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Budget Thermal Curtains to stay warm and save money  RSS feed

 
Posts: 149
Location: Middle Georgia
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If you live in an older (drafty) house and struggle to stay warm in winter then thermal curtains maybe a fall project that really pays off. They make a big difference in the winter and also keep the house cool in the summer as they block sun/heat. Older windows let in a tremendous amount of cold air in the winter as well as heat/sun in the summer.

The curtains must be FLUSH with the window frame to create a dead air pocket between the window and the room. If the curtain isn't laying against the frame then cold outside air and drafts will simply flow through the gaps between the curtain and the frame/wall. Most thermal curtains sold in stores are for standard curtain rods that leave huge gaps along the top and side which defeats the insulating value during cold weather.

I use a piece of flat wood trim as a curtain rod so it can be nailed/screwed right into the top window frame with no gaps. The curtain is an inch or so wider than the window so it overlaps the frame.  I also use a little bit of Velcro on the bottom/sides to hold the curtain snug against the trim around the window. All of my curtains open from the bottom up, not side to side, using Velcro to hold it or little ties/loops.



You can find lots of inexpensive material at thrift stores. Be sure to use multiple layers (3 to 4 layers) for maximum insulation.  Colored flat sheets provide a lot of material for the room or street sides of the curtain. Blankets or quilted bed spreads make great insulating layers. I also usually add a Mylar blanket or sheet of plastic as an extra inside layer.

One sewing trick -- cut out all your layers and sew only the TOP of the curtain (all layers). Once the top is sewn hang it on the rod and let the sides fall down free. When the sides are hanging naturally then you pin the sides. If you try to pin the sides when the curtain is laying flat on the floor they come out all wavy once hung. I usually just pin/sew the two outside layers and let the inside layers remain free.

Photo of super cute homemade curtains but with a bad air gap due to the hooks on top:



In addition to the curtain I also apply the window film kits to the windows in the fall to stop all drafts and create the dead air pocket. The plastic helps stop most all drafts but if you put your hand against it you can feel how cold it is compared to the walls of the room.  Some people use bubble wrap or other types of plastic but for windows that you want to look out of the film kits are much better. Downside is that if you have old heavily painted window trim the tape can strip the paint off when you remove it in the spring.



If you are a prepper these also serve as black out curtains to conceal lights/activity inside the house in the event of teotwawki though a little tape around the edges may be required.

 
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Really good information.

There is a website that shows their version of this with step-by-step details for people like me that do better with those.  Kume Project
 
pollinator
Posts: 1112
Location: Green County, Kentucky
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This is timely, because I'd just been thinking that I needed to do something to our windows for the winter (our first winter in this house).  I'd already planned on getting the window film kits, and was considering curtains -- I don't like curtains, I like to have the house as open and bright as possible.  But for the winter...and I have lots of fabric that I really need to do something with.  Thanks for the reminder!

Kathleen
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Trace Oswald wrote:Really good information.

There is a website that shows their version of this with step-by-step details for people like me that do better with those.  Kume Project



Good link!

One thing to think about when selecting material is how you will clean/wash the curtains. That is one reason I only sew the two outer layers on the sides/bottom (so if the inside layer shrinks it won't be obvious).

My six large dogs constantly stick their noses under the curtains to look out which means the curtains get pretty dirty. Waterproof beige canvas layer for the street side makes it easy to sponge off dirt without having to wash the whole thing (the inside is a darker color or print to hide smudges).

A light color facing outward is important if you want to block heat in the summer. I live in Middle Georgia where it gets extremely hot 3 months of the year and most people use A/C about 6 months out of the year.  I stopped using AC entirely 2 years ago thanks in large part to thermal curtains (and window fans).

While the dogs and I are well acclimated to hot weather we freeze our buns off when the temps suddenly drop for 3 months during the winter. Last night I didn't even have a blanket over me yet woke up to find two sixty pound dogs squeezing me off my (single) bed. Sheesh guess their bed needs the fleece cover as they are already starting to get chilly.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
pollinator
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This is our first year in this climate (south-central Kentucky) and we made it through just fine with no AC!  We have a couple of box fans and a ceiling fan (and IF I can ever get an electrician out here, all four downstairs rooms will have ceiling fans in them for next year); also I didn't try to do too much physical work during the hottest part of the day.  And we drank a lot of cold tea!  But we made it!  After fifteen years in the high desert, I wasn't sure how it would be -- and I still miss the cool nights there.  But I don't miss all the smoke from forest fires....

Kathleen
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:This is our first year in this climate (south-central Kentucky) and we made it through just fine with no AC!  We have a couple of box fans and a ceiling fan (and IF I can ever get an electrician out here, all four downstairs rooms will have ceiling fans in them for next year); also I didn't try to do too much physical work during the hottest part of the day.  And we drank a lot of cold tea!  But we made it!  After fifteen years in the high desert, I wasn't sure how it would be -- and I still miss the cool nights there.  But I don't miss all the smoke from forest fires....

Kathleen



The window dual fans also work really well. I have a $20 Holmes fan (bought at wally world) and it has been going strong 2+ years (used 12 hours a day 8 months out of the year). I put them at the top of the window instead of the bottom.

Also here is a video I made on passive home cooling methods which are all but forgotten in our modern day. The Victorians knew how to keep their homes cool without power and if we learn how to block heat and use windows for maximum airflow we can mimic many of their methods.

 
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We found an entire bolt of polyester fabric insulated window shade material at jo-ann fabrics craft store.

It is 4 layer, white with a reflective mylar inner layer, poly batted insulation, is quilted and is made to decorate with whatever fabrics you would like inside or out.

We had a 75% off coupon and got it for next to nothing! About the only coupon i have ever used.

I had a chance to install insulated blinds 20 back and the poly material is desireable for wear and stain resistance.
the trick to manufactured blinds is the hems on the sides... it is patented and is a heavy stitch that makes a thick bead or cord that is used to hold the sides apart and make the blinds taut. Then a set of tracks and a heavy weight along the bottom.

The mechanism is like vertical blinds and the coolest thing is dropping and raising them its like a door on startrek shhht, shhht and looks like a hard panel!

Expensive when pre-made but worth every penny if you can afford them. You can feel the resistance to heat loss immediately.... shhht, shhht! We actually did some maintenance to a large church set of blinds, lots of them at that place. Only needed some dry lube and a couple plastic cam locks replaced out of probably 30 sets! Those were 18 or so years old and operated daily. I checked a couple years back and they are still in use!

Amazing.

Home made versions can be executed well also and rodale institute has nice plans and drawings.
 
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Location: North central Ontario
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Nice find Frank! I've lost track  of how many hard valences I have been asked to remove over the years during Reno work. The valence that encases the top of vertical curtains keeps the air from flowing behind and down. They were standard once upon a time in an era of expensive home heat, maybe they should make a comeback. I have tight fitting wood blinds myself but my windows are double pane low e . I have thought I might build storms for them this year another element ripe for a comeback... there is always room for improvement.
Cheers!
 
garden master
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Lucrecia, this is a great topic!  Thanks for starting it.

One year we lived in a draft place and a friend suggested using terry towels as curtains.  Depending on the window and size of towels this could be really easy.


I found this picture as an example:



If you used the kind of rod that is close to the wall or window and put a pocket in the side of the beach towel to run the rod through this would be real simple.


Or this one with the pocket at the top of the towels:




Or something like this:







 
Kathleen Sanderson
pollinator
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David Baillie wrote:Nice find Frank! I've lost track  of how many hard valences I have been asked to remove over the years during Reno work. The valence that encases the top of vertical curtains keeps the air from flowing behind and down. They were standard once upon a time in an era of expensive home heat, maybe they should make a comeback. I have tight fitting wood blinds myself but my windows are double pane low e . I have thought I might build storms for them this year another element ripe for a comeback... there is always room for improvement.
Cheers!



The hard valances do serve a useful purpose, but the top of the unit is a dust catcher unless you can take it all the way up to the ceiling.  If I make hard valances here (I'm considering it), I will take them all the way up -- my goal is to simplify housekeeping and make it less of a chore, rather than creating new jobs that need to be done.

Kathleen
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Anne Miller wrote:Lucrecia, this is a great topic!  Thanks for starting it.

If you used the kind of rod that is close to the wall or window and put a pocket in the side of the beach towel to run the rod through this would be real simple.





Good idea! Heavy terry cloth towels would be a good and easy solution for privacy and blocking the sun. 

Though layers of material work best for insulating against the cold, just like multiple layers of clothing or thermal underwear. It isn't the material itself that keeps you warm, its the little trapped air pockets created by the material that hold heat and insulate. As a California native I was utterly clueless regarding how to dress/stay warm, I have just learned about a lot of that stuff the last few years (out of necessity).

One bit of trivia -- if you ever use a mylar emergency blanket put it inside your jacket, or layered between blankets. Wearing it on the outside does very little but layering it between clothing magnifies its ability to insulate greatly.

I use narrow wood trim as a rod. It is inexpensive and easy to cut to size plus it nails/screw right to the window frame with no air gap. Course the curtain has to open from the bottom up, not side to side. The trim does have to be strong enough to support the weight of the curtain without sagging though as these curtains can get pretty heavy.





 
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