The Provident household has moved! Well, if you want to get technical about it, we’re still in the process of moving, but we are now fully occupying our new house, even if some of our stuff is still occupying our old house.

Moving is both an enormous pain and a fantastic opportunity. Our move is part of our Bill-Busting Summer, and I’ll talk about the money-saving details later. I don’t have definite opinions in the rent vs. buy debate except the opinion that renting is right for us in our particular time and place, but I will say this for renting: when you decide you want to spend less on housing every month, you can make that happen in the space of a month. Try doing that if you’ve got a mortgage.

Our new house is almost a hundred years old and is high on charm. It’s not exactly vintage, because that’s not our aesthetic. We’ve got more of a classic-meets-cheap furniture look going on, paired with my only slightly out-of-control collection of family china and glassware. Sort of a Minimalist Grandma kind of thing.

Whatever it is, it fits well in our new little bungalow. We’ve got high ceilings and chair rail molding and tons of great light coming in through what may well be the original windows. They are certainly not from our modern era of window technology. They are single pane and counter-weighted and they look lovely.

They also present a pretty big thermal problem. We’ve had highs in the 90s ever since we moved, and the sun beats down on the windows and the house heats up like a charming little greenhouse. I think we’ll see a similar, but more welcome, radiant heating effect in the winter, but at night, I’m fairly certain the windows will jettison every bit of warm air out into the world.

Such charming money holes

Because it’s so hot, I had to figure something out right away, or we were going to be running the AC 24/7. I ran out to the big-box store and bought room-darkening curtains at $10 a pair–not a bad price for two curtains. They were so cheap because they’re quite small: 30×63 each. At that size, they fit inside the window frame. I hung them on tensions rods that I bought for $2.40 each. They sit inside the window frame and block most of the sunlight without turning our house into a cave. When I have more time, I’m going to add a back panel to make the curtains exactly the size of the window frame and add more insulation. In the window, the beefier, heavier, more insulated curtains will create a seal around the window, trapping a pocket of air and adding even more insulation.

Not the prettiest look, but they keep the house noticably cooler

Insulated window treatments are one of the best ways to keep your cooling and heating bills down. They’re not cheap: even my half-finished solution is running me $15 per window pair, and we still need some more attractive curtains to hang in front of the room-darkening ones. Plus, I’ll need to buy materials to beef up these curtains for the winter.

Even if you have modern double-paned windows, they will still be one of the primary spots of energy loss for your house, so you might consider adding window treatments for even more energy savings.

Tips for making your own insulating window treatments

  • The easiest and quickest way to use window treatments to insulate is to get blackout curtains. Blackout curtains will keep the sun out in the summer and help keep warm air in during the winter months. They will also make your room a lot darker, which may be a benefit or a drawback depending on your needs.
  • If you’re looking for a little more oomph from your window treatments, there are a number of options for purchase, but they are all quite expensive. Instead, consider making your own window treatments.
  • You can make almost any type of window treatment more energy efficient, but you want to remember that insulation adds bulk. You can make blackout Roman shades or roller blinds, but if you want several levels of insulating material, the shades may get too heavy or thick to open and close.
  • You can hang insulated drapes, like this one from Ikea. If you’re more interested in function than form, you can also hang quilts or wool blankets during the winter, though that approach will likely be overkill during the summer, as it will turn your house into a cave.
  • If you want to get the most out of your curtains, you should make sure they fit perfectly inside the window frame. That way, they will create a seal that traps an insulating pocket of air.
  • The Kume curtain is a DIY insulated curtain designed by some folks in Peru. You layer several different kinds of insulating material and hang the curtains inside your window frames.
  • If you’d rather do a bit less yourself, you can buy Warm Window fabric by the yard and make window treatments out of it. The Warm Company’s websites has instructions for making several different kinds of window treatments.
  • If you’re really serious about efficiency and not as picky about aesthetics, you might make reversible curtains using Insul-Bright, also made by the Warm Company, which has polyester insulation on one side and a reflective Mylar coating on the other. The ideal use of these curtains would be to reverse them with the seasons: In the summer, hang them with the reflective Mylar pointing outside to reflect the sun’s rays, and in the winter, hang them with the Mylar pointing inside to reflect the home’s heat back into the house. This only works, of course, if you’re willing to have Mylar curtains up all winter.

I’m planning on making a slightly less involved version of the Kume curtain by adding insulating layers to the back of the curtains I bought, along with trim to make them fit perfectly in the windows. I have to admit, the Insul-Bright is tempting, and I am considering quilting some onto the back of the curtains. As I’ve mentioned, the more insulating material you add, the less light will get through the curtains, so most light-loving humans will also want normal light-filtering curtains for the times when you’re not trying to control the elements. This means you’ve also got to have a mechanism to raise or draw back your insulating curtains, which is the toughest part of the whole endeavor.

Right now, the move is taking up all the extra time I have, so I won’t be making any window quilts in the immediate future, but when I do, I’ll be back with the details.

In the meantime, does anyone have any other suggestions for keeping your charming but aged windows from turning into demanding money holes?