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A Window Makeover That Pays for Itself

This is my first year as a homeowner, and I've been pouring over our utility bills—especially since the start of winter. They're significantly higher than they were at our rental. It's not surprising; our new house is bigger, and we're now living in a city with much colder winters.

But still, I'd like to lower those bills as much as possible, since over time they can really add up. Some things are obviously out of my control (like the weather), but other things I can affect (like window treatments!).

So I've been doing some research. An average home loses 25% of its heat through windows and doors, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). That percentage can be even higher in old houses. That means we're essentially throwing money out the window by paying for heat that's leaking out.

Luckily, there are things we can do to put that money back in our pockets.

An entryway without window treatments

Step 1

Replace old windows with new, energy-efficient ones. It may be time to replace your windows if they:

  • Only have one pane of glass (single pane)
  • Don’t open and close properly
  • Show condensation between the glass panes
  • Just feel drafty

New energy-efficient windows will eventually pay for themselves through lower heating and cooling costs. They'll also add value to your house. Here’s another money-saving tip: you can sometimes cash in on window rebates from your utility company.

But still, windows are expensive, so this isn't the right choice for everyone. If you already have decent double-pane windows (like we do), upgrading probably doesn't make sense. And if you're a renter, replacing windows is likely not an option.

In either case, you can still improve your existing windows' energy efficiency with the next two points.

An entryway with white Bali Cellular Shades

Step 2

Caulk and weather-strip around windows to reduce air leaks. This is something that everyone can (and should) do to save money on heating and cooling costs. It's inexpensive and easy to DIY. We caulked all our windows in one afternoon—totally worth it. Caulk seals the thin cracks around your windows (less than a quarter-inch wide) that, if left unrepaired, cause expensive air leaks. Weather stripping is for moving components, like doors and operable windows. Get step-by-step instructions on how to weatherize yours from the DOE website.

A side-view of Bali Cellular Shades showing off the energy-efficent cells

Step 3

Choose energy-efficient window treatments. Aesthetics are usually a major factor when choosing window treatments (and rightfully so). But also consider energy efficiency, especially if you live somewhere with cold winters and hot summers. Doing so will pay off with big savings on your utility bills.

For year-round comfort, Bali Cellular Shades, are the most energy-efficient choice. They’re made from a series of honeycomb-like pockets that trap air. This design reduces heat transfer by 22% in the winter and 56% in the summer. To further reduce heating and cooling loss, layer drapes over your shades (which also creates a softer look) or add a thermal liner.

This was my first time trying cellular shades, and I'm a big fan. They are simple to install and sleek. In fact, you hardly even notice them when they're fully raised or lowered, like in that first photo. Plus, they come in lots of colors to match your décor.

Since our entryway windows are so small, I didn't want something patterned or busy. I wasn’t looking to make a statement in this area. Instead, we chose a simple white fabric that blends in with our walls and gives us privacy, while still letting in lots of light. If you're looking for something similar, my shades are 3/8" single cells in Cosmopolitan, White Lace. I really like them!

Our home’s windows are one of my favorite things about it. We get a ton of natural light in almost every room. But the flip side to all that gorgeous natural light is potential energy (and money) loss. So now I’m making upgrades, one room at a time, with energy-efficient shades and tubes of caulk.