Column: The wrath of the polar vortex


Winter Reflections

“The right window treatment can help turn a room from drab to divine” … yeah, yeah, yeah. You have heard that from me over and over. Right up there with those trite words of decorating wisdom comes “You can save energy with the proper window treatments.”

I have to confess that the aesthetics of window treatments are at the top of my priority list. Alas, the appearance of a room does not pay the utility bill … especially in the wake of the polar vortex of 2014!

I can still feel the sting of the negative thermostat reading in my fingers and toes.

If your windows endured the subzero nights without the benefit of a covering, the energy lost will probably be visible when the next gas bill arrives … regardless of how energy efficient your windows might be.

Any type of covering over a window in the dead of winter is better than nothing. Even a quilt tacked to keep the cold in its place is better than exposed glass when the thermostat dips.

The ideal warmth protector is a drapery that is lined and interlined and has a pelmet of sorts at the top. A pelmet is simply a decorative cornice installed at the top of a window treatment that blocks the flow of cooled air from returning to the room.

Without that pelmet, a window treatment placed on the outside of the frame – even energy-efficient, thermal-lined curtain panels – can create a “chimney” effect. This is when hot air rushes under the bottom and flows out the top. While in transit, the air is cooled by the window and re-enters the room as cold air. Although this is better than a bare window, it is not the most energy-efficient option for window treatments. To really warm up a room, the drapery style needs a pelmet at the top to halt the air circulation.

Today’s style really does not call for top treatments over drapery. That is the case in my own home, where I have lined and interlined drapery that covers almost every glass surface.

To eliminate as much cold as possible during our polar blast, I closed the drapery at night and carefully positioned rolled-up towels across the top to block the return airflow. It worked like magic! Coupled with a gas fireplace, our furnace turned on only a few times during the coldest hours.

When the sun was at its brightest, I opened the drapery to allow the sun’s warmth to enter the room, as well. You can tell if it is time to let in the rays just by feeling the temperature of the window.

Keep in mind that people have used drapery in one form or another since the start of time to protect a space from the elements. Hides were probably the first to hang from a doorway to prevent the cold from invading.

We have evolved from the original animal skins that adorned a crude opening and are far more “vegan” in our textile choices. Regardless, when the sun’s warmth fades, the cooling effect of the glass takes over and a room loses a fair amount of heat.

And most of all, who can argue that beautiful window treatments warm a room emotionally … just by their mere presence?








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