How to use curtains correctly for increased winter comfort

As the cold weather starts to draw in you probably find yourself checking if you are prepared for it. You may consider whether you need any more winter clothes and accessories but don’t forget to check if your home is also prepared; air leakages and poor insulation can have a major impact in your home comfort and bills during this period.

woman legs with winter stockings and boots in a bedroom with curtains
Get you and your home ready for the cold!
Besides checking the overall insulation of your home and your windows, you can also use appropriate curtains to help keep you home warm and cosy. This is a very simple method that can significantly impact your home insulation and temperature by a rate of 17% as this Cold Climate Housing Research Center study shows, but it has to be done correctly. Curtains can be additional to other insulating methods or temporary solutions when temperatures are starting to fall.

To provide better insulation, curtains have to be made of appropriate materials, have the right measurements and be adequately installed. Curtains help insulate homes because most textiles are poor conductors of heat and reduce the amount of internal heat that is lost to the outside through the window glass, which is a good conductor of heat.

Thick and closed knitted fabrics are better insulators, but condensation can occur and form small water droplets on the windows that can damage them, especially wooden framed ones. An easy way to solve this is by using appropriate insulating curtains that have layers to prevent mould. If you want to sew your own curtains, you will have to make layers using a plastic water barrier and synthetic material for the layer in contact with the window. You can read more on how to make your own thermal curtains in this article.

woman choosing fabric
Curtains made of thick and closed knitted fabrics are better insulators
Curtains also have to cover the whole window area from floor to ceiling or include a pelmet on top to prevent heat loss to the window surface and surrounding area. It is important that floor to ceiling curtains physically touch the floor, are wider than the window frame and are attached as close as possible to the window to reduce air exchange between the inside space that is warmer and the window glass surface area.

bedroom with brown curtains with pelmets
Curtains must go from floor to ceiling or include pelmets on top
Having floor-to-ceiling curtains that actually touch the floor is extremely important as this forms a barrier that blocks the stack effect. This phenomenon happens when air that is cooled by the window surface area sinks to the bottom of the curtains and enters the room, while hot air gets inside the space between the window and curtains by any upper gap. A curtain that is not installed following these directions can have the opposite effect regarding home insulation as explained in this video.

sketch on how inverse stack effect works on curtains and pelmets insulation
How to block stack effect and improve insulation provided by your curtains
There are some situations where having floor-to-ceiling curtains is not ideal such as when you have a radiator just below the window. In this case you need to make sure that the curtain is covering only the window and is not in front of the radiator otherwise any hot air provided by the radiator will be trapped in the cold air zone between the window and the curtain and will be cooled straight away. The inverse stack effect will still exist in this case since curtains are not touching the floor. To avoid this, in addition to using a pelmet, you can slide the bottom of your curtains onto the top of the windowsill. This will prevent the cold air from passing through the bottom of the curtain into the room and avoid wasting heat from your radiators.

curtains over the radiator to prevent stack effect and provide insulation
Curtains should not cover the radiator. Slide the bottom of your curtains onto the top of the windowsill to prevent stack effect
As you can see, curtains are not only a decorative item; they can provide beauty and comfort. Don’t just protect yourself with warm clothes, remember to also dress your home for the winter and make it cosier for your family while saving on bills. Start measuring your window areas and choosing some nice thermal curtains to Green It Yourself… Now!

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