Canada's Condominium Magazine
All those windows in your condo make for a magnificent view and lifestyle. When you bought your condo, you probably valued them highly. However, some condos are more windows than walls. This can be enjoyable to many people, as the windows let in a great deal of natural light. However, others find the windows let in too much light, or they prefer fewer windows and more wall space for decorating. You can have your windows (and the view) without the penalty of heat loss and gain or reduced wall space for furniture. It just takes a little planning — and a little help from technology. Especially with pull-string blinds on the “forbidden list” — due to child fatalities in the home — Electrochromatic and quartz privacy glass may be just the answer.
The first thing to consider is child safety. Thousands of children are injured annually by those “dangling” blind cords so commonly used in Condos. Motorized blinds are more child-proof — and also easier. If you opt not to go with motorized solutions, you should consider child safe solutions, such as cord-free solutions. Fixed shutters — such as Plantation shutters — for example, are much safer than blinds with pull cords. Generally, vertical blinds are not child-safe.
A helpful video on child proof window coverings:
If your condo’s walls are literally all windows (at least on two sides if you’re a corner suite), then you may be faced with even bigger problems, such as increased air leakage and the solar (solarium) effect in the summer. With a little thought to window coverings you can reduce these issues, keep heating and cooling costs down.
If you wanted to really wow friends and neighbours you could consider using “privacy glass” for one or two of you windows. Due to cost, you may not want to use it everywhere, but it definitely carries the “wow” factor.
Imagine the impact of pushing a button, and suddenly you are completely private. Made by sandwiching low-enery liquid crystal between two panes of glass, it could also help insulate with those extra layers of glass.
Check it out:
Tinted windows can also be automated to conditions, or controlled by smartphone. Although not as dramatic as “instant” privacy glass — it takes about ten minutes to tint when you activate it — it’s an elegant solution to energy-efficient, pleasant condos that are entirely kid-safe. For an unobtrusive, elegant solution, auto tinting windows can be a good investment:
Motorized see-through blinds
Current condo-designed motorized blinds are an ideal solution. They retain the slick urban feel of your condo windows, while providing a slick and easy way to lower and raise quickly. They also come in different levels of luminosity, translucency or opaqueness. During a sunny afternoon, you can lower them to reduce glare and heat gain in the summer, while still able to see the view. Privacy is enhanced, as these blinds let condo-residents see out, without letting neighbours see in.
For example, here is one system from Condo Blinds:
Of course there are rooms — notably your TV/movie room — where you might want to also “darken the room right down” with a full tint-down.
A more traditional approach might include plush curtains — which can serve as a more solid backdrop to furniture, for example — but with light sheers for when the more opaque curtains are open.
If you are on a lower floor level, you may get lucky and have some of your windows shaded by a tree, bush, or other object. Windows that are not properly blocked from the sun’s rays will need to be shaded by some other means.
One way to do this is to install additional window tinting (most modern condos have some tint). This will keep the condo from getting too hot, which is especially helpful in the summer.
Window tint installation time lapse:
Silver, mirror-like reflective window films are also helpful in blocking heat, while storm panels reduce heat loss during winter months.
Interior storm window panels are easier to install than exterior panels, and they do not require custom fitting. This makes them ideal for units on upper floors, where installing exterior panels would prove difficult and costly. The panels should be installed before summer months and removed prior to the colder months of fall and winter. Although flexible panels are easier to install, rigid panels are more stable. Flexible panels also tend to wrinkle and sag.
Soundproof Your Windows
One major problem with having a lot of windows is that noise levels can be extremely high, especially during rush hour and other high traffic times. One method of eliminating noise levels is by replacing windows with dual-pane windows. However, a soundproof window can be installed instead at a lower cost, while reducing sound by 75 per cent or more. A soundproof window is placed behind existing windows. Furthermore, they are installed from the inside and typically allowed by homeowners’ associations, building management, and condo owners, where replacing windows altogether is typically not permitted. The soundproof windows also have the added benefit of reducing drafts.