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.