First, consider a window's shape. Irregularly shaped windows, such trapezoidal windows or a curved wall of windows, present unique challenges for shading. For standard double-hung windows, which are common in all styles of houses, any type of shade can be compatible. However, for hinged windows like awnings, it’s important to consider what shades will accommodate how the windows open. Some window treatments are impractical for certain kinds of windows, like wood blinds on a curved window or manual shades on hard-to-reach windows/ Roman shades on a slanted window. However, shades can be tailored to fit unique and irregularly shaped windows, including curvilinear clerestory windows and other arched windows. Lutron’s service providers offer shades that can be customized to fit even irregular spaces.
Color and openness
Specifiers should also think about fabric performance properties such as color and openness, which play important roles in light transmission, glare reduction, and visibility. Openness is a measurement of the tightness of a fabric’s weave, which corresponds to its ability to filter in light. Solar shades can be woven precisely to let more or less light into a space. The more light comes through a fabric, the less privacy users have—and the greater the connection with the surroundings. The tighter the weave, the less light comes through, proffering greater privacy, less visibility, and more light reflected away, keeping the space cooler.
“Color has an enormous and counterintuitive impact on a shade’s general performance,” explains Goldblatt. There’s a common—and true—perception that darker fabrics mean greater heat gain. But in fact, they have lower visual light transmission (Tv), which means they reduce glare and improve connection to surroundings. A living room with a skyline view that gets intense sun during the afternoon might be a candidate for a dark shade, which would allow residents to enjoy their view without the glare or UV absorption. However, the darker the fabric, the more light will be absorbed, the hotter the fabric will get, and the less the shade will mitigate thermal buildup from the sun on the interior.
Lighter colors are advantageous in indirect light environments with less need for glare reduction. They reflect more solar radiation, preserving indoor temperatures while reducing visibility. Designers can also choose dual-sided fabrics, which have one color on the exterior and another on the interior, to meet all of their clients’ needs. “If your objective is to have both incredible light reflectivity to keep the space cool, and an incredible connection to your outdoor surroundings, ideally you'd choose a white exterior and a dark gray interior. Several fabrics in Lutron’s collection can do that, including many twills, such as Basketweave 27 and T screen.”
Light-colored fabrics reflect solar radiation to keep the interior cool in direct sunlight.
Accessibility & Automation Integrations
A study conducted by the US Department of Energy found that 75% of manual residential window coverings remain in the same position every day. Participants reported initially moving them to meet a privacy need or to reduce glare, and then rarely adjusting them. “People just do not move their shades unless they’re automated,” explains Goldblatt. Why? “I think we've all probably tried to control a Venetian blind or a mini blind with those string mechanisms, which are a pain, and also a child hazard,” he continues. But when people don’t adjust their shades, they don’t get the benefits of daylight management.
Automation allows people to create the right amount of light for any activity, synchronize with daylight cycles, anticipate needs for glare reduction and privacy, and integrate all of this into a single push-button process. Designers can talk to their clients about the ways that they use their spaces so that they understand the full benefits of automation.
The more complex the shade and the more inaccessible the window, the greater the benefit from automation. Homes with angled or skylight windows, many windows, or windows with multiple shades, can improve accessibility by incorporating automation. “There might be a solar shade, a roller, and then drapery on the outside, with layered textures and colors,” explains Goldblatt. “Every time you add another layer, you're multiplying the benefits of automation.”
Shades can be set to move on schedules, depending on the day of the week or time of year to create a seamless connection with the outdoors and make the most of daylight. For example, blackout shades in a bedroom can be set to raise 10% when a person wants to wake up. This would allow them to rise gradually without being jolted awake by the full harshness of the morning sun. Or a family may want shades up during the day to enjoy a connection with the outdoors, but down for privacy at dinner. They can also be set based on residents’ geolocation, keeping shades raised when they are home and lowered when they leave to avoid unnecessary UV damage to furniture.