In a west-facing room, what is the most effective way to stay comfortable in summer and winter: replace windows or add shades?

Asked by Heather Wark
Salt Lake City, UT

West-facing room has 30-foot-high ceilings with 10 windows from floor to ceiling. We just bought this home in Utah, so we are unsure what summer is like. The hardwood floors are faded in spots that weren't under rugs. We have had folks tell us sunshade blinds (Halcyon, and others) would be our best bet at reducing heat in the summer, keeping warmer in the winter, and allowing us to keep our valley views. Others have said the most energy efficient and cost-effective method would be to replace the windows with an Andersen-like insulated double pane window (with the added feature of keeping out traffic noise). Help! In the long term, what would be the most efficient and effective way to keep us cool in summer and warm in the winter?


Polly Osborne, FAIA, LEED AP

Answered by Polly Osborne, FAIA, LEED AP

Los Angeles, CA

Polly Osborne Architects

January 28, 2011

I would start with UV shades on the exterior of the house.

  • That way the sun is deflected before it ever gets to the windows.
  • You can get these with electric controls so you don't have to go outside to lower them.

Winter warmth

Of course the UV shades on the exterior do nothing for winter warmth, so if you need that too,

  • you'll likely have to replace the windows. 
  • Or get shades that don't allow the cold to infiltrate around the edges, so insulated shades on a track.

New windows will be expensive but preserve your view

You will lose your view with insulated shades, so if it's too cold in the winter, a double or triple-glazed window with low-E glass for summer will be the ticket.

That is likely to be very expensive, though, because your windows are so big, so I'd try the summer shades first.


For more information:

Read "We need to replace the windows on our home. What's the greenest choice?", a Q&A answered by Daniel Glickman.

Read "I am trying to research, compare and decide the most energy efficient product for all my windows: solar screens vs. solar film?", a Q&A answered by Florian Speier.

Tagged In: energy efficient window, window coverings

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