Find the Best Energy-Efficient Window Treatments

Before you buy window covers for your home, take a little time to understand the complexities of energy-efficient window treatments — including the pros and cons of insulated curtains, thermal panels, cellular shades and more. And check out our DIY window treatments that’ll keep you comfortable while saving you money.

  • Energy flies right out the window when there are no insulated coverings, as this heat map reveals.
    Photo By Fotolia/thieury
  • Commercially available insulated window covers include these thermal shades from
    Photo Courtesy HeatSaver Shades
  • Hunter Douglas’s Duette Architella cellular shades are commercially available and qualify for Federal Energy Tax Credits through Dec. 31, 2013.
    Photo Courtesy Hunter Douglas
  • Bubble Wrap is a quick way to insulate a window when the view doesn't matter. Find directions for this and other DIY window coverings at
    Photo Courtesy Build It Solar/Gary Reysa
  • Interior storm windows made of clear acrylic panels are nearly invisible and maintain the view. Find directions for this and other DIY window coverings at
    Photo Courtesy Build It Solar/Gary Reysa
  • Find the best energy-efficient window treatment for your situation using this helpful chart from the U.S. Department of Energy.
    Courtesy U.S. Department of Energy

Windows have a huge impact on how our homes look, feel and function, so we want to get them right. But even the best windows have a hard time doing everything we want them to do — let in light and views, keep out the cold, etc. Happily, homeowners can make their windows perform better by choosing energy-efficient window treatments such as insulated curtains and blinds.

You can find some great solutions for how to make windows more energy-efficient — and your home more comfortable — without spending a lot of money. You can even make some insulated window coverings yourself.

Out the Window

Windows are often described as “holes in the wall” for good reason. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that windows typically account for 25 percent of annual heating and cooling costs in older houses, and can even be responsible for as much as 40 percent.

Even those of us whose homes have high-performance windows want them to work better. “It doesn’t matter whether you get the best window in the world. The first thing that anybody is going to do is change the way it works,” says Peter Yost, vice president for technical services at the publisher BuildingGreen. These changes take place with the addition of blinds, insulated shades, thermal curtains or other coverings.

So how do we make window treatments work for us, and still be efficient? To get the most out of our windows, we need them to be adjustable. Depending on the season and time of day, we may want to let in as much light, heat, fresh air and view as possible — or do our best to keep those things out — in the name of comfort, energy efficiency and privacy.

Check the Payback on New Windows

Replacement windows are easy to get excited about because they offer efficiency features that can lower your energy bills. However, many green-building professionals agree that replacement windows are usually not an effective way to spend your money. Less expensive energy-efficient window treatments — such as plastic sheeting and thermal curtains — are often better bets. “If you have decent windows now, does it pay to replace them? No. They’re not going to pay you back in energy savings,” says Ken Riead, a home-energy rater and trainer with Hathmore Technologies in Independence, Mo.

1/23/2021 10:06:48 AM

Note: UV window treatments will also block sunlight that your house plants to grow, which can also mean that you can add those plants you like that do not like direct sunlight to your home jungle. But some plants will have to be moved closer to windows or moved closer to get the right light amount needed to grow. That said a lot of houseplants that are good air purifiers prefer low light levels.

6/14/2015 2:29:40 PM

Its true, window treatment is good, but can never perform as good as low e with energy efficiency. Treatment can block UV but also block natural light. This is what our local expert says: Low e windows are designed to lower the amount of UV light that enters through a window without lowering the light type that brings brightness into your home. By reducing the solar radiation that comes through windows, not only will you improve energy efficiency, but also prevent the UV rays from damaging carpet, and furniture.

10/1/2014 12:28:57 PM

I would not use a vapor barrier (plastic sheet) with a window quilt if it was to be used as a baby sleeping bag, for obvious reasons.

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