on your windows. When lowered, they reduce unwanted heat gain by up to 80 percent in the summer and reduce heat loss by 40 percent in the winter.

Another good option is draperies or curtains. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that lighter-colored draperies with white plastic backings can reduce heat gain by 33 percent.

“Make sure you buy energy efficient curtains or those that are rated for high reflectivity,” said Armando Ruiz, Tucson Electric Power Technical Specialist.

Drapes are most energy-efficient when they are floor-length and closely envelop the window to keep sunlight and heat out when it’s hot.  A snug fit around windows also reduces cold drafts from air leaks in the winter.

Vertical and horizontal blinds also are a good choice for window coverings because of their flexible use. They can be tilted to block or reflect sunlight, glare and heat, although blinds don’t effectively retain heat because of their slat openings. Vinyl or wood blinds are best as they don’t absorb heat like metal blinds do.

How you use your window treatments will affect your energy use and savings, says Ruiz.

“In the summer, closing them during the day keeps the sunlight and heat out, while opening them at night helps cool the home if it’s cooler outside,” he said. “In the winter, it’s just the opposite. Open up the blinds or shades to let in the sunshine to help warm the home, and close them again in the evening to keep in the heat.”

For homeowners who want the convenience or are away from home often, a number of manufacturers now sell automated or motorized blinds and shades. These can be programmed to open and close on a daily, weekly or even seasonal schedule. Some of the newest models use light sensors, which cause the blinds to automatically open or close.

“Window treatments are a good way to achieve energy savings because you have many different options to choose from that also complement your décor,” Ruiz said.  “The industry is catching up by introducing newer products and technology that are energy efficient and attractive, too.”

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