You have all heard stories about good news and bad news. Well, the great majority of homeowners in the United States face the bad news: the dismal choice of shivering through another winter in cold houses, or disbursing an ever-increasing portion of their incomes for enough fuel to keep warm.
The good news is that you, the window coverings dealer, can do something about this challenging situation facing consumers today.
Before the Arab oil embargo of 1973, the main focus of most manufacturers and distributors of draperies and window coverings was on the decorative aspects of window treatments. Then, in 1973, when oil exporters slapped an embargo on shipments to the United States, the subject of saving heat first came dimly into focus. It became sharply and painfully perceived when the price of oil, traditionally about 10 cents a gallon, shot past the $1-a-gallon mark about a year ago. Every responsible researcher of the energy situation reports that the crisis is going to continue to worsen, year after year (despite occasional level periods, such as the one we are now in).
A blunt fact is that in typical houses in the northern half of the country, 15 to 35 percent of the total heat loss during the winter is via the windows. This is unnecessary heat loss! It can be stopped! In fact, reducing heat loss through windows is one of the very best ways there is to cut heating costs.
Starting right now, the window coverings industry has got to find a way to combine beauty and heat savings. Architects, designers, builders and window manufacturers all can play important roles in reducing heat loss through windows, but the drapery and window coverings dealer has center stage. He is able to offer the homeowner a more immediate solution to the problem.
START WITH EDUCATION
An investment now in some basic education is all that is necessary to pay off in future sales of energy saving window coverings. The first step is to learn how windows lose heat and how it can be stopped. There are several books available through local book sellers on this very subject, and you should look for the answers to these questions.
1.What is heat? What does it consist of, and how do you measure it?
2.How does heat flow? What are the differences between conduction, convection and radiation?
3.How can the flow of heat be stopped, or greatly slowed? How do you stop the conduction of heat? How do you stop convection? How do you stop radiation?
4.What materials are commonly used to stop heat flow? What are their properties? Are they flammable? Do they emit toxic gases? Are they easily cut to size and attached? What do they cost per square foot?
5.What is infiltration? Why is it so important and what is the best way to stop it? Should the windows themselves be improved to stop infiltration or should the window coverings take on this task?
It is not difficult to find the answers to these questions, and once you have them, you will be able to knowledgeably select and sell thermal window treatments. There already is a variety of manufactured window coverings that can effectively stop heat loss. There are different types, different installation problems, different operating methods and different costs. The manufacturers' literature also can be very helpful—but don't expect them to point out their product's limitations. You will be able to judge them for yourself once you know the answers to the above questions.
There are other factors that complicate the selling of thermal window treatments. The products selected should have a combination of qualities. They should:
1.Cut heat loss
3.Carry a reasonable purchase price.
Products that have all three are the products that will be successful in the future.
In addition to the normal difficulties of different window shapes, sizes, designs and uses, you must add a few more difficulties related to heat loss. Are the windows single-, double- or triple-glazed? Are they framed in wood, plastic or metal? How many mullions do they have which divide the panes? Are the windows old or new? Do they face a stiff prevailing wind or are they sheltered?
And customers? They, too, differ enormously. To some, cost is unimportant relative to appearance or convenience. Some count every dollar, and therefore, performance gets top attention while beauty is secondary. Some people insist that their window coverings be fully automatic, and others are willing to spend a few moments each day operating their shutters, shades or draperies. Still others adopt such thermal devices as major projects (or causes) and are fully prepared to spend considerable time each morning and evening installing or adjusting the coverings.
The concluding challenge is: Will most drapery experts shrug their shoulders and leave the window heat loss problem to the window manufacturers, independent producers and mail-order sellers of thermal coverings, or will they roll up their sleeves, learn what is really involved and take center stage to solve the immediate problem of the homeowners? You can make the difference in helping them make big cuts in their heating bills. Finally, such action can be really good news to the window coverings industry by providing a new, big market!
Dr. William A. Shurcliff, author of Thermal Shutters & Shades: Over 100 Schemes for Reducing Heat Loss Through Windows, has also published several solar heating and optics books. He is an Honorary Research Associate at Harvard University, has 19 patents to his credit and is a member of the American and New England sections of the International Solar Energy Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.