To be comfortable, almost all homes across the various Australian climates will require cooling at some time throughout the year. But did you know that up to 30%* of unwanted heat gain (and heat loss in winter) takes place through the windows and glass doors? Therefore stopping the direct sunlight from entering your home is obviously a smarter solution than allowing it to enter the home and then cooling it down afterwards. Selecting appropriate window furnishings is a win-win, benefiting both the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and saving the homeowner money on energy bills.
 
There are many ways you can design or modify your home to achieve comfort through ‘passive cooling’ (cooling that requires no electricity), as well as hybrid approaches, which utilise mechanical cooling systems. Strategies include orientation, ventilation, windows, shading, insulation and thermal mass (thermal mass is a material's resistance to change in temperature.  Objects with high thermal mass absorb and retain heat, slowing the rate at which the sun heats a space and the rate at which a space loses heat when the sun is gone).  With respect to window furnishings, a combination of exterior and interior shades is ideal to regulate heat gain.

Exterior shading options – awnings, louvers, shutters and shades 

Exterior options such as awnings, louvers, shutters or rolling shades aid passive cooling because they block the sunlight before it enters the windows.  Awnings particularly, can significantly lower the amount of radiant energy passing through glass into a room. In fact, a study undertaken by Luxaflex® Window Fashions in Australian households showed that awnings could save up to 60%^ off cooling costs in a typical year.  The amount of cooling energy saved will vary depending on the number of windows, type of glass in the windows, window orientation and the climate the house is in, however there is no doubting that awnings can dramatically reduce the amount of cooling required in summer in all homes.
 
Retractable awnings can easily be lifted or closed, which means they help regulate the inside temperature of your home, year round.  Motorised awnings can even be doing their job when you’re not at home; you can sync awnings to a weather app to automatically lower when the day reaches a certain temperature.  The colour of your awning, as with a roof, will also impact its energy efficiency: consider light-colored fabrics as they are ideal for reflecting sunlight.

Exterior awning in translucent fabric,
blocking out some light whilst still allowing a view.

Interior window coverings 

When it comes to interior shading options, there are many to choose from: roller blinds, roman blinds, venetian blinds, shutters and curtains. Your choice will largely depend on the aesthetic you’re after, but also on the orientation of the window, level of energy efficiency you’re after and the privacy required.
 
Roller blinds are great for reducing the amount of light entering the home, keeping your room cooler.  They also help repel the harsh Australian heat; internal and external sunscreen fabrics greatly assist in reflecting UV rays, making them highly energy efficient and a source of protection for your furniture and fittings. Many of these fabrics also meet the highest standards of fire retardancy, are a 6-7 on the blue scale for colour fastness and many are Australian made.
 
Motorisation can also be added to roller blinds to allow them to operate automatically.  For example they can be programmed to rise in the morning to invite in the early light and then lowered at lunchtime to keep out the harsh rays of the midday sun.
 
Roman blinds and blockout curtains such as those displayed in Metricon’s Santorini on display in Werribee VIC, are also great interior shading options, offering full sun blockout across the window opening. The addition of a pelmet can help to regulate the interior temperature further and thus reduce cooling loss.

Roman blind in blockout fabric in the bathroom
as displayed at Metricon’s Santorini in Werribee, VIC.


Roman blind paired with a pelmet as displayed at Metricon’s Santorini in Werribee, VIC.
The pelmet acts as insulation for the blind, keeping the cool in and the heat out.

Window furnishings with louvres (blades) such as shutters and venetian blinds are an attractive shading option because their louvre adjustability not only controls heat but also the level of light entering a home. These furnishings, as displayed at Metricon's Merricks in Officer VIC, also provide privacy and security for the home.
 
Timber Venetian blinds with louvres in near-closed position - as displayed
at Metricon’s Merricks in Officer, VIC. 

 
Adequate shading for windows is beneficial to both your wallet and the environment by reducing the amount of direct heat entering your home and therefore diminishing the need for mechanical cooling. Once you have identified the functional requirements of your window furnishings, it is time to consider the aesthetic.
 
For more window furnishings information and visual inspiration, take a look at the gallery of Metricon’s national window furnishings supplier, Lovelight. Metricon's Lookbook is also full of great ideas for interior and exterior shading options to keep your home cool this summer.

*NABERS: Department of Energy, Utilities & Sustainability NSW Government - ‘Energy Saving Tips For Your Home’
^ Based on the percentage of cooling cost savings in Brisbane when a Luxaflex Evo Awning in black canvas fabric is installed in a one-storey home with a floor area of 200m2, with a floor to window ratio of 28% with the standard single pane 4mm clear glass  in an aluminium frame. The windows of the home are equally distributed north, south, east and west.