Closing the Veil: Curtains and Energy Use

Fridge InteriorRemember all that snow a week and a half ago? It was such a beautiful occurrence in Philadelphia that I kept my curtains opened so I could gaze out at the winter landscape while I worked. Part-way through the day, I realized that the study was much chillier than usual. I literally paid for my beautiful view because heat was escaping through our windows. Curtains reduce energy usage, regardless of the season.

In the summer, I keep the curtains closed to block out the sun. I’ve lived without central air most of my life and usually could keep my apartments substantially cooler by closing the curtains during the day and opening them at night. I kept the windows open day and night (do not do this if it risks your personal security and safety).

In the winter, curtains create one more barrier between your house and the cold outdoors. They hold heat while blocking drafts. Currently we have thick, long faux velvet curtains in our bedroom. The temperature difference between our bedroom and the rest of the house is remarkable. The room does face southeast but within minutes of opening the door, the temperature drops as heat leaves the room. Closing the door increases the temperature.

Finally we have created one new use for “curtains” in the last few weeks. We own a French-door type refrigerator. Each time we open the door to get milk or condiments, cool air rushes out of the gaping French doors, even if we only opened one. Worse is the design flaw: the cold water dispenser is inside the refrigerator, which requires standing with the door open while pushing a button to fill the glass. The picture below shows our solution: plastic sheets taped to the top of the refrigerator to create the type of curtain that walk-in freezers sport. Our curtain is not cut into multiple strips but we are able to access items from the center cut or the sides. We immediately knew the curtains worked: the milk was cold enough but not as cold as the items on the other side of the curtain.

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