Aside from the tangible benefits of window treatments, experts agree their core value lies in the way they make people feel in their own abodes.
“Window treatments truly are an investment in the home, in one’s lifestyle. They have an effect on one’s psychology,” says Craig Swanson, owner of Earthshade Natural Window Fashions. “They warm up a space, or they cool off a space—both in the literal sense of energy control and also from an aesthetic standpoint.”
Consumers should first evaluate their own basic needs before diving into energy efficiency; seemingly obvious but often overlooked questions include: How important is privacy? How sunny is your property? Is there a glare on your TV screen in the daytime? Is child safety a concern?
“There are people who live in rural communities where you don’t have neighbors close by, or maybe you’re situated in a place where the sun is not an issue,” says Donna LaBosco, director of brand communications for Hunter Douglas. “Purchases used to be a little bit less burdensome, in that it was just what appealed to your eye. Now you’re looking to layer in all these different benefits.”
LaBosco says there are four key factors to look for in green window treatments: solar heat gain coefficient (a product’s ability to deflect the sun), ultra-violet (UV) protection, daylighting (which can be achieved through sheer and louvered fashions), and, most importantly, insulation—the window’s ability to inhibit passage of air from outside to inside or vice versa.
Blinds Chalet owner Ron Manwaring and other experts agree the honeycomb cell shade is the most popular product for insulation (Hunter Douglas claims to have pioneered the honeycomb in 1985). Similar to a pleated shade in appearance, it has a honeycomb shape when viewed from the side.
“In between the cells of the fabric, it’s just air, and that creates insulation for your windows,” says Manwaring. Effectiveness varies with different grades, including single, double, and triple cell varieties: “The more cells you have…the more it does for insulation.”
Kathleen Moran, owner of American Home Interiors in Warwick, says while consumers usually seek out brands like Hunter Douglas and Graber for energy efficiency, transparent window film products like Energy Film—which clings to glass to retain heat/AC and block UV rays—is an effective product consumers often don’t know about.
“Something people forget about is the permanently attached window film, which [is] really good—especially if you’ve got a skylight or a lot of sunlight—with keeping the heat out in the summer,” says Moran. “[The film] sometimes is the [whole] window treatment, or sometimes is the first layer.”
Energy Film claims to reject 70 percent of solar thermal heat and 97 percent of UV rays, as well as deliver 12 to 18 percent savings on heating and cooling.
LaBosco says UV protection is not only green, but can help preserve furnishings: “UV protection…stops the sun from penetrating the window and fading, discoloring, and otherwise damaging furniture,” says LaBosco.
While bang for the buck has driven purchasing decisions in window fashions in recent years, there is still a market for the ornamental, particularly in the high-end Manhattan market where clientele are less concerned with saving money.
“For luxury clients, the window-covering products that continue to be on the wish list these days [are] very architectural-looking draperies and curtains…simple, plain, straight curtains that add luxury and texture without adding fussiness and busyness,” says Mitchell Shulman, vice president and co-owner of Manhattan Shade and Glass.
The “average” consumer market, meanwhile, tends to shy away from draperies because of their lack of variable light control: “They are either always on or always off,” says LaBosco.
Although saving energy may not be a factor, utility is still important, and Shulman says wealthier consumers marry beauty and practicality through layering. “[They’ll] start with a sunscreen window shade to cut the overall glare and light to help maintain furnishings,” then add on a sheer curtain and valance.
Layering, ironically, also comes in handy for consumers on budgets, who are often scared off by upfront costs.
“If you need light control or energy control or privacy, then put a quality blind on the window, or pick a fabric that’s not too expensive and do a Roman shade,” says Moran of American Home Interiors. “Do something basic to build on, and then next year go back and put the valance over the top, or put silk panels with pretty hardware around the window…It might not be the most immediate gratification but you’re at least getting your money’s worth.”
And while Earthshade’s Swanson says window treatments are usually an afterthought, he believes they should be considered a vital a part of any project when considering the bottom line.
“Window treatments are such a customized thing that if only we could get people to think about them as an investment, take a little bit more time, we can stretch that dollar and we can really stretch the functionality, the efficiency factors—and saving money is often truly getting what you paid for,” says Swanson.
When it comes to improving the energy efficiency of existing windows, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests homeowners first inspect their windows for problems that can’t be solved with treatments; issues like air leakage need to be remedied with caulking or weather stripping.
Resource List Hunter Douglas (800) 789-0331; hunterdouglas.com Blinds Chalet (888) 633-7840; blindschalet.com American Home Interiors, Warwick; (914) 629-0397
Manhattan Shade & Glass, Manhattan (212) 288-5616; manhattanshadeandglass.com Earthshade, Great Barrington, MA (413) 528-5443; earthshade.com Graber Blinds graberblinds.com Energy Film (877) 729-0708; energy-film.com U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; energysavers.gov Energy Star energystar.gov