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Installing an energy efficient roll shade.

A roll shade made of nonpermeable material and correctly mounted is an efficient and cost effective energy saving window treatment. Two types of installations are described in this fact sheet: an inside mount and a sealed outside mount. The inside mount is an easy installation that is very cost effective because the shade is the only expense. It is installed inside the window frame, close to the glass, with no more than 1/4" gap between the shade edge and the frame. A shade installed in this manner will be about 24-31% effective over a single glazed window (R1.38 total). This means that heat loss will be reduced by that percentage.

The sealed outside mount is somewhat more complicated and requires the use of materials that increase the cost, making this installation less cost-effective. All four edges of the shade are tightly sealed, thus increasing the effectiveness to about 45% (R1.60 total). Tracks are added to the sides and weatherstripping is added to the bottom and top. The cost of sealing the edges should be considered and the payback period figured before a final decision to seal the shade is made. An unsealed roll shade, mounted outside or over the window frame (also called the casing molding) is nearly as effective as one mounted inside. For further increased effectiveness install two shades, one mounted inside and one mounted outside the window frame. These may both be unsealed for an R value of about 1.8 or; inside unsealed and outside sealed for a total R value of 2.3.


The type of window is an important factor in choosing between an inside or outside mounting position. A casement window that opens inward or a window with protruding hardware may make an inside mount roll shade impractical. An outside mount should be used if the window is not square. This is determined by measuring both verticals, both horizontals, and both diagonals which should equal each other. A window with a deep frame should have an inside mounted shade if possible as it will be more effective. A shallow air space of less than I 1/2" is an effective insulator, but a deep air space permits air circulation and reduces effectiveness. Windows with curved, ornate casing moldings are not suited to an outside type mount. Broad, flat window frames are ideal for this type.

The shade fabric must be nonpermeable. It should also be flexible with some horizontal ridigity so that it does not curl at the edges when unrolled. Curling becomes more evident as the material ages. Any shade material to be used with side tracks should have a smooth texture to minimize friction as the shade is rolled and unrolled. Either vinyl, polyester, or polyethelene may be used. A reflective material such as Foylon (Duracote Corp.) may also be used, with the reflective side facing the glass. The reflectivity slightly increases the R-value. This reflective material should not have a plastic coating on the reflective side as this reduces the R value. It should have a vinyl backing for durability and to provide a vapor barrier.


When buying a new shade for an inside mount or when changing one from an outside mount it is necessary to choose a shade with a larger than needed tip-to-tip measurement to insure that the shade material fits tightly within the window side jambs. Be sure to compare the purchased fabric width with the needed width. Always remove the shade from the roller before cutting. The roller and the shade material can be cut to fit inside the window jambs by following these instructions:

1. To insure that the shade material is no more than 1/4 inch from the window jambs, the material and the roller should be cut separately.

2. Remove the material from the roller before cutting it.

3. The roller must be shortened at the end with the round pin.

4. Measure the distance between the window jambs. This will be the tip-to-tip length of the roller.

5. Starting at the spear end of the roller measure and mark on the roller the tip-to-tip length.

6. Remove the pin and cap. if the roller is wood, use pliers to remove the pin from the cap, then remove the cap. in cardboard rollers, the pin and cap are one assembly.

7. Subtract the length of the pin from tip to pin shoulder, (for wood roller) or the length of the pin and cap assembly (for cardboard roller) from the marked tip-to-tip length of the roller. This will determine where to cut the roller.

8. Mark this measure and cut the roller.

9. Replace the metal cap and pin.

10. Measure the width of the shade to allow no more than 1/4 inch gap between it and the window jamb. (1/2 total both sides). Usually this will result in the shade material extending to the outer edge of each metal cap, allowing only the pin and spear to extend.

11. Carefully mark the correct width on the shade and cut, using a matt knife and a straight edge.

12. Staple the shade material on the roller. Most rollers have a line for squarely attaching the material. Position the material to this line and staple. if the roller has no line, draw one to use as a guide.

13. Add a length of foam weatherstripping to bottom edge to insure a close fit. Remove the protective plastic pull if present.

14. Install the shade hardware inside the window jambs in a position to place the shade near the glass, and as close to the top as possible.

15. Insert the shade.

A higher R value and increased energy savings can be achieved by sealing the roll shade. However, this procedure requires additional materials and a substantial time investment. Simple carpentry skills and good craftsmanship are necessary and the consumer is cautioned to balance the investment against the expected energy savings. Sealing the roll shade will increase from 1.35 to about 1.6 with typical roll shade material and to as much as 2.25 with a reflective material. This yields an increased annual energy savings over the unsealed roll shade of $.16/sq. ft. of window area with typical material $.36/sq. ft. with reflective material. (*)Always balance the product cost against the anticipated energy savings.

The steps for making a sealed roll shade are: prepare roller and shade fabric, prepare bottom edge of fabric, preassembled side tracks, and install side tracks.

Materials needed are:

* 1/4" thick tempered hardboard such as Masonite. Whole or half sheet - depending on window size.

* Sandpaper

* Yellow wood glue

* V-strip weatherstripping, available from building supply or hardware stores

* Roll shade(*)

* 3/4" - 1" nails or screws

* Paint or other finishing material(*) 1980 fuel oil prices, 7000 - Heating Degree Days(*) Roll shades normally contain a spring type roller mechanism.

* For shades wider than 3'6" or longer than 4'6" a positive pull type roller mechanism (operates by pulling a cord or chain) is necessary because of the friction in the side tracks.


1. Measure distance from outer edge to outer edge of flat window casing molding, or for dorm-shell or ranch type molding from points where moldings begin to slope. This is the tip-to-tip measure for the roller. Align mounting brackets with these measuring points. Install brackets.

2. Roll shade material width should always equal the measured tip-to-tip roller length from step #1. This allows extra material necessary to turn side hem. It may mean buying a too-long roll shade and cutting it to fit.

3. Remove fabric from roller.

4. Cut roller to desired tip-to-tip length using directions on page 2, steps 3 and 5 through 9.

5. Remove wooden insert from bottom hem of shade.

6. Make 1/2" single turn hem on each side of shade material. Stitch close to fold 1/8" or less).

7. Attach hemmed shade to roller by stapling or gluing material to marked line on roller. If roller has no line, draw one to insure that material is mounted straight.

8. Install this modified roll shade on window using brackets provided. Fabric should roll toward window.

B. PREPARE BOTTOM EDGE OF FABRIC. This edge will rest against the window sill or bottom casing molding.

1. If purchased shade has bottom hem and wooden insert, remove insert and cut it to fit loosely between side tracks. (tip-to-tip roller length minus 3").

2. Replace wooden insert in bottom hem.

3. If shade does not have a bottom hem and insert, make one by gluing two 3/4" wide strips of hardboard over the lower edge of the shade. Attach a strip of foam weatherstripping to the side that will touch window sill or bottom frame.

C. PREASSEMBLE SIDE TRACKS. (Two (2) per roll shade)

1. Determine the length of tracks by measuring from the top edge of the window to the bottom edge of the casing moldings or from top edge to window sill, if present.

2. Cut hardboard into strips. For each roll shade cut two each of 1 3/8" width and 3/8" width.

3. Cut length of strips to equal the measurement in step I.

4. Sand one side of each wide strip until smooth. This will face the inside of the. track. (Some materials may be smooth when purchased.)

5. Glue narrow strip to wide strip as shown, using yellow wood glue and C-clamps. Note that the rough side of the wide strip faces out. Clean off excess glue. Let dry.

6. Sand where necessary.

7. Drill holes every 6"-8" for attachment screws. Size and type of screw or will determine size of hole. Sand holes.

8. Finish as desired. Do not paint inside surface.

9. Clean all paint and glue from inside track. This surface must be smooth.

10. Attach V-strip weatherstripping at open edge of track as shown in above illustration.


1. Align top edge of side tracks with roll shade as shown in illustration. The bottom edge of the track should touch the window sill or align with the bottom casing molding.

2. Position outer edge of side track to align with roll shade mounting brackets. This will align the edge of the shade fabric in the space between the narrow part of the track and the V-strip weatherstripping. The shade fabric should not rub against the V-strip. If it does, move side tracks inward.

3. Prepare window frame by sanding window casing molding. Surface may also be waxed to further reduce friction where tracks will be mounted.

4. Attach side tracks with screws through drilled holes. Countersink screws if desired.

5. Pull shade material down into side tracks, using spatula or putty knife if necessary.

6. Check operation of roll shade mechanism. Too much friction will prevent smooth operation. Friction may be caused by rough inside surface, shade cut too small, or wood strip in bottom hem too long.

7. Install length of V-strip weatherstripping along top so that one side rests against the roll shade material. Now the roll shade is sealed on all four edges. Small gaps or breaks in the sealed edges, if any, should be filled with V-strip, foam, or felt weatherstripping.


The procedure outlined in this fact sheet for assembling and installing the components to seal a roll shade are somewhat complicated. The careful detailing shown is necessary to achieve the desired R value. Good craftsmanship is essential and this is not a beginner's project. Commercially made products such as side tracks and sealed roller mechanisms are in use on such energy saving commercial roll down shades as Window Quilt(*) and Independence 10 and separate components for do-it-yourself assembly may soon be available from commercial sources. The hardware described in this fact sheet can also be adapted for heavier quilted fabrics though the spring type roll shade mechanism will have to be replaced with a heavier-duty pull type. With a thicker more insulating fabric and the sealed edge techniques shown here, the consumer can expect higher R values and even more energy savings.

(*) To simplify information, trade names of products have been used. No endorsement is intended, nor is criticism implied of similar products not named.
COPYRIGHT 1994 Cornell University, Cooperative Extension
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Cukierski, Gwen; Rector, Regina
Publication:Pamphlet by: Cornell University Cooperative Extension
Article Type:Pamphlet
Date:Jan 1, 1994
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