Shutters: window of opportunity to conserve energy


December 26, 1992|By James Dulley | James Dulley,Contributing Writer

Q: It gets chilly in our living room near the windows in the evening. Are there any types of simple, inexpensive and attractive indoor shutters that we can build ourselves to block the cold?

A: Building inexpensive, yet attractive, insulating window shutters is a simple do-it-yourself weekend job. These shutters not only save energy year-round, but they also provide privacy and increased security. You will be amazed at how much warmer you will feel sitting near them.

For the best appearance with the most effective use of wall space, build a combination bookcase/window shutter. You can use inexpensive purchased or homemade shutters and build a bookcase around them.

When you open the shutters, they are hidden against the side walls of

the bookcase around the window. Extending the lower portion of the bookcase further from the wall gives you a wider window sill and more storage space.

For maximum comfort and efficiency, make sure to weatherstrip the gaps around the shutters and between the hinged shutter sections. Vinyl bulb weatherstripping is effective and easily xTC installed. It compresses when the shutters are closed, keeping out the cold air.

Solid shutter panels are the easiest to use. Much of the energy savings is gained just by blocking room air circulation against the cold window. Insulated shutters are somewhat more efficient, but they are thicker.

Mount the shutters close to the window. A narrower gap between the shutters and the window glass is better. With a narrower gap, less energy-wasting air currents circulate between the shutter and the cold glass surface.

Louvered shutters are particularly attractive, but you will sacrifice some efficiency. If you install them, position the slats so, from top to bottom, they slant from indoors to outdoors. This helps keep the colder air near the window from flowing out into your room.

If you make your own shutters, without the bookcase, an accordion-style bifold design is easiest to make. When they are opened and folded flat against your wall, they extend out from your wall only double the width of the shutter material. You can also make insulated shutters by gluing thin, rigid foam insulation between two thin wood veneers.

If you use many narrow sections (instead of a bifold), the shutters are thicker when opened, but don't extend out as far along the wall. While these shutters look nice, they aren't as energy efficient since there are more gaps between the additional sections allowing more air leakage.

Q: I had a new central air conditioner installed last summer. My neighbor told me to cover it with a vinyl cover in the winter. Does it need to be covered and what type of cover should I get?

A: There is really no reason to cover the outdoor central air conditioner unit in the winter. It is designed to withstand the weather. In fact, most corrosion occurs in the summer when it is warmer.

Your neighbor probably confused central air conditioners with window units. It is a good idea to cover a window unit because cold may leak indoors through it during cold windy weather.

Questions should be addressed to James Dulley, c/o Baltimore Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

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