February 2012: Window Treatments
First off, it is important to realize that most houses’ windows only compromise about 10% of the gross wall area. The first objective should always be to try and make the existing unit as air tight as possible. Replacement may be prohibitive for a number of reasons or maybe one is trying to cut large radiant losses through cast iron or aluminum frames. No matter what the treatment strategy is, upgrades should always take into account local climate and house/site specific issues that are driving recommendations.
The NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) is an independent, non-profit association that fairly evaluates and rates all kinds of window systems. Unfortunately, because windows play such a huge role in the building system many other criteria need to be taken into account when considering an acceptable window treatment besides energy efficiency: cost, look, color, profile, ease of operation, material, hardware and sometimes storage needs. The following is a good list of window treatment options varying in costs from least expensive to the most expensive:
• Window plastic kits either mounted with double sided tape or plastic hardware
• Cheaply fabricated or constructed interior insulated panels out of reflect a foil or RFI and fabric
• A simple fixed or removable interior piece of glazing material that is custom fit to create a dead air space to the inside
• Window shades either with an embedded film or just reflective/absorptive in nature as with Roman shades without any side or bottom track
• Interior storms made out of glass, acrylic or multi-filmed which are hermetically sealed and may have Low E coatings
• Insulated shades containing pleated material and reflective films that run in a fixed tracking system
• Insulated drapes that are situated close to existing window areas but are outfitted with boxed valences and may have multi layers.
• Window films that come in at least 10 different types for various reasons and are professionally applied/guaranteed
• Honeycomb blinds in single, double or triple layers material creating insulated cells