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How Curtains Can Curb The Winter Blues

Written by Ben McConnell

Last week, New Zealanders collectively experienced the first cold snap of 2016.

T-shirt weather has now well and truly left the building and its time to hunker down; the plight to keep warm has begun. The following is a conversation with Jo Wills from Sustainability Options, I asked Jo if she could shine some light on how household curtains help to retain warmth at home during the winter months.

Sustainability Options provides free home assessments for those who wish to make their home energy efficient, healthy and sustainable.

Curtains can greatly improve your quality of life over the winter months, but knowing how and why is important.  Curtains can reduce heat loss through windows by 60% for single glazed windows, and up to 50% for double glazed windows (ECCA).

Hi Jo, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions today; what is the thriftiest DIY trick for making curtains at home more effective?

Turning a single layer curtain into a double layer curtain is the cheapest thing you can do and is really effective.  You can use an old sheet, blanket or cheap calico fabric and pin, or sew onto the pencil pleat tape (or the top hem or eyelet curtains) as an inner layer to the existing curtains.

The air that is trapped between these two layers and provides great insulation qualities.

Curtain lining to improve insulation

Should all curtains run down to the floor?

Absolutely, even if the windowsill doesn’t go down to the floor, all curtains should ideally go down to the floor to trap the cold air.

Curtains do a couple of significant things, they definitely do help to block the colder air and draughts coming through the windows from the outside (if the curtains are thick enough) but they also stop the heat loss from the room, this is a really significant point.  If heat is generated in the room the warmer air will rise, and because warm air will always look for the quickest way out and is attracted to cold air, if the top of the curtain track is left open, this is where the heat will escape to.  Then as the warmer air hits and mingles the cooler air from behind the curtains, it will cool and make it’s way out the bottom of the curtain – if it can get out (hence the need for floor length curtains).

Do pelmets work to stop this cold air circulation?

Yes, they do help to seal at the top of the curtains.  Pelmets have been a decorative feature for curtains in the past, but they have always been a functional feature.  Many people have taken pelmets off their curtains for aesthetic reasons and have lost the functional feature of stopping the air circulation from the cold air coming in from the windows circulating into the house.

Pelmets will stop the warmer air from finding its way through the top of the curtain track to the cooler air behind the curtains.  The pelmets close off the top of the track, reducing that heat loss.

You don’t need to have pelmets and you can have more discrete seals at the top of your curtains, you just need to make sure there is no gap between the curtain and the wall.

Are pencil pleat curtains the only type of curtain that you would recommend?

Yes pencil pleats are a good type of curtain for keeping your house warm.  Eyelet curtains will allow for the heat to escape down behind the curtains, which will cool and then cause a draught out the bottom.

Can you find good insulating curtains in stores?

Yes, you just need to make sure you choose a curtain with a thick outer layer and a lining to create an air gap between the layers to create insulation.

Are thermal backed curtains effective compared to double layer curtains?

‘Thermal backed’ as in the white backing adds little thermal value but does help with the thickness of the outer layer, so you still need a second layer (lining) to be an effective curtain.

Should curtains have Velcro attached to the side of the window frames?

Yes, Velcro dots are effective at keeping the cold air from the windows from coming into the home.  The better the curtains cover the windows and the frame the better insulated your home will be.

Do blinds help to insulated the windows?

Vertical blinds don’t provide insulation to the windows.  Roman blinds do work as insulators as long as they are wider than the window frame. With Velcro, the blinds on the sides can also help to create a better seal.

What should you do if your curtains have mould on them?

You can try cleaning them by hand.  If that doesn’t work, you (or your landlord) should consider replacing them as mould can be toxic.

Mould on Curtains

Do you have anything else to add?

Curtain behaviour is really important, there is a few things the owners or renters of the home can do to help make their home warmer.  Make sure you pull the curtains before sun down.  Pull them properly i.e. close all of the gaps.  Close the curtains of every room, even the spare room.  Shut doors to unused rooms and open curtains every morning, even if it is cold.

Visit the Sustainability Options website for more information on how they can help you create a warm and healthy home.



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