Are curtains warmer than blinds?

As we start to approach winter, especially with the unprecedented rise in heating prices, many of us are looking for ways to improve the thermal efficiency of our homes. While you can insulate walls, this isn’t generally the main area that heat escapes - here, windows are the main culprits.


You can obviously get double, and even triple glazing, but these are often expensive solutions - so what about window coverings? Here, we explore how effective curtains can be at keeping your home warm, giving a comparison to another common window covering solution, blinds.



Thermal properties of blinds


People often go with blinds because they’re seen as the simple and functional option. While blinds can be cheaper than curtains and a little easier to manage, they also need more cleaning, have limited styling options, and are much less effective at retaining heat.


This is because blinds are often made of thin materials that are relatively ineffective when it comes to thermal insulation. Even if you cover all the surrounding gaps, a thin material will still be worse at keeping the heat in and cold out than a thicker material.


Thermal properties of curtains

While blinds are generally made from thin, hard materials such as wood, metal or plastic, curtains tend to be fabric. Fabric tends to be a better insulator due to the air pockets contained within - especially when you add multiple layers of thicker fabrics together.


If you’re looking for curtains that are especially warm, you can get ones with an insulating lining or even add such a lining to your existing curtains. Online stores such as Woodyatt Curtains have plenty of insulated options that can make a big difference to how much heat your room loses, available in a wide range of different styles.



The science


When it comes to insulation, thermal properties are often measured using something called an R-value. A single-pane glass window has an R-value of just 1 - it’s incredibly ineffective at retaining heat. That number can be increased to 2 by using double glazing, but that’s still relatively low.


A properly designed and well fitted thermally insulated curtain can raise the R-value of your window to 7. This is about as good as it’ll get while still having a window.


Curtains are cosier


While it’s important to think about the functional implications of your window coverings, you also need to consider the aesthetic impact of what you choose. While it would be warmest to simply insulate your windows with insulation boards, that would look, and feel, horrible - clearly, it’s about finding a balance.


Luckily, in addition to the practical warming effects, curtains are often also a lot cosier than blinds. The soft manner in which they drape has a very different effect on a space to the often excessive linearity of blinds, adding to the comfort of spaces such as living rooms and bedrooms.



The cost


Thermally insulated curtains aren’t that expensive. You can pick them up for under £20 a set - it’s likely that the savings you make on your heating bill, especially given the current energy crisis, could pay for that in under a year.


Not only will it save you money, but it’ll also mean you can use every part of your room, even in winter. With no window drafts of cold spots, you’ll be free to sit wherever you like.


Adding a thermal lining


If you already have curtains that you’re happy with, then you don’t necessarily need to buy new ones just to get those insulating properties - you can add a thermal lining to just about any curtains.


If you’re feeling up to the DIY task, you can give it a go yourself. If you’re not quite that confident in your sewing skills, you can always reach out to a local tailor to see if they could make the alterations for you.


There are multiple different kinds of lining fabric, and it’s important that you choose the right lining, or combination of linings. On the outside, you’ll have your decorative outer fabric; the insulating materials behind that will be a vapour barrier and a thick, insulating batting fabric. Then, on the back, you’ll have a white liner fabric, to make the curtains look nice and smart.


Make sure your curtain rail is up to the job


As insulated curtains have a lot more material in them, they’re generally a lot heavier than thinner curtains. If your old curtain rail and fittings were only just enough to deal with a thin curtain, then you’ll likely need to upgrade them to something a little beefier for your new insulated curtains.


If you’re not sure if you need to upgrade, it might be worth getting a local handy person in to have a look for you. It won’t take them long at all, and might avoid an unnecessary break at some point in the near future.



Optimising how you hang your curtains


To make sure your curtains are as effective as possible when it comes to keeping the heat in, you need to install them just right. First, you’ll want them hung quite close to the window, sealing any gaps that could lead to nasty draughts.


Second, you need to make sure that if there’s a radiator below the window, your curtain isn’t covering it. If it does, most of that heat will be trapped by the curtain, rising up behind it and passing through the window.


It’s also important that they hang at least 10 inches on either side of the window, and at least 6 inches above, to ensure that no excess heat is lost around the edges.


Conclusion


If you’re looking for a way to keep your home warm, insulated curtains can provide an effective solution. They’re available in a wide range of styles, and can reduce your heating bills this winter.

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