THE BEST INSULATING WINDOW TREATMENTS
Being a resident of an Upper East Side apartment of pre-war construction in New York has not exactly been a walk in Central Park – I’ve had trouble with the electric system that I had rewired and upgraded to modern specifications: the plumbing that had to be overhauled, and though I have retained the old-style sinks, WC’s, and the bathtub in the washroom and bathroom, I had my kitchen modernized to my requirements. The walls have been stripped and repainted room by room over the three years that I’ve owned this single bedroom place to maintain a semblance of my sanity! I had my not very attractive metal framed, single-paned windows prepared for winter this year– each room has two 3 by 6 foot long windows, the bathroom sporting one with a 2 by 3 length, and the kitchen, a 2 by 4 one in breadth. One of the redeeming features of this then dump was its windows. I had the lot weather-stripped and caulked to prevent seepage of air, had white-painted wooden frames, window sills, and double-paned glass installed. Then, I got rid of my old and practically useless vinyl blinds with glee! As this was my only major spruce up effort this year, I decided to go the whole hog and outfit my windows in style.
I’d been seeing ads for cellular shades from Zebrablinds and a whole lot of other distributors, and now, I just had to check them out –
Cellular shades or more interestingly, Honeycomb shades as they’re otherwise known, are energy efficient, temperature and sound insulating window treatments that offer a unique versatility. They’re made out of polyester fabric, in a cellular construction, which means that air is trapped inside the hollow cells and acts as a barrier against the cold, heat, and noise outside a window and a room. This improves the R-value of the window. Visualize a series of vertically stacked hexagons which draw air in from the sides, and collapse neatly, taking up hardly any space as the shades are pulled up. That’s how they were initially conceptualized. Today, they are available in double-celled layers, and some manufacturers even boast triple-celled layers, while others even have one hexagonal cylinder enclosing another, to offer insulation in regions that experience extreme weather fluctuations. Believe me, NY certainly fits this bill! Maybe not as severely as areas in Canada, Russia, and Oz, but certainly to some extent, especially the winter of 2013-14, when we experienced a cold way below zero!
Single-layered honeycomb shades are made with two layers of fabric seamlessly glued together while the double-layered shades are made with three layers of the same. Honeycomb shades can have R-values of 2 to 6, depending on the number of cell layers and if the cells have coatings within or not. Studies have shown that they block up to 62% heat transfer through a window. This results in substantial reductions in power bills – and I can certainly do with this advantage!
What first drew my attention to them, apart from its nomenclature, was its cutting-edge modern looks – made of polyester that crease into various cell sizes in single and double layers, the fabric is processed for stain and wrinkle resistance. They even come as vertical applications that can slide sideways! They are available outfitted with the usual control options – the cord lift, the continuous cord-loop lift, the cordless lift for children’s safety, and motorized lifts. And check this out! They come with an option called a top-down-bottom-up – this means that they’re constructed with a rail at the center of its body that allows it to be operated not only in the conventional style – raised from the bottom upwards, but also, lowered from the top downwards! This is so cool! And really convenient as my living room windows face those of another apartment block on the opposite side of the street. So I can keep my shades apparently suspended in the air, at optimum privacy, still allowing for an outside view from the window tops while blocking the view in from the apartment across the street. Alternatively, I can keep them raised slightly off my window sill, and lowered slightly from the top, allowing me a view of the street as well!
It’s recommended that the continuous cord-loop lift or motorized cellular shades are used for large windows. Cellular shades are manufactured to conform to all child safety norms dictated by the ANSI. Those who have curved, arched or angled windows need have no worry; cellular shades are designed to accommodate all sorts of odd shapes.
Another very important factor that drew me to these shades was the fact that it has sound absorption qualities – even though I live on the 6th floor, my apartment is not impervious to the off-putting traffic sounds from the street below. The layer of air trapped in the pockets of the honeycomb blinds muffles the blare from outside quite efficiently.
Getting to a crucial aspect – the room brightening factor! Having grown up in the southern countryside, bright rooms during the day are of vital importance to me. Honeycomb shades come in light filtering, room darkening, and blackout fabric compositions. The light filtering shades allow diffused light into the room with the shades lowered; Room darkening shades, made of double cell layers and dark fabric cut off more light than the latter, but still makes silhouettes visible on the inside. Blackout honeycomb shades reflect the ultimate in window treatment technology: apart from blocking out 100% of the daylight and view from a room (they are coated with Metalized Mylar on the inner sides of the cells to prevent light seeping through the fabric; this Mylar is sometimes covered with an additional another layer of fabric to improve durability and insulation), they have an incredible advantage over other window shadings – they’re designed with sidetracks that prevent light seepage from the sides of the shade and window frame. Patented as ‘SlumberShades’, they have certified the official window shades of the National Sleep Council. These shades are an important innovation to keep bedrooms dark for countries situated in the Northern hemisphere during summer months when there’s 17 to 19 hours of daylight – an important consideration for children’s rooms and for graveyard shift employees who require quality daytime sleep.
So, I opted for light-filtering honeycomb shades in amber for my living and dining areas, and in my kitchen, I have an exotic shade of white. I’ve used blue room darkening shades in my bathroom and washroom, and buttery yellow blackout shades in my bedroom, as I often work out of the home, and into the wee hours, so this option provides me not only with dark splendor but also, the pleasing sound of silence. Winter, spring, summer or fall, I’m ready for you! And guess what? The ease of cleaning them is only the icing on the cake!