Improving Window Performance: Page 6 of 8

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Improving Window Performance
Shades, shutters, films, quilts, and more can give your old windows improved energy performance without breaking your budget.
Installing window films
Installing window films without leaving bubbles can be tricky—it’s usually a job best left to professionals.
New window putty
New window putty helps seal a window pane and minimize air leakage.
Fitting exterior storm windows
Fitting exterior storm windows in preparation for colder weather is often a rite of fall.
Operable awnings - open
Operable awnings can provide summer shade, yet be retracted for winter solar access, wind protection, or to avoid snow accumulation.
Operable awnings - closed
Operable awnings can provide summer shade, yet be retracted for winter solar access, wind protection, or to avoid snow accumulation.
Hinged shutters
These hinged shutters also have adjustable slats to let in some light and view.
Roller shutters
Roller shutters can provide effective shading and some ventilation.
Installing an interior glazing panel
Interior glazing panels are an inexpensive way to boost a home’s energy performance without compromising its architectural integrity.
Quilted window covering
Quilted window coverings and their valances can provide an attractive method to reduce heat loss through windows.
Insulated cellular shades
Insulated cellular shades contain multiple layers that produce a honeycomb-like structure that can add from R-1 to R-4 to a window’s thermal performance.
Improving Window Performance
Installing window films
New window putty
Fitting exterior storm windows
Operable awnings - open
Operable awnings - closed
Hinged shutters
Roller shutters
Installing an interior glazing panel
Quilted window covering
Insulated cellular shades

Exterior Window Shading

A wide range of exterior roller shades, screens, hinged shutters, and roller shutters can block unwanted sunlight. Roller shutters, common in Europe but uncommon in North America, can also provide security and some insulation benefit. In coastal areas, both hinged and roller shutters can protect against severe weather. All of these systems also provide privacy, though interior shades (see below) are easier to control.

Roller shades roll down from the top of a window to provide shade. They typically are made from screening material (often PVC-coated polyester) to block most solar gain while still allowing some view to the outside. Non-roller shade screens can be mounted in a rigid frame that fits into routed grooves in exterior window casings or applied with Velcro. Hinged shutters are commonly installed on houses as decorative features, but operable shutters can provide protection against storms as well as control of solar gain. They can be made of wood, vinyl, or aluminum. Roller shutters typically have tubular, rigid aluminum slats that fit into side tracks and roll up into a valance at the top of the window.

As with awnings, blocking sunlight before it gets through the windows (as these exterior window treatments do) is more effective at controlling heat gain compared to interior shading. Some products also allow partial visibility and daylight—this is denoted by the openness factor, which typically ranges from 3% to 30% with exterior window shades. Shade screens typically have higher openness factors than exterior roller shutters, which often block all light penetration (0% openness factor).

Roller products, including shades, screens, and shutters, roll up into valances at the top of the windows. Motorized options are available with most of these exterior treatments. Hinged shutters are usually made of wood or vinyl.

Benefits

  • Reduces solar gain through windows
  • Increases thermal comfort
  • Reduces glare
  • Protects existing windows
  • Increases security (roller shutters)
  • Protects against storm damage (roller and hinged shutters)
  • Protects against wildfire primarily by reducing the likelihood of glass breakage (roller shutters)

Drawbacks

  • Most require manual operation; some may be automated
  • Expensive (roller shutters and any automated roller products)
  • Can be damaged by wind and ultraviolet radiation—especially fabric and polymer-coated screen
  • Blocks view and daylight when deployed (a greater issue with shutters than shades and screens)

Aesthetics

  • When deployed, change home’s appearance dramatically

Tips & Cautions

  • Check to see if local historic or aesthetic approvals are required with these treatments. If so, find out what treatments are acceptable
  • If installing interior cranks for exterior shades or roller shutters, seal carefully around the wall penetration

Comments (7)

Edgar Zeitler's picture

Quick overnight response from these folks to my email inquiry about vertical blind slats.

Edgar Zeitler's picture

A very interesting product indeed, the videos on their website are informative. Just requested a quote for their vertical blind slats.

Robert Crosby's picture

I didn't see mention of a product called "solarize inflector", which looks interesting. It appears to be a reversible window insert that either passes or rejects radiant heat flow depending on which way it is turned.

Wondering if anyone here has experience with this product. Their youtube videos look impressive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4Y...

Michael Welch's picture

Seems like a brand new product that might not even be available yet. The product's web site sure doesn't work.

Edgar Zeitler's picture

While living in Maryland I covered half my windows in each room with aluminum screen frames covered with clear heat shrink. The rest of the windows were covered with 1" styrofoam panels. Both installed inside. Really reduced heating costs even tho my windows were all double glazed with low E treatment. Easy to store between use.

IndowWindows's picture

Thank you for this informative article! There are so many other options than window replacements and I hate seeing those beautiful old windows go into landfills. Alternatives are more eco-friendly and can be just as efficient as a replacement. Save those historic windows!

samuel chamberlain's picture

One option which is not mentioned is the use of bubble wrap , this of cause is only suitable for out buildings or where the need for improved performance out weighs aesthetics . whilst it can be stuck to glass with water I have found that fixing to the frame is better as this cuts down on air leakage . The bubble wrap can be ripped/cut in case of emergency exit .

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