And, according to the Energy Department, you can reduce your home's heating -- and cooling -- costs as much as 30 percent through proper insulation and air-sealing techniques.
On "The Early Show", green living expert Danny Seo, a syndicated columnist for Do Just One Thing, pointed to economical -- and aesthetically-pleasing -- ways to upgrade your windows.
Any window treatment can act as an insulator, Seo notes. Obviously, some treatments are more energy-efficient than others.
He explained that a window's R-Value is a measurement of how well-insulated a window is; the higher the number, the better the insulation. A single pane window has an average R-Value of point-eight to point -- nine; a double-pane has an R-Value of one-point-five to two. Adding different types of shades, drapes, and insulating layers can dramatically increase the R-Value very easily.
IF YOU'RE BUYING REPLACEMENT WINDOWS
Be sure to buy windows that qualify for the federal income tax credit of up to $1,500. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allows for federal tax credits up to 30 percent of the total purchase price for qualifying windows, doors and skylights when used for remodeling or replacement in a taxpayer's primary U.S. residence. The rule of thumb is to look for products that are Energy Star-qualified by the Environmental Protection Agency or for new certification programs, such as EcoExcel from Anderson Windows. Windows that don't bear these marks may not qualify for the credit.
Anderson's new 100 series is an affordable replacement window that qualifies for the tax credit and will increase a home's energy efficiency up to 45 percent in winter.
STEAL: The100 series also features brand new eco-friendly components, such as 18-24 percent pre-consumer recycled glass and recycled sawdust composite used in the framing of the window.
SPLURGE: The 400 series is Anderson's architectural series and works best in homes east of the Mississippi, which traditionally are older and more architecturally unique.
SEAL YOUR EXISTING WINDOWS WITH HONEYCOMB
Cellular shades feature a unique, air-trapping, honeycomb construction that provides excellent insulation and sound absorption; the larger the air pockets in the honeycomb design, the better they perform in trapping cold air. The shades are cordless, which creates both a clean and seamless look, but also enables the shades to be opened and closed from either the top or bottom. A decent set of cellular blinds can increase a window's R-value by about three whole points, meaning a double-pane window could earn a whopping R Value of five with the right cellular shades. Smith and Noble, one of the leaders in custom window treatments, features a Grand Blockout Cellular Shade, which is made with fabric layers sandwiched around a thin, white block-out film that also keeps harmful UV light and daylight out of rooms.
TRY THERMAL ROLLER SHADES
A very inexpensive solution to gain privacy, room-darkening, and energy efficiency with your windows is to use thermal-lined roller shades. These easy-to-install shades have a special thermal backing for added insulation, which reduces drafts around the windows in winter and helps deflect harmful rays from the sun all year-round.
DECORATE WITH HEAVY DRAPES
Draperies (or curtain panels) are another option, available in countless weights, colors and styles. For conserving energy, just remember that the heavier -- and the more layers, the better. The best investment in drapes for blocking drafts and harmful light, are thermal-lined drapes. Most thermal drapes are made from heavy canvas or cotton/blend material and feature a polyurethane backing for durability and blocking. For the ultimate in energy efficiency when decorating a room, using a combination of cellular shades or thermal roller shades in combination with thermal drapes will gain the most efficiency.
ATTACH BUBBLEWRAP TO YOUR WINDOWS
Plastic bubble wrap -- yes, the same kind for shipping packages -- is often used by greenhouses to insulate windows in the winter months. You can use bubble wrap to insulate older windows or windows that are not commonly used around the house. Simply cut the bubble wrap to shape of the window, spray the glass with plain water, and attach. The sunlight can still come through the window, creating radiant heat, but the bubble wrap traps it inside to prevent leaking. The bubble wrap is said to increase a window's efficiency rating from an R-1 to an R-2, essentially changing a single-pane glass one into a double-pane one. This is the least expensive and quickest fix to insulate your windows this winter season.