Energy-Saving Window Treatment Ideas

window treatmentWhether it is keeping your house cool in the summer or warm in the winter, it is shocking how much of your efforts are drifting right out of your windows. The Efficient Windows Collaborative, made up of a number of government agencies and research firms, reports that windows, especially older, single-pane windows, can lead to energy losses of nearly 30%. Here are some window treatment solutions that can cut down on your home energy costs.


Reflective films can lower energy costs by keeping the room cooler or warmer depending on the type of film and the direction it is reflecting. In some cases, these films can cause damage by absorbing too much of the sun’s heat, so choose them carefully, especially if you have older-style windows that tend to be made of a thinner type of glass.

  • Silvery films that look like thin mirrors can be used to reflect light away from the window or into the room. They can be dangerous to birds, however, which tend to fly into them because they mess with their vision, and they will obscure the vision of the people inside of the house as well. Some of these types of films may also melt into the glass making them impossible to remove later.
  • Clear plastic can be used in the winter, but if they are not properly installed, they will do little to combat energy loss and can be unattractive. Thicker plastic may also obscure and/or distort vision. Heat-sealed plastic, which adheres directly to the glass, is better because it protects without the bulk and allows light to come through naturally.


While a well-hung drape can really tie a room together on the outside, the underside of those drapes can simultaneously work to keep your energy usage down.

  • Thermal-lined drapes are good for holding in heat, especially if they are kept tightly closed. They can be heavy however, so make sure that they are hung correctly or they can pull down the rod and damage the wall.
  • Reflective-backed drapes repel much of the sun’s heat in the summer time and can also protect against UV damage.
  • Both of these types of drapes must be long enough to cover the entire window, with the ideal length being right to the floor.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, properly hung drapes can reduce heat gain by over 30% and may reduce heat loss by around 10% per room.

Shades and Blinds

During warm weather, keep shades and blinds closed during the heat of the day to reflect away the sun. On the flip side when weather is cold, it is best to keep them open during the day so that you can utilize that heat. Close them at night to help block any drafts that may be rolling in.

  • Honeycomb shades, which are also known as cellular shades, come in a number of colors, sizes, and styles and can be mounted inside or out. They come in a variety of pleat sizes and have one, two, or three layers. The larger the pleat, the more air they trap, making them more energy efficient. Three-layer shades are for the most extreme temperatures but also have the highest price tag.
  • Exterior mounted shades help with energy efficiency and protect against harmful UV rays as well.
  • Shades that are installed between panes of glass can be temporary, self-installed, or permanently enclosed at the factory. A benefit of these types of shades is the reduction in dust and other allergens that gathers on other shades.
  • Light-colored shades and blinds are best at reflecting sun and heat away during hot summer months.

Window Awnings

Window awnings come in almost any form or material to fit your specific needs and desired aesthetic. For example, motorized awnings tend to be the most expensive, but the convenience may be worth it, especially to those who have limited strength and physical capabilities.

Where they are placed may also change the amount of effectiveness that you get from your awnings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, window awnings installed on south-facing windows can cut solar heat gain by nearly 70%, while awnings on western-facing windows do an even better job with nearly 80% reduction.

When Added Window Treatments Aren’t Enough, Replace

If windows are in such poor condition that air pours in from the outdoors, then no amount of window treatments will help curtail your energy usage and replacement may be your only option. This is of course a higher upfront cost, but your home will be better insulated and you will notice a significant change on your energy bill. It will also relieve a ton of pressure on your HVAC since it will no longer need to kick on so frequently as it tries to fight the changing temperatures from window drafts.

If you have dealt with all of your window issues and still see no change in your energy bills, then air leaks coming from your basement windows could be to blame. Since basements are not usually frequently visited rooms in a home, insulation issues can go unnoticed for long periods of time and that unwanted air can have a drastic affect on your home’s indoor temperature.

Safety Measures

No matter what types of window treatments you choose, always make sure that you are installing each treatment correctly and paying attention to all safety guidelines.

  • All window treatments should be installed so that they are not near any type of heat source. You should also make sure that you are not covering existing heating vents.
  • Any cords, tiebacks, and decorative roping should be cut close to the window, tied out of reach, or removed if there are children in the house. For increased safety, opt for child-friendly, cordless window treatments.
  • Motorized window treatments should be installed so that children and pets cannot access the mechanisms.

By Tricia Clark, Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

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