Keeping your home cool during the hot summer months can be an expensive prospect in the southwest. This is especially true if you have large windows or rooms that have multiple windows with southern or western exposure. Although the benefits of natural light and your health are well documented, it is equally well-known that natural light can work against your AC by heating up the air in those rooms as well as allow UV rays to enter your home. The result can be an overtaxed HVAC system, an extremely high bill, and health concerns.
The good news is that you may be able to cut cooling costs during the summer without having to spend potentially thousands of dollars on a more powerful air conditioning solution. Window coverings can make a big difference in how much heat is added to your home through the windows. Not only does this have the potential to cut your cooling costs significantly, but it can enhance the overall style of your home as well.
Curtains and Internal Coverings
Curtains, shutters, and other interior window treatments can have a significant impact on how much heat you gain from the sun during the summer. Window treatments can block or filter sunlight and reduce heat gain significantly as well as help to hold heat or reduce drafts during the colder winter months. Blinds and rolling shades also offer protection against heat gain.
Regardless of the type you choose, window coverings are most effective when closed on the south or west-facing windows, since they are most likely to get direct sunlight. Closing the curtains or blinds on any window receiving direct sunlight can have some beneficial effects.
One of the big problems with using coverings such as curtains and shades to prevent heat gain during the summer is that although your spaces will be cooler because the sunlight is being contained, the heat will still accumulate between the windowpane and the treatment itself. If you want to deflect the heat outside of your home and enjoy your views, a low-E window film might be a better option.
Low-E films are mildly tinted plastic films that have reflective particles of metal or metal oxide in them, reflecting UV rays while still allowing for some natural light and visibility. Because the UV rays are reflected back out into the outside, they are not able to heat up the air inside of your home. While the effectiveness of low-E films can vary depending on the manufacturer, the thickness of the film, and how well they are installed, it’s estimated that some low-E films can reduce summer heat gain from sunlight by as much as 70 percent or more.
If using a film on your windows, take special precautions in the types of cleaners you use as the film can scratch and/or discolor.
Shutters and Other Upgrades
There are a variety of other upgrades you can make to your home that will also help to block UV rays and prevent unwanted heat gain during the summer.
- Functional exterior shutters that can be closed during the heat of the day can make a significant difference in solar heat gain, blocking the sunlight from actually reaching your windows in the first place.
- Awnings installed over windows can also block some light and heat, while still allowing for visibility.
- Exterior solar screens are also an option, blocking UV rays and increasing your energy efficiency while preserving some light and visibility as well.