When it comes to energy-efficient and sustainable elements for the home or office, most people immediately start seeing green (cha-ching!). But while there are plenty of pricey options available for reducing a structure’s environmental footprint — from HVAC upgrades to solar panel installations — you don’t have to give up all of your hard-earned cash to earn your space a greener profile.
One of the simplest features to which you can give an eco-friendlier outlook is the basic window. Today’s market offers plenty of energy-efficient window treatments that are as easy on the eyes as they are on the environment. And with savings to be reaped on utility bills and tax credits to be earned from the IRS, you may even see a bit of that green coming right back to you.
Below, I’ve outlined some of the most popular eco-friendly window treatments, along with tips on getting the best return on your interior design investment.
Shades & Blinds
Window blinds do more than block your neighbors’ view of your living room — they prevent cold air from seeping in during the winter and hot air from creeping in during the summer. In fact, about 40 percent of unwanted heat enters a home through its windows, which can severely impact your air conditioner’s performance.
It’s thus important to choose energy-efficient treatments, such as cellular (aka honeycomb) or Roman shades, both of which are created with several insulating layers. Whenever possible, choose shades made from organic materials like cotton and burlap, which are dealt in endless colors and patterns to match your décor. (Another eco-friendly shade alternative is matchstick blinds made with natural materials such as rattan, wicker, or bamboo.)
But buying the right shade is just the first step. In order to maximize your eco-friendliness, there are a few tricks you need to know about installation and use. First,
1. Cellular and Roman shades should be hung so that they hug the window frame but don’t touch the panes, creating a pocket of air between the window and its covering and a sort of buffer between interior and exterior temperature differences.
2. Be smart about your room’s exposure to the heat of the sun — in the summer months, close your blinds during the day and open them at night (vice versa in the winter).
3. If you’ve selected slated blinds, turn them “up” to create a tighter seal from the outside air.
Curtains & Drapes
If I said, “Good-looking green curtains,” do you immediately visualize shades of sea foam and sage? While ‘environmentally friendly’ hasn’t always been associated with ‘high style’, aesthetically pleasing organic options, such as burlap, are billowing forward. (Such organic materials are produced without harsh chemical pesticides and fertilizers that pollute the water and air.) As with the shades, eco-conscious consumers can also get wrapped up in natural materials such as cotton, silk, wool, and linen. Thicker decorative materials and draperies with inner liners provide an extra layer of protection from air seepage and sunlight.
- For added benefit, install your curtains in a manner that cuts back on energy loss.
- Floor-length designs provide maximum coverage, or you can combine cloth drapes with one of the aforementioned shade choices for extra insulation and a layered look.
- A cornice can also up the insulation factor to prevent airflow.
- If you live in a warm and sunny area, opt for curtains with a light-colored backing, which will reflect light and heat back to your home’s exterior.
If shades and curtains don’t fit with your home or office’s aesthetic (say, if you don’t want to block an exceptional view or prevent customers from feeling welcome), you can still use window treatments to boost your energy efficiency. Look to inexpensive window films and plastic coverings, which are sold in a variety of finishes (including clear) and can be customized with business names and logos. And seal any cracks around your window frames with caulk to minimize outside air infiltration and maximize your utility conservation.
Still not convinced that going green can save you green? Study your newly purchased insulated window treatments carefully. If they include a manufacturer’s certification statement asserting that they are eligible for an energy efficiency tax credit, you could earn hundreds of dollars from the IRS. And that’s a lovely shade of green!
Article by Jay Harris, a Home Depot “on the floor” sales associate and a regular contributor to Home Depot’s blog. His interests include providing tips to homeowners on roman shades and casement windows.