How to Keep Your Home Cooler: Smart Window Treatments Save You Money and Energy

by Linda Varone on August 7, 2012

With summer giving us blasts of hot weather, keeping cool is a real challenge. Recently I have been in several homes that had been unnecessarily hot, simply because their owners did not know a few old tricks.

diagram of greenhouse with sun rays entering and radiant heat rays trapped inside. The Greenhouse Effect: How windows trap heat inside your home.

With almost universal air conditioning we have become habituated to flick a switch for instant cool. But this can become expensive and uses a lot of our natural resources. You know about the Greenhouse Effect and its impact on Global Warming. But do you know about the Greenhouse Effect in your own home? Sunlight enters your home through your windows, bringing light energy and heat energy. Part of the heat energy cannot exit through the glass and is trapped in your home, making it hotter and hotter. This can be delightful on a cold winter’s day, but during the hot days of summer, it can be a killer. Either your air conditioning goes into overdrive or the space stays hot. (The all-glass modern houses of the 50’s and 60’s were designed when fuel was cheap.)

This is where smart window treatments come in.  This taps into what our grandparents did to keep cool(er) and what is still done in Europe. For part of the day you want to block out sunlight – and heat- from your home. I have written about window treatments which open your views and connect you with nature   You can have both, using the right window treatments.

There are 4 reasons for window treatments:

  1. Protection from sunglare and heat.
  2. Protection from winter cold.
  3. Protection from unattractive views
  4. Protection from nosey neighbors.
View of palm tree against blue sky, through partially opened plantation shutter In hot climes plantation shutters are used to filter out light and allow cooling breezes to enter.

Learn how to use window treatments to keep your home cool.

Before the day heats-up, early morning, close your windows and draw your drapes, blinds and shutters, especially in bedrooms and unused rooms. (Some of the older houses on Beacon Hill have interior shutters for just this purpose.) If you have skylights consider adding adjustable shades to them for the hot days. Are your drapes lined to keep out sunlight, heat and cold? Are your shades room-darkening?  You may want to close out the heat in all the windows of your home, or maybe just the rooms facing the sun. As the day gets cooler open your window treatments. If it is a cool evening, open the windows to catch the cooling breezes. If the night is cool, leave your windows open and sleep with the cool air from outdoors, moved by a fan placed in or by the window. I personally prefer to sleep in an air-cooled bedroom, than in an air-conditioned bedroom.

Experiment with this and see what works best for you. If you don’t like to feel closed-in, then try solar shades. These are mounted like window shades, but are made of several densities of heavy plastic mesh that blocks out different degrees of light (and heat) while allowing a veiled view of the out-of-doors.

Air conditioning makes life easier during the hot months, but we don’t have to use it exclusively to keep cool. Re-claim some of the wisdom of your ancestors. Stay cool and save money and energy at the same time.

greenhouse image by realscience dot org dot uk

plantation shutter photo by simonsimages

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