July 8, 2023
As summer heat soars, some people might think the easy solution to climate change is to turn up the air conditioner. Others instead look for ways to be “eco-cool,” feeling cooler in their homes while also
looking stylish as part of the movement for planetary solutions.
Window coverings provide one potentially stylish way to reduce household heat without air conditioning.
Closing window coverings during the hottest hours of the day, then opening coverings and windows for cool night air, cuts indoor temperatures. Screens prevent insect intrusion and screw-down, frame mounted locks offer security for windows left cracked open at night.
In the past, companies specialized in particular types of window coverings. Now, with decorating trends and product lines changing nearly as fast as clothing fashion, most businesses sell all types.
Consequently, both Ken Hill, owner of 805 Shutters, based in the Santa Rosa Valley near Camarillo, and Lani Terry, design consultant with Ventura-based Drapery Affair, extolled the insulating properties of a
window covering that is neither a shutter nor a drape. Both pointed out advances made in “honeycomb design” or “cellular” shades.
These shades are comprised of pockets that hold air. A liner of fabric, usually for blackout purposes, adds additional insulation but makes the window covering less practical for daytime use. Without the
liner, the coverings block heat while allowing in enough daylight to add the cheer of sunshine. Some qualify for a federal tax credit, so ask your local dealer about incentives.
To block out bright lights in my neighborhood at night, and for more insulation, my cellular shades are supplemented by a separate blackout shade on a parallel-installed roller. I leave it open at the bottom,
with a window open on the second floor, when I want cool night breezes to flow into my home.
Blinds can be installed for vertical or horizontal openings and be lowered or raised various ways. Blinds can also be electronically motorized. However, Hill cautions: “The more moving parts, the more likely it
is to break.”
Both Hill, who sells Norman brand shades, and Terry, who sells HunterDouglas, emphasize the importance of a good warranty and say the companies best demonstrate their products’ longevity with
One common mishap with shades involves cord tangles and misalignment, a problem easily remedied if the product has a reset feature. Some blinds can be fully extended and pulled firmly away from the
window so cords realign.
Shades often depend on the smooth operation of a cord running through a mechanical device called a “motor,” even in products not using an electronic motor. This motor occasionally sticks, so lubrication is
helpful. Hill suggests a silicon-based spray, noting other sprays, like WD-40, can attract dirt and grime.
Consult your local dealer before attempting more complicated repairs. Some actions can void warranties or exacerbate problems. Also consult dealers or product websites for cleaning guidance.
Draperies can be more insulating than shades, but thick liners block rather than filter light. Draperies also hold dust. Pleat construction shouldn’t be washed at home due to delicate construction, Terry said.
“Pleats can distort,” she said. Terry advises using an experienced local cleaner who specializes in drapery.
Traditional wooden plantation shutters can be distorted by moisture. “Just the moisture in the air, if you live near the beach, can be enough to cause expansion and contraction of plantation shutters,” Terry
said. Resulting distortion can cause wood shutters to stop closing tightly.
“Everywhere you see light coming through closed shutters, that’s also where air is coming through,” Terry said, noting why wooden shutters, especially older ones, lack great insulating properties.
Vinyl shutters, or wood-like composites of plastic and wood, may not be great solutions from an environmental materials perspective, but they also have environmental benefits. By resisting distortion,
flaking and cracking over many years, they are long-lasting and can save energy by continuing to close tightly. Shutters often also offer motorization, useful for hard-to-reach windows.
David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at 805-658-4312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.