The Miami heat can be unbearable at times, making a cool home a necessity. But running the air conditioner can drive your energy bills through the roof. Window treatments — including custom awnings for your home — can be an effective way to lower the temperature indoors and drop your cooling costs.
The key to cooling your home efficiently is blocking the sunlight that raises the temperature (called solar heat gain). It’s particularly important to block sunlight on south-facing and west-facing windows,which get the most sunlight. Sunlight actually accounts for about 20% of your air conditioner’s workload.
Awnings can block an estimated 65% of solar heat gain on south-facing windows, and 77% of solar heat gain on west-facing windows according to the U.S. Department of Energy. They also help protect your floors, carpeting, upholstery, and other possessions from UV damage and sun bleaching.
Awnings can be installed over windows and doorways, but canopies over your porch, deck, or patio can also shield your outdoor spaces from the ravages of the Miami heat, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors.
Blinds are typically placed on the inside of windows, and can block as much as 45% of solar heat gain on a sunny day. Blinds also give you the freedom to control light and ventilation in a room.
External blinds are more effective at blocking sunlight, but typically they are easier to install when building a new home. Still, they make for an interesting architectural element and they are highly effective at blocking solar heat gain.
The effectiveness of drapes depends on their material and backing, as well as color. For context, medium-colored drapes with a white plastic backing can block up to 33% of solar heat gain. For greatest effectiveness, close draperies on windows that receive direct sunlight (south- and west-facing windows in particular. For greatest effect, try to place them as flush to the window as possible, and use two rather than just one drapery.
Shades are highly effective for controlling heat gain. Mount them as close to your window as possible for maximum effectiveness. In climates that actually see cold weather, double shades, with one dark colored side and one reflective side, are ideal because the shades can be reversed as the seasons change, but in constant heat, light colored shades that reflect heat are the best option.
Shutters are convenient because they can be placed inside and out (just remember to leave space inside the room to open interior shutters). Exterior shutters deliver maximum impact and effectiveness — including storm protection. However, retrofitting is complicated and so they’re a better option for new homes.