The Complexity of the Variety Available
For those of us who pay attention to our homes, and detail, in general, we know that windows ARE the focal points of a room. However much we may try to detract from this fact, creating other visual treats, without a well-accoutred window, all else fall by the wayside! This is, of course, my opinion, but a well-considered one. Even if you were to walk into a tiny room with even more diminutive windows, if the windows are thoughtfully dressed, all the other negative features can cease to exist, even a mess!
Windows – Points of Focus
We have all manner of windows today – extensive bay and bow windows, French doors and sliding glass doors, oval windows, peaked windows, angled windows, arched windows, circular and polygonal windows, some in immense proportions. Many apartments and penthouses sport curtain windows –
A curtain wall is defined as thin, usually aluminum-framed wall, containing in-fills of glass, metal panels, or thin stone. The framing is attached to the building structure and does not carry the floor or roof loads of the building, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences.
Efficiency of Windows for Canada
Curtain wall windows serve to reduce costs as compared to standard construction systems, aside from allowing the feel of being suspended mid-air. It’s cool in many ways, but ever considered how much will be paid out in terms of cooling and heating? And the heat reflected outward is nothing short of tremendous! While this sort of fenestration might be efficient in absorbing the heat of the winter sun, it also serves to absorb the chill, far more than it does the heat of the sun, primarily because sunny hours are far less in comparison. And in summer, the heat absorbed horrendously overheated interiors that have to be air conditioned on high settings. Studies have revealed that using high performance glazing (i.e., gas filled double window panes with low-E coatings) results in ten times the heat lost compared to an adjacent concrete wall of the same proportions, and twenty times as much for conventional single paned windows. As builders and owners rush to cut construction costs, little thought is given to energy efficiency that will cost skyrocketing energy bucks in the future, not least the steep price we’d have to pay to clean up after today’s error in judgement.
A lot of studies conducted on energy efficiency of building envelopes, or the bare bones of buildings, as it’s commonly called, recommend that windows be installed in smaller proportions, with more windows to be used in northern orientations in order to invite the winter sun.
There are the newbies who are fortunate to have new studies available to them in order to make informed choices so they can put up energy efficient structures. But there are those of us who have to make do with what we have, make the best of what we have. Some of us have double and even triple glazed windows and doors. Some of us still have the traditional single glazing. The window shading we use can make all the difference to how our windows look while improving its energy efficiency, saving us energy bucks. A few things need to be understood before we decide on how to choose the best shadings for our windows.
The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC)
The solar heat gain coefficient is the fraction of incident solar radiation (the sun’s rays hitting the glazing) admitted through a window, both directly transmitted and absorbed and subsequently released inward. The lower a window’s SHGC (expressed as numbers between 0 and 1), the less the heat it transmits. The SHGC is usually considered for the whole window, including its frame, cranks, hinges, and bolts. Logging on to the Efficient Windows Collaborative is a good idea if you want to rate your windows. The best way to assess the SHGC and solar heat gain would be to consider the climactic conditions of the area, the orientation of windows, and the shading factors.
Need for High-Performance Windows in Canada
Heat loss through a home’s fenestration accounts for up to 50% of its heating and cooling needs. Many folks have opted to replace the fenestration system of their homes for improved energy efficiency. High-performance windows refer to windows made of two or more layers of glazing or glass, the spaces between filled with hydrogen or argon gas. This system reduces the loss or gain of heat through windows and doors. In addition, the innermost or room facing layer of glass often has a low emissivity (low-E) coating in the form of transparent metalized film to reflect the heat back indoors, further reducing heat loss. The more the layers of glazing, the more expensive the system. In coordination with window shading, a windows performance can be vastly improved to cut down on energy consumption. Remember, for window shading to be truly effective, they must be deployed just an inch from the glazing
Types of Window Shading in Canada
1. Horizontal Blinds Canada
Blinds are perhaps the oldest known window shading, said to have existed before medieval times, of eastern origins, brought to the west by Venetian slaves – hence the term “Venetian Blinds’, associated with it. Traditionally made with thin cross sections of wood into narrow vanes that are strung together to form a cover against prying eyes, and to provide a shield against the harsh sun. A tilting mechanism was added to this system of shading that allowed the movement of vanes, making for elegant control of the sun’s light and heat. Modernization has ensured that this system retains it place among interior shading systems, one of the most sought after, both residentially and commercially. Today, we have aluminum, composite, faux wood and wood blinds in the repertoire, making budget considerations easier, with an assortment of controls, including blinds with motorized vanes, and design elements like valances to add to its beauty.
Blinds are made with vanes of sizes varying from an inch to two-and-a-half inches – the broader the vanes, the more the space in between them, hence, the better the view and brightness offered. Also, broad vanes are better options for expansive windows as they would be fewer in number, therefore lighter, less likely to bow under their own weight, and would stack more compactly, making for a better view outside when raised fully, and the lesser the chances of knocking one’s head against them when fitted on patio doors.
Wood blinds are no doubt the best of the breed, lending warm elegance to interiors, yet an expensive option. To meet with more conservative demands, manufacturers have come up with blinds comprising cheaper materials like aluminum, faux wood and composite blinds that also find more utility in high traffic areas where they’re more likely to be damaged. In high humidity areas like bathrooms, kitchens, and gyms, faux wood, composite, and aluminum blinds would find infinite utility.
The Blind Advantage
Operable vanes make blinds an option not to be sneezed at. Blinds don’t have to be raised over a window to provide a view, brightness or ventilation. Able to be turned on a 180-degree plane, from its optimally open horizontal position at 90 degrees, the vanes can be turned 45 degrees downward to bend the sunrays down to cut down the glare yet provide a view of the outside. But this often results in fading of wooden floors, carpeting, and other interior elements in the path of the downward deflected sunrays. When the vanes are turned upward, the sunlight is deflected to the ceiling, from where it is harmlessly diffused, resulting in little or no heat gain, privacy, and adequate brightness. For total privacy, the blind vanes can be turned shut, Privacy blinds allowing absolutely no light seepage as they sport no route holes, though there could be a halo-effect from light creeping around the sides of inside mounted blinds. Adding a beading on the sides of the window casing or frame would nullify the halo-effect, not interfering with its controls in any way.
Blinds can also be cut to accommodate unusual window shapes, allowing for effortless control natural light due to its operable vanes.
The Insulation Value of Blinds
Wood, composites, and vinyl are inherently insulating in nature, but for regions experiencing frigid weather, they would need to be teamed with insulating drapes to add to its value. This is due to the fact that nothing stop the cooled air from flowing around the sides of the blinds.
There are many varieties of shades on the market today, starting with the humble vinyl roller shades to the exclusive roller solar shades and the artisan Roman shades, to specialty shades like the sheer horizontal shades, each with its own incomparable benefits.
This variety of window covering is exemplified by a single panel of fabric fitted on to a roller mechanism on the headrail that deploys and retracts the shade panel as desired. All manner of material that is thin enough to retract into a roller can be used in this system – from sheer woven and non-woven fabrics to more advanced forms like the fiberglass and cellulose incorporated forms that make solar shades that maximize the harvesting of natural light without having to compromise on the view. But as solar fabrics generally offer no privacy at night, manufacturers have come up with an ideal solution that incorporates roller light blocking shades to be deployed for the night with solar shades to be used during the day that offers a double whammy – the dual shades.
While solar shades offer multiple benefits of seamless style and utility, with performance fabrics that provide limitless advantages of maximizing solar heat gain and reducing heat loss, the roller shade stable offer little in terms of comprehensive insulation. There are a few options offered by the Crown brand, solar shades that come with an insulated backing that delivers cost benefits for the budget-strapped.
Roman shades need no introduction whatsoever, having been used for centuries, much like the horizontal blinds. Crafted by the trusty Roman to protect against the Mediterranean heat, and the dust thrown up by carts trundling along with material to build the Colosseum. Today, Roman shades are crafted with an artistic eye for detail, with evenly spaced reapers along its length that ensures that it creases into neat, even folds as it’s raised. They’re styled for all manner of settings with designs like the flat seamed and seamless Romans, the softly cascading hobbled Romans, the slightly droopy relaxed Roman with every permutation and combination from there to accommodate swagged and ruched styles as well.
Roman Shades come with a variety of optional backings that offer light control for sheer fabrics, to backings that provide condensation control and insulation, and blackout. Roman shades can also be taped down on the sides with Velcro or magnetic strips to prevent the seepage of warm/cold air from around windows. They’re a fabulous option to use with single glazed windows.
A modern development that is considered the most energy efficient, cellular shades are made to resemble horizontally stacked hexagons whose primary function is to trap air to form a layer or layers of insulating air, keeping the room thermally conditioned. They also serve to function as acoustic insulators, slowing the trajectory of sound waves to cocoon interiors from irritating outside noises. For blackout cellular shades, the insides of the cells are coated with a metalized plastic called Mylar, which blocks 100% of the light that filters in through the shades. Side rails and felt lined hem bars are also provided to cut out the halo effect of shades when inside mounted on windows. In addition to the fabulous insulation they provide, blackout cellular shades are considered the most efficient by the National Sleep Foundation of the United States and Canada. Double layered blackout cellular shades offer high insulation values for single paned windows. Remember, the larger the size of the cell, the more the air that is trapped, and therefore, the more the insulation value.
3. Artisan Drapery
Drapery offer mind boggling ranges of sheer to heavy to choose from, in awesome fabrics of cottons, linens, polyesters, wools, silks, velvets and blends, in beautiful textures, prints, and colors to complement decors from the simplest to the most lavish. The exquisitely hand-crafted selection from Graber’s stable of artisan drapery is infinitely exciting. In a variety of pleats such as roll, pinch, box, cartridge, inverted, and four-finger pleats to create varied effect of richness. Rod pockets with headers also offer exceptional possibilities, to hag as single or double draws, with trims, those that puddle, from standard liners to thermal, blackout and water repellent, choose wisely, depending upon the function of the room you need it for. Use sheers and heavier fabric for better functionality, especially for homes with single paned windows. Much like most other window dressings, drapes have to be drawn back for a clear view and to let the winter sun in.
Employing valances for your window
Valances, while adding extra verve to window dressings, also serves to block air seepage from the tops of drapery rods and head rails. Scalloped, ballooned and tucked valances in addition to simpler yet more articulate board mounted or corniced varieties, for exclusive style and artistry, go for valances to elevate the interior appeal of a home.