The cost of the fuel and the power we need to maintain our comforts in life is rising. When we purchase appliances, we often purchase the more expensive models because they offer long-term energy efficiency, which will pay back our investment and more over the long term. It’s time to carry that energy efficient mindset into the realm of window coverings.
You probably are aware already of the energy efficiency of many
hard treatments, but how much do you know about draperies? Top treatments?
The total treatment? How would you know what might be beneficial
for your customer’s needs?
Draperies that completely cover a window do provide a degree of
additional insulation. If your customer or your designer’s
customer has to pay more for the additional insulation benefits
of her beautiful draperies, she will want to know why. It isn’t
necessary to be a walking encyclopedia on this topic but knowing
some critical information will enable you to answer this question
and truly help her.
Whenever energy savings is discussed in the home environment, the
term, R-value comes up. R-value is the resistance to heat flow,
and wherever this rating is given you can be assured it was arrived
at under clinical (i.e. optimal) circumstances.
With the custom nature of your business, draperies cannot have a
firm R-value rating. There are too many fabrics and combinations
of fabrics, linings, etc. and all are constantly changing. Therefore
the best you can do is to provide the information that will offer
the best insulation in each custom situation. And that is why you
are the specialist!
For comparison’s sake, one pane of glass has R-.86, which
includes a little air around it. A double-glass window has R-1.83,
which includes the air pocket between the glass. According to research,
where I live in the northern most point of Virginia, I should have
R-11 in my walls. That means there is more than a nine-point difference
between the R-value of the windows and the walls. If a home has
many windows or large windows, then that means a lot of extra energy
is required to heat and cool the home. Wouldn’t your customer
want to increase the R-value of the windows as much as possible?
A point often overlooked is that drapery insulation not only keeps
the cold out in the winter, but it does an even better job of keeping
the heat out in the summer. This means draperies will reduce energy
needs in the two most demanding seasons of the year for many years
Personal comfort is another consideration if chairs or beds are
close to windows. In the cold wintertime, if you stand next to a
window with minimal to no covering, the cold window will pull heat
from your warm body, ultimately cooling you. If you cover the window
so that the room side of the drapery does not feel cold, then that
means more heat is staying in the room and you will feel warmer.
I learned firsthand the importance of this last point. I started
my workroom business in my home. When we invested in industrial
equipment, the machines were set up parallel to and against a large
picture window. Having read that Roman shades were good insulation,
we made Roman shades from a cotton chintz face fabric and cotton
lining. We froze in the wintertime because so much cold air came
through and around those shades. While I’m sure the shades
helped somewhat, two layers of thin fabric were not enough.
ADD INSULATION VALUE
There is no one perfect formula to make all window coverings the
perfect insulation package. There is one best product you will see
below. Some you will sell anyway and can strengthen the sale by
saying, “Oh, by the way, this is outstanding insulation for
your window!” Others might be a very important add-on for
1. In cold climates the north-facing windows are the most important
to insulate for winter. It is important to keep the cold out 24
hours a day.
2. The south-facing windows in a cold climate can be utilized to
absorb the sun’s heat during the day, but insulated against
the cold at night and on cloudy days. To allow as much solar energy
as possible to enter, the glass area should be completely exposed.
This means draperies need to stack off the windows. Because that
usually means a twice daily operation to open and close the draperies,
motorization and a remote control would be very handy for your customer.
3. As mentioned before, personal comfort is important. Are there
babies and toddlers in the home? They are close to the floor where
the coldest air is. Are there seniors in the home? Seniors often
feel a chill and drafts much more quickly than younger people. Also,
consider on which floor of the home you are working. Heat rises.
So the top floors will be the warmest with the basement being the
4. You must cover the whole window. Stationary panels are not good
insulation, other than stopping a draft from the sides of shades
5. Air pockets are very important for insulation. The more air pockets
you have the better. Air resides between the fibers of your fabrics
and between the layers of fabrics in each treatment. It also will
be between the glass and the treatments, between layers of treatments
and within all the folds. So the more treatments, the more layers
of fabric in the treatments and the more fullness, the better the
insulation will be.
Start with a Roman, roller shade or other hard treatment against
the glass and work outward. A personal note: I cannot find anything
to say that the thickness/density of fabric would or would not be
better insulation. I used table felt as interlining for a window
in my home and I thought it was wonderful insulation. I do not know
if two layers of regular interlining would have worked as well or
6. The air must be still. Air pockets are good, but if the air is
moving in those pockets, it is defeating the purpose. Moving air
will move the heat. Heat will not go through still air.
In order to keep the air from moving, you must seal the treatment.
Certainly a pair of draperies must overlap well in the center, but
the perimeter is very important. In winter, the bottom and sides
are critical to keep the window cold air from mixing with the warm
room air. If you can seal the top as well, it will keep the warm
air from dropping down behind the drapery to mix with cool air and
contribute to condensation. Complete sealing is even more important
in the summer, because the intense heat from the sun between the
glass and the drapery will rise out the top of the drapery into
the room. Complete sealing summer and winter is the best insulation.
7. Here are some sealing options.
• Add more fullness in the panel and make the return wider
than needed so the panel will lie firmly against the wall to seal
• Use hook and loop fastener to seal the sides.
• Use magnets to seal the sides.
• Perhaps some of the existing track systems for solar shades
could be used for this purpose.
• Have the draperies break on the floor for the bottom seal.
• Mount the draperies to the ceiling or to the underside of
a cornice or top treatment board. Having a board treatment to cover
the top of the drapery is important because the drapery should be
flush against the underside of the board. If the drapery is used
regularly, the top of the panel will wear but it won’t be
8. Warm Window® is a multi-layered quilted material. If you
use the company’s instructions to make up the Roman shade
or the side-draw panel and make them seal, they will reduce heat
loss in the winter by 80 percent and 79 percent in the summer.
This product first came out in the ’80s and at that time,
its R-value was so high, you needed nothing else over it. From my
personal experience in my own home, I would recommend that you not
do an inside mount as the width has to be too critical. Overlapping
the window frame an inch or more gives you some shrink room and
is much better insulation in my book. The product does a great job
if made and mounted correctly.
Conserving our natural resources and energy in particular is everybody’s
concern and responsibility. More than 20 years ago when I tried
to get people interested in insulation, it was not easy. I hope
it will be easier for you. I have provided some resources because
I first went to the Internet for the latest information. My daughter
calls it the “Keeper of all Knowledge.” Well, the Internet
has slipped up. It has painfully little on window covering insulation.
After a couple hours, I went to my own library and pulled the two
books listed below.
Judy Lindahl’s book literally fell apart as I thumbed the
pages, but it has fantastic information! Langdon’s book has
phenomenally detailed information if you really want to know more
about insulation. These books are very old, but the information
is good. You can find them on the Internet for very good prices.
Both are paperbacks.
This is only bare-bones information in this article, but that is
really all you need. Understanding a little more about what you
can do to make your customer’s home more comfortable for her
and save on her energy bills will mean more money in your pocket
as well as hers. The more of us that do what we can to conserve
energy, the healthier our planet will be for future generations.
So do us all a favor and sell up to insulation!
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 29-year veteran
of the drapery workroom industry. She has owned both retail and wholesale
drapery workrooms as one person and as a company of nine, and she
is the founder and past owner of Workroom Concepts, a consulting firm
offering educational resources to the industry. Her experience includes
professional speaking and writing for two industry trade magazines.
She currently owns Kitty Stein & Co., which supplies industry
vendors with the industry-specific products she has authored including
Order in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications, and
Price Your Work with Confidence, available through D&WC.