Your Q&A Forum
Here’s a great place to ask your questions and have them answered — which will greatly help other cellular window shade owners and pre-owners!
We’re going to start off this forum with a timely question that came through our order lines a few days ago:
Q: Can I use a traditional shade, with side tracks, in a skylight application?
A: Unfortunately, the design of the traditional shade leaves the shade fabric vulnerable to sagging when used in a skylight application. The Balcony (Skylight) shades are specifically designed — with retainer tracks — to keep this from occurring. As well, there are three rails to the skylight system: the top rail and bottom rail are attached to the window opening with brackets, while the middle rail rides up and down to open or close the shade. The bad part of this scenario: No tax credit for “retainer tracks”; see your tax expert to learn more about the energy credit on shades with ”side tracks”.
Q: Is it okay to cut the strings/cords (of a “standard” shade) above the child-safety “equalizer” box? I simply can’t get the knots undone!
A: Oh, please don’t cut the strings! The length of the string is what tells the shade when it is fully extended (ie, all the way down). By making the cords shorter, you will be shortening the length of your shade! The only remedy then: To have the shade restrung… (which, for most people, will mean sending the shade in for repair).
Q: With CASEMENT windows, can I use side tracks and still get beyond the locks and cranks?
A: Great question! The ComforTrack side track system does have a certain tolerance for window depth: minimum inside mount depth of 1½ inch, while a flush inside mount requires at least 1 7/8 inch. But do keep in mind any obstructions, like locks and cranks — and measure your window depth accordingly. You may be happy to hear that the long-handled cranks are now a thing of the past! Take a look at T-handle options.
UPDATE, November 2011: See the Blog Post on Cranks, Depth and Side Tracks for more on this subject.
Q: The windows behind my cellular window shades are experiencing condensation. Help!
A: Condensation is the moisture that appears when water vapor hits a cold surface, like your windowpane. It is true that condensation can develop on the window behind a cellular shade. This is a testament to the fact that the shade is working! The warm air in the room is not reaching the window and it will develop condensation that may even freeze over. Occasionally wiping the moisture away and treating/sealing any wooden window frames will help prevent damage to your windows over time. Properly caulking windows will provide an added seal to your window openings. Remember that condensation happens regardless of the window treatment. Luckily light filtering cellular shades can get wet without damaging the fabric. We recommend mounting any cellular shade approximately 1-4 inches away from the window glass, so it will not be saturated with the condensation and does not rub on the window frame. If condensation is a concern for you, you can opt for the top down/bottom up feature. On particularly cold nights lowering the shade from the top down a few inches lowers the dew point behind the shade without sacrificing the energy-saving benefits. If you do not have the option of pulling the top down, lift the bottom rail slightly off the sill — this will facilitate some air movement behind the shade.
A #2: Henri de Marne, a noted specialist writing on problems “About the House” (the name of his newspaper column) addressed this “sweating” windows issue, after a new furnace was installed, with these words: “The old gas furnace … caused a constant renewal of the air in the house, carrying the excessive humidity outside through its flue. …[T]he humidity in the house, no longer being exhausted, is condensing on all cold surfaces. The solution is to reduce the relative humidity (RH) by whatever means is necessary.” He then went on to say that you would NOT want to have a humidifier in use; the homeowner should consider getting rid of “water-loving” plants; to find a way of drying clothes indoors other than air drying on a rack and to make sure the gas/electric dryer is properly vented to the exterior; and to use bathroom and kitchen exhausts (making sure they exhaust to the outside and not to the attic!); and to consider getting a couple room-sized air-to-air heat exchangers — or even a whole-house air-to-air heat exchanger.
Q: Aren’t all cellular shade fabrics the same?
A: Emphatically NO! Although cell size can vary and this affects insulating efficiency, the most important difference is in how the basic fabric is made. All cellular fabrics are created from the same principle — a non-woven array of polyester fiber, but the construction of the fabric can vary greatly. There are two ways to create this array of fiber: Bonded polyester – You can think of bonded polyester as being made from a process similar to paper. Bonded polyester is less porous, reducing air flow. Furthermore, because our fabric is bonded, particulates that would otherwise get caught in fabric remain on the surface of the shade where they can be vacuumed or dusted off. The second process, Spun lace, can be thought of as being made similar to cotton candy. Spun lace is a soft open weave; air can pass through, depositing air particulates within the web of fabric. Think of it as being like your car’s air filter. Over time, these deposits reduce the insulating value and the shade becomes “grungy” looking faster. By nature, the spun lace is more difficult to clean. If you have samples of the two fabrics you can easily differentiate by pouring coffee or soda on the fabric to see if it penetrates or runs off and, if bonded polyester, how easily the stain is removed.
Q: Do Cellular Shades have to be BLACKOUT fabric to cut the heat of the sun and insulate well?
A: If you have a window — even more critical, if you have a skylight – with nothing covering the glass, you are currently getting the full strength of the sun’s rays. This may feel nice on a cold day, but once the heat comes you would be glad of a cellular shade! Either LIGHT FILTERING or BLACKOUT fabric will help cut down the glare and the heat of the beating sun. You will notice a big difference straightaway. Is the blackout fabric more insulating: technically, yes; a cellular shade with blackout fabric has an R-value of 4.0 while the light filtering has a 2.8 R-value. But for those who do not want to block out 99% of the light also, you will be AMAZED at how much the light filtering fabric, by cutting the sun’s rays, will likewise cut the heat. Our office gets full sun during the afternoon, so things can heat up pretty quickly. A shade – of either cellular material – pulled down helps immensely.
Q: Regarding the ComforTrack side tracks, I’ve carefully reviewed the instructions and the video on installation; here’s my question: The left and right tracks are mirror images of each other and I don’t want to install the tracks backwards. The track measures, on one side, 5/8-inch from the “fin” while the other side measure 1/4-inch. Which side should face the window, the long side or the short side?
A: Short answer is, the shorter (1/4-inch) side should be towards the room. That provides more track (the 5/8-inch side) to block the air coming from the window side of the shade. Also, we “notch” the top of our tracks (so they nestle into the headrail area); these notches should, therefore, be at the top on installation — which should help you identify which is the left track and which the right. You will also notice that this way the shade is pretty flush with the track.
For visuals, see our blog page on side tracks.
Q: We noticed after ordering that your skylight shade is constructed in a way that assumes a 90-degree angle between what would be the “sill” and the window itself. (This is what is depicted in the photo on your website). Our skylight’s “sill” area is at a much greater angle (see photo).
A: Thank you for the photo; that is exceptionally helpful!
The skylight shade design — with three rails (the bottom and top rails are attached by brackets into the opening; the middle rail is what enables the shade to be “open” or “closed”) — does assume a flat surface at that top and bottom; also, the top and bottom must be parallel to each other. Creating a “sill” at the proper angle is the solution. The shade does need to be against a “flat” surface (with 90-degree angles), just as you describe.
You can view a close-up of the bottom rail on the skylight page.
Q: My windows are very long; when standing next to them, they start at ankle-height and reach over my head! I have your Standard Cord Lock shades, and two Top Down Bottom Up shades. Can I remove the tassel cord and tassel?? Right now, they drag on the floor.
A: Hi! the tassel is there for aesthetics as much as for creating a longer shade pull. We do have one person here, with very similar windows, who much prefers to function the shades by grasping the Equalizer Box (also called a Breakaway Cord Connector).
She removed the tassel completely:
Unsnap the Equalizer Box (this is a child-safety feature: it “breaks” the cord loop should a child or pet become entangled in the loop) and pull out the tassel cord; snap the Equalizer Box back together. It’s that easy!
Q: How can I clean the INSIDE of my cellular shade?
A: We’ve had calls from people who had bugs (spiders, say) trapped within the honeycomb that have withered and died. This could be tricky, depending on the width of the shade. Something quite wide might require a couple people — for theoretically, you can tilt the shade fabric and something like that might slide out. For shades that are fairly narrow a good spray from a can of compressed air might do the trick. Photography shops used to sell small cans - though don’t expect a long nozzle. Harder to recommend putting anything through the shade’s honeycomb: You do NOT want to pierce the fabric.
If any readers have a super way of cleaning the interior of the honeycombs, let us know!
Q: Which “hole” on the SKYLIGHT bracket do I use for installation — I’ve lost my instructions!
A: If you misplace the paper instructions that came with your shade, please do look at our website: We’ve posted all our installation instructions online!
To answer your question, we’ve this neat little picture which illustrates what NOT to cover with your screw:
Q: I hired someone to install my shades with side tracks. I’m not sure they installed the shades correctly: Is the shade supposed to be behind the “fin” on the side track? I still feel drafts!
A: Always encourage your handyman review the installation instructions, or even view the online video. As this photo illustrates, the shade — which has a routed channel and specially-designed endcaps — slips over the “fin” and actually rides up and down on the side tracks:
This photo also well-illustrates that the wider edge of the side track is facing the exterior; the track is well-covered by the shade, when viewed from the interior.
Q: I have a Continuous Cord Loop Shade; if it is “unequal” — one side is higher than the other side — can I simply lift the shade up and it will equal-out?
A: All of our CellularWindowShades are made to “self-equalize” — even on a Continuous Cord Loop shade, you just push up on the low side or pull down on the low side to “equalize” the level of the shade. If your shade is out of level, and it gets pulled up, sooner or later the shade will have string problems — and a possible breakage — due to one side having more string to pull up than the other side.
In short, please take a moment to equalize your shade and then pull it up.
Q: The instructions for installing a Standard Cord Lock shade say to use only ONE screw — but there are two holes! Do I use the front or the back hole?
A: This illustration, showing a fully-recessed (not shallow mounted shade) will answer your question: front hole:
next question, please!