It is easy to feel powerless in the face of climate change, but in fact, each of us can make a significant contribution to slowing carbon emissions simply by insulating our own homes. One of the most important areas to concentrate on when doing this is the windows — but what do you need to know to do it well?
Everyone knows that double and triple glazing are a big help in insulating the home, but what most people don’t realize is that standards vary enormously, even within the same price brackets. Look for low-E (low emissivity) glass and a product with a noble gas (such as argon or xenon) sandwiched between the panes and with spacers to keep those panes apart. Panes built from up to one-third recycled glass are available, reducing the environmental impact of manufacture.
UPVC frames have long been recommended because they are highly efficient and durable, but they also create a lot of pollutants during production and are believed to cause potential health problems in the home. The favored choice for window frames is now wood, which has a long history of use in Scandinavian countries and in conservation areas. It too can enjoy a long life as long as it is properly cared for. Double-layered framing with insulation between the inner and outer layers is particularly effective. The most important thing to check is that the seal between the panes and frame is robust and secure all the way round.
To provide an effective barrier against heat loss at night, or during the day in rooms that are not being used, nothing beats solid wooden shutters, which also provide added security for the home. Shutters that trap a layer of air between two panels are the most effective as, like double-glazing, this reduces the escape of heat through conduction. To add to the overall insulating effect, shutters can be combined with drapes.
Drapes are often overlooked when it comes to insulation. Light, delicate ones may look pretty but will not do much to keep a room warm. Thick, closely woven ones, however, can reduce heat loss by as much as 10%, while layering drapes has even more impressive results. Placing drapes close to the window surface with a good overlap at the sides and in the middle, and using a pelmet, can potentially reduce heat loss by 25%.
An alternative approach to insulation is to use sealed blinds. While most blinds do not do much to stop heat loss, these help to seal the window tight by sliding down between two slats. They too can be combined with other approaches to maximize heat retention.
Although these might seem like small steps to take, they can potentially save you over $250 a year on your energy bills, and if everyone uses these solutions, they can do a lot to help reduce society’s carbon emissions. They can also increase the value of your property and help you enjoy a more comfortable living space.