An open and shut case for energy savings

When people think about ways to cut their utility bills, they may overlook the power of windows. Roughly half of  a typical home energy bill covers the cost of heating and cooling  the air inside. This time of year in many climates, the windows can do a lot of the work.

I’ve been thinking a lot about windows this week as I visit affordable apartment complexes which have received major energy efficiency upgrades through special grants. We’re trying to help promote a culture of energy efficiency – to make sure all the installed equipment actually leads to maximum energy savings.  That can be a tough sell  in any kind of multifamily dwellings where the incentives can be all wrong – if tenants pay the utility bills, then why should management invest? Or if management pays the bills, why should tenants care? We’re hoping that trying to encourage some teamwork and a shared desire to be energy wise will help instill good habits.

As we talk with managers, they uniformly say that new windows are what delight their tenants. Gone are the old single pane windows that blew in cold air all winter and let summer heat seep in around aluminum borders. The residents now enjoy energy efficient windows that are making a world of difference. The noise from the street is cut down and the overall comfort of the apartment home is dramatically better. The complexes’ new boilers, duct sealing and other hidden improvements will  reduce energy bills next winter, but nothing beats a new efficient window for instant gratification. Some managers have told us the new windows  affect the whole mood of the complex as residents take greater pride in their homes and feel more neighborly.

As we work to suggest no-cost ways to save energy, many of our tips involve windows and window coverings. This time of year in Colorado, opening all the windows wide when the sun finally sets can be a delightful evening ritual. The cool air pours in and with cross ventilation helped by a ceiling fan, the temperature drops rapidly.  By morning, the home feels fresh and cool enough for a light cover. Besides, birds make a charming alarm clock that helps set a cheery mood.  Then it’s time for the reverse ritual – pulling all the windows tight and locking them to hold in the cool air.

Even the most efficient windows can still let some of the intense midsummer heat beat into a home. That’s why covering the windows is important.  An  astonishing array of energy saving drapes, blinds and shades can  block the heat while looking beautiful  -- and even if your curtains are old, they’ll really help keep the cool air inside. 
What are your experiences with using windows  and window coverings instead of air conditioners? Are there tricks you’ve found? Please share your thoughts by commenting here.

4 responses so far ↓

Sue - Jul 7, 2011 at 7:03 PM

I keep hearing about home energy audits. I even found a number for those with very limited finances. What are the options for those who don't qualify for the limited finances option but don't have tons of money to spend. We still want to be enery wise.

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