I remain convinced that lower energy living is critical given our uncertain future (both in the US and on the planet as a whole), and can even can be better and more enjoyable for the people making these changes. For this reason, I have made a few modifications around the house and in my life in an attempt to consume less energy.
One of my most successful experiments this winter was insulating some of our draftiest windows. Windows can be a huge source of heat loss for a home, particularly if they are large. Newer windows often have extra features for keeping the weather outside, but our big home improvement recently was a new roof. We don’t have money leftover for all new windows!
You can also buy insulating blinds, although these can add up too, depending on the quality, brand name, window size and whether you need an expert to install them for you.
Luckily, it is super easy and very affordable to improvise curtains made of polar fleece fabric. Not only does this help cut down on heating costs, but they also make the room more comfortable by removing that underlying chill that lingers no matter how high you crank up the thermostat. Everyone in my house was amazed at how different it felt as soon as I hung the curtains.
All it takes is polar fleece and S-hooks. You can find polar fleece at local fabric stores – often on sale, or with a coupon, which makes this project even more affordable. Both times I purchased fleece, I had a 40% off coupon! Polar fleece measures 59″ wide, so a little goes a long way.
There is almost no work involved once you get the fleece home. Just cut the fabric a little larger than your windows, punch a few holes along the top edge, and use S-hooks to attach the polar fleece to existing curtain hardware. (OK, if you have no existing curtains, this will be slightly more complicated.) If you have a very wide window to cover, you might need several S-hooks, for instance one at each end and one or two in the middle.
The fleece does not need to be hemmed, or have the edges finished in any way. For the kitchen bay windows, I tried adding a hem to the curtains so they would look nicer. That was a terrible idea, as you can see in the photo below! The fleece did not appreciate my efforts at dressing it up. And it makes no difference in the effectiveness of the insulation. If we ever had “sophisticated” company who might think the fleece looked cheap or trashy, I would just take the curtains down before they arrived and put them back up the second they left! (Luckily I don’t have any of those friends anyway!)
Tip! Cut your fabric to the width of your curtain rod, not the width of the window. I screwed this up TWICE. Luckily I had extra fabric!
Any color of fleece works equally well. For the kitchen, I chose a color that coordinated with the existing decor. I also put fleece over several windows in less-used rooms of our house, like the laundry room and a guest bedroom. For these, I just used white.
In the kitchen, I unhook the curtains during the day to allow natural light in. Since the windows face north-ish, the sunlight does not provide any additional warming this time of year, although it does allow us to leave the electric lights off. In the summer, we may reverse this practice and hang the curtains to block any heat streaming in.
There you have it! Easy, quick and affordable window insulation. Now you are empowered to cut down your own winter heating bill …. just in time for Spring!