We recently sampled a set of EcoSmart Shades insulated cellular shades, one of the greenest energy-saving window treatments available.
EcoSmart’s Champlain Collection Double-Cell Light-Filtering shades feature a top-down, bottom-up design for optimum flexibility and light control. We also appreciate that they are manufactured in the United States and that the company believes in paying factory workers “more than a liveable wage.”
The cellular shades seem durable and reduce winter heating bills by keeping cold temperatures out during frigid weather. Although we haven’t used them yet during the summer, we look forward to reducing unwanted heat gain during the warmer months.
Cellular shades, also known as honeycomb shades, are commonly considered the most insulating window coverings available. They have a pleated material that creates an air pocket and folds up accordion style at the top or bottom of the window. Companies commonly offer light-filtering or blackout options.
According to the Department of Energy, “In heating seasons, tightly installed cellular shades can reduce heat loss through windows by 40% or more, which equates to about 10% heating energy savings. In cooling seasons, cellular shades can reduce unwanted solar heat through windows by up to 60%, reducing the total solar gain to 20% when installed with a tight fit.”
Installing double-cell honeycomb shades is one of the simplest ways to weatherize your home. Unfortunately, not all honeycomb shades are designed to be tight fitting, reducing their energy savings, but EcoSmart shades have this feature.
What Makes EcoSmart’s Cellular Shades Sustainable
Many companies manufacture honeycomb shades, but several things set EcoSmart apart. We recently interviewed EcoSmart Shades’ president, Kelly Clements, to learn more about this unique and innovative woman-owned company.
Rigorous Third-Party Certification
Just because a product saves energy doesn’t mean it doesn’t off-gas harmful emissions. But EcoSmart Shades is one of the few shade manufacturers that is certified by both Greenguard Gold and OKEO-TEX, meeting two rigorous third-party standards for protecting indoor air quality and being free of harmful chemicals.
EcoSmart demonstrates that it is dedicated to making products that last by using durable materials and offering a long product warranty. The polyester fabric of the shades helps them withstand extensive exposure to sunlight. To clean them, they can be vacuumed, wiped, or dusted. The light-filtering shades, except for the motorized models, can also be submerged in water if necessary.
It is also increasingly rare to have products designed for reparability, but EcoSmart Shades even restrings shades if needed.
“Often, other shades end up in the landfill after just three or five years,” says Kelly. “We’re committed to building products that last, and they are designed to be repaired and restrung. We have clients that have blinds that are 20 years old or more.”
Greater Home Comfort
Although the window industry has educated homeowners on the importance of energy-efficient windows, cellular shades can also significantly boost home energy efficiency to reduce the use of fossil fuels for heating and cooling. In the winter, they add an insulative layer, keeping your home warmer. And during hot summer days, they can help block sunlight, reducing your need for air conditioning.
Effective window treatments can also boost comfort and usable space. For example, you may avoid sitting in front of the window on cold winter days due to drafts. EcoSmart cellular shades make it far more enjoyable to sit in front of our large windows because they can shade glare as needed and enhance privacy.
“Window treatments are one of the most powerful ways to invest in your home because windows and light are some of the most dramatic things that happen in a room,” explains Kelly. “One of the first things you’re going to do is look at a window because it’s the light source. But windows can also be tricky. They can make a space too bright or too cold. With one product, you can navigate all those negatives in a very simple way.”
EcoSmart cellular shades are made of bonded fabric manufactured in upstate New York. It has excellent insulative properties and is easy to clean. The pockets of the honeycomb trap air that serves as an insulator to prevent uneven temperatures in the home and slow the conduction of heat to the outside in the winter.
The company also makes shades with side tracks for a tighter fit to the window. This prevents heat conduction and improves the shades’ thermal performance, which is measured using the “R-Value” — the higher the score, the better a product insulates your home. The most energy-efficient product EcoSmart Shades manufactures is the double-cell blackout shades with side tracks, which have an R-value of 4.7. By contrast, EcoSmart’s single-cell light filtering shades without side tracks have an R-value of 1.6, which is slightly better than a single-pane window.
EcoSmart commissioned three third-party energy studies of its shades — including one by Harvard and one by Energy Balance — to establish estimated R-values for its products as well as potential cost savings from reduced energy spending. An Energy Saving Guide published in 2010 has some useful information related to home energy performance. However, the estimated cost savings might be greater now because energy costs have changed.
Family-Owned Small Business
Choosing the company you give your business to can help you live your values. Many of the leading manufacturers of energy-saving window attachments are multinational companies. EcoSmart is a woman-owned business with over 35 years in operation. In addition, it is a long-time active member of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, a nonprofit organization dedicated to leveraging “the power of business for positive social and environmental impact.”
In our experience, EcoSmart Shades offered an excellent customer service. We requested free fabric samples to help pick the best color for our home. David Hayes, EcoSmart’s eCommerce manager, assisted us in selecting the best design given our goals and window design.
The honeycomb shades arrived with brackets for use with an inside or outside mount. We easily mounted the inside brackets in a straight line a few inches above the window opening.
Our European tilt-turn windows didn’t allow for side tracks, which are available for inside mount only, but they seem easy to attach because they are “peel and stick.” The inside mount option is a bit more energy-efficient because it eliminates a gap between the shade and the window. For the greatest energy savings, we recommend using double-cell shades with side tracks and an inside mount.
Although we were generally impressed by EcoSmart, there are also ways to improve its environmental performance. For example, we would like to see a lifecycle assessment of the product’s environmental impact, which could highlight ways to reduce carbon emissions. We would also like EcoSmart to offset its emissions and use renewable energy at its facilities.
It would also be great to see EcoSmart help recycle the shades at the end of their useful life, considering they are made of polyester, which is a recyclable material.
The Bottom Line
If you are looking for ways to weatherize your home and make it more energy-efficient, installing high-quality cellular shades is an excellent option. In the winter, they help prevent heat loss through windows while also reducing glare and increasing privacy. The shades help shield the sun in the summer, keeping your home cooler.
They are one of the few home improvement options that pay for themselves with energy savings. Plus, they can help reinvent your room by enhancing the functionality of your windows. EcoSmart cellular shades are a good option if you want a washable and repairable product that is GreenGuard Gold certified.
Feature image courtesy of EcoSmart Shades