Energy-Efficient Decorations for the Home

While no substitute for good construction materials, insulation and sun orientation, thoughtful decor can greatly increase your home’s energy efficiency, provide greater comfort, and lower utility bills.

| January/February 2002

  • “climate control”

  • “foot warmer”
  • “thermal mass”
  • “insulation”
  • “draft dodgers”
    Photo by Povy Kendal Atchison

There are so many ways to make a house energy efficient, and the most important choices happen at construction. But many of us must be content with drafty older houses or cheaply constructed newer houses, and may feel at a loss for elegant solutions to our expensive and wasteful climate control problems. If, for warmth, you’ve ever been known to tack heavy plastic to the windows or huddle around a halogen bulb, take heart. A few deliberate décor choices can help you create interior spaces that are energy efficient and beautiful.

In a well-designed house, warm air stays inside in winter and outside in summer. It’s a simple principle. The goal is to be the master of this energy flow so you can enjoy natural light and breezes when you want them and snuggle up tight inside a hibernating den when you’d rather keep nature’s forces at bay. Think of your walls and floors as big, semipermeable surfaces and your windows as gaping holes. The decorative materials you choose should intelligently support or offset their existing insulating and heat-resistant qualities.

Window Treatments

On average, 25 percent of warm or cool air in the home is lost through the windows. It’s important to have efficient windows (see “Window Shopping,” page 74), but the window treatments you select can significantly improve their performance.

Sunlight streaming through a window brings heat into the room. To keep the sun out, reflective light-colored blinds are one option. If you prefer dark colors to match your decorating scheme, look for products backed with light colors or a thin layer of aluminum that will reflect some of the sun’s rays. Blackout shades or drapery liners are also effective options for reducing solar heat gain. You may encounter window treatment products rated with a summer shading coefficient, which measures their effectiveness in preventing solar heat from entering the house. Low numbers are best (a window treatment that reduces heat gain by 75 percent has a shading coefficient of .25; one that reduces by 90 percent has a coefficient of .10).

Cooler climates and seasons present the opposite challenge. Cellular (honeycomb) shades are a versatile method of retaining heat. The air pockets in their layered-fabric construction trap interior air and prevent it from escaping through windows. Sold in many colors, fabrics, degrees of opacity, and thicknesses, cellular shades add 2.0 to 4.8 R-value to windows.

Anabell Jones
12/15/2013 8:37:57 AM

The energy efficient homes should also offer a better sounding experience to us, or the taste of life will be taken away. The wooden interior that you showed in snaps looks beautiful, but how does it sound without is also very important. It is so important that the deals on homes can either make or break only because of the sounding factor. Besides, sound proofing is also very important.

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