With so many options available when it comes to the windows in your home, from window treatments to the windows themselves, the opportunity to add your own personal touch while increasing efficiency has never been so simultaneously fun and functional as it is now.
In the past, according to Amy Bilodeau of Gamache & Lessard Custom Decorators, “Old-fashioned window quilts, which ran on tracks and effectively buttoned up a window, were popular in the 80s.” Although the window quilt is seeing a small resurgence, they tend to be big and bulky and the most popular trend these days is using materials and designs that have simple and clean lines, rather than a heavier look.
“Other than a window quilt, the best shade [for both efficiency and style] is a double honeycomb or cellular shade," said Bilodeau. “Cellular shades are most popular by far and help all around in both winter and summer.” They provide shade from the sun’s harmful rays and keep the cold and heat in or out, depending on the season.
Cellular shades are available in a large array of colors and patterns, and a customer can even print a graphic on them. They can be corded, cordless (push up) and motorized, and even available as a cellular in a vertical sliding version for a slider door. “There are so many choices,” said Bilodeau, who can assist with design as well as installation and service after the installation.
Although a double-cell shade is very effective, single cells offer more in patterns and in most cases offer enough insulation for most homes. And, according to Bilodeau, triple-cell shades are available, but are not as popular; a double will do an excellent job.
“A lot of heat gets lost through the glass, even in air tight homes. The use of an insulating shade," she said, “makes a huge difference.”
Even with an effective insulating shade, however, it is important that the windows behind the shade also work to keep out the cold of winter and the heat of summer.
According to Bill Therrien of Galaxy Glass, back in the early 80s during the window quilt’s heyday, triple-pane glass was in vogue. "The triple pane got phased out because the balance systems weren’t strong enough to hold the windows up, sometimes causing windows to come crashing down," he said.
Given new advancements in the design of the balance systems and other aspects of the window, however, the triple pane is coming back and is better than ever.
“Windows have to meet certain specifications,” said Therrien.
"The goal is to get the R value up. R3 is a dual pain glass,” explained Scott Richard of Hammond Lumber Company. R5 is usually a triple-glazed window, making it more efficient, but also considerably more expensive.
According to Therrien, the R5 rating has only been around for about two years. “To get to the R5 rating you need two coats of Low E – a film – and krypton gas.”
Adding a little tint, explained Richard, “helps keep the heat in during the winter months. When you're running the AC, the tint keeps the cold air in during the summer months. It also reflects the sun's rays in the summer."
Although an R5 rating is clearly the way to go, at least until 2014, said Therrien, when new standards may make most of the windows on the market today obsolete. A price-conscious market still creates the trends and determines what is most popular.
According to Richard, “Many people choose the R3-rated windows.”
Energy ratings aside, double-hung windows are probably the most popular style sold at Hammond Lumber Company, followed by awnings and single hungs, where the top window is fixed, noted Richard.
As with window coverings, there are so many window options now, said Philippe Laurendeau at Hammond Lumber, that “service after the sale is [also] important.”
Although quality windows and window coverings are certainly key in many homes, energy loss occurs in other areas of the home or structure as well.
“Every home has its issues,” said Paul Nadeau of Efficiency Maine. Nadeau recommends a top-to-bottom assessment by an energy advisor.
“A lot of heat escapes from a home and an energy assessor gives the homeowner a report which serves as a map of what needs to be done," said Nadeau. The assessment may or may not include the need to replace windows.
According to Nadeau, “An energy assessment is the best place to start ... it’s absolutely the way to go.”