Rolling shutters can increase window efficiency

  • Columnist James Dulley installed a Roll-A-Way shutter over a large picture window in his family room.

    Columnist James Dulley installed a Roll-A-Way shutter over a large picture window in his family room. Courtesy of James Dulley

 
 
Posted4/4/2020 7:00 AM

Q: My windows are not the most efficient but are still in decent condition. I thought about getting rolling shutters for safety, efficiency and security. What are my options?

A: Adding rolling shutters on the exterior of windows improves efficiency and offers the best security and storm protection. I installed one over a large glass window in my family room. During a severe storm last fall, the shutter protected my window from a broken tree branch and me from flying glass had it broken. I have a wood-burning fireplace in that room, so the shutter also saves energy during winter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The actual energy savings from installing rolling shutters depend upon the type of window glass you now have and the types of slat in the shutter. If your house now has double-pane windows, adding the shutters will about double the insulation value of the windows. With single-pane windows, the percentage increase in efficiency will be significantly greater.

An additional energy savings can be realized during summer because the rolling shutters also block the direct heat from the sun's rays. The shutters can be lowered to any position to allow in only as much light (and heat) as you desire. When completely lowered over the window, they block nearly all of the light.

Rolling shutters are extremely strong and secure because they operate similarly to a roll-top desk. Narrow slats roll up into a box housing above the window. The ends of each slat slide up and down vertical tracks on each side of the window, making them secure and relatively airtight when they are fully closed. The slat itself provides insulation as does the dead air space created between the shutter and the window glass. In cold climates, this also reduces indoor window condensation problems.

If you want security and privacy along with light and ventilation, slightly raise the rolling shutter. The bottom of the shutter will not rise, but the slats will separate slightly, exposing the interlocking flanges between them. Many of the shutters are designed with narrow slots in the flanges to allow some natural light and fresh air through.

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Several materials are used for the slats: roll-formed metal, plastic or extruded aluminum. All are suitable for most areas. Extruded aluminum slats are the strongest and most expensive and are often used on shutters for large windows. The roll-formed metal ones can be filled with foam insulation for higher efficiency and rigidity. Check your local building codes for required materials and strength.

My large Roll-A-Way shutter with an electric operator is mounted over a 7-by-11-foot picture window with limited space between the top of the window and the soffit. It uses a specially designed slat to roll up into a relatively small box. Some designs use compact single-wall extruded slats where space is limited. A 6-by-6-inch box housing can accommodate a compact-slat shutter up to 84 inches in vertical length.

Shutters using double-wall, foam-filled slats made of 0.43 mm gauge aluminum require a larger box above the window. These are good for energy savings year-round. On south- and west-facing windows, select optional thermal reflecting paint. This is similar to the paint used on metal roofs for efficiency. It can keep the shutter and window 10% cooler than standard paint.

An important feature to consider is how the rolling shutter is opened and closed. The various options are a pull strap, a strap crank, a crank handle or an electric motor. Keep in mind, if your shutters are inconvenient to use, you will not close them as often as you should for efficiency or security.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

For smaller shutters up to 25 pounds, a pull strap is quick and inexpensive. A strap crank is functional up to a 45-pound shutter. Large shutters and ones made from heavy gauge extruded aluminum, up to 80 pounds, are easier to operate with a hand crank or an electric motor. Electric motor operators, some with automatic rain and heat sensors, are the easiest to install, but most expensive.

The following companies offer rolling window shutters: AC Shutters, (800) 745-5261, www.acshutters.com; Roll-A-Way, (877) 220-6663, www.roll-a-way.com; Rollac Shutters, (888) 276-5522, www.rollac.com; and Wheat belt, (800) 264-5171, www.rollupshutter.com.

Q: I live in an older house. The water pressure has gradually decreased over the years. It is especially low in one bathroom. What is causing this, and what can I do to improve it?

A: Gradually decreasing water pressure is often the result of mineral deposit buildup in the water lines over many years. This is a particularly common problem in areas with very hard water. First, switch off the circuit breaker to the water heater.

Turn off the water at the main shut-off valve. Open a faucet that is far away from the main shut off valve and on a lower level so it drains the system. Open the main valve again and the water rushing through the pipes often dislodges some of the deposits. Let it run for a few minutes and then close the faucet.

• Write to James Dulley at 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit dulley.com.

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