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The back of my house faces west, and during July and August, the sun hits it directly in the afternoon through evening. On a warm day, this can cause the house to heat up quite a bit, so I'm making it a project to minimize the heat. One thing I'm looking at is being able to shade the windows from the sun. My neighbor uses awnings, but I'm not a big fan of the designs I've seen. I'm also considering shutters (as I saw on all buildings during a recent trip to Italy), but I'm not sure I'll find anything that suits the house. I'm also considering some simple roll-down blinds, maybe even something that I only attach during the warmest days.

My question is what are the design considerations I need to take into account for making sure I'm coming up with a solution that minimizes heat? Is anything that blocks/reflects the sun from the window enough? Are there other things to consider?

[Postscript: I'm also using landscaping to cut down on the heat, but it's going to take a while for some of the trees to grow into effective blocks.]

Update: Just came across this article, which doesn't go into a lot of depth, but does give a good overview of several options.

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+1 for using properly placed & chosen trees to help with cooling of your house. –  Mike Perry Jul 27 '11 at 15:20
    
A prior occupant, probably in the 70's or 80's, put a large, paved patio right next to the house on that side. It's probably the largest contributor to overheating, but it's going to have to wait until next year for me to break it up and do pavers + landscaping instead, at which point I'll be able to get a small tree or two closer to the house. For now, it's trees at the edge of the patio and planters on the patio to absorb some of the sunlight. –  rsgoheen Jul 27 '11 at 20:02
    
If you live in the South, trees on the East and especially West sides of the house are far better than trees to the South. Not much I can add to the answers that you already have (solar blocks the Sun pretty well, but I wouldn't recommend it for the West side of your roof unless it's southwest), but +1 anyways for the West trees. –  Michael Jul 28 '11 at 7:23
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Down here in Texas, solar screens are the thing to have. They're simply black mesh panels that install over the outside of the entire window, and in addition to being basic bug and safety screens, they reduce the amount of sunlight coming in to the window. You can still see out very well, so unless this is a big all-glass window wall (in which case I'd use tinting film similar to car windows) it's the thing to use.

Insulating, light-blocking curtains are another way to reduce solar gain. Yes they're inside, but they still work. Only problem is that you can't see through them.

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I'm a big fan of natural light, but I am also a big fan of energy efficiency. I'll give up a bit of light to keep from overheating. In Italy (and similar climates), they give up all their mid-afternoon light, but those shutters really do keep the buildings cooler. –  rsgoheen Jul 27 '11 at 20:07
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Are Cellular Shades an option? They are supposedly quite energy efficient, because they provide an insulating layer at the windows.

There are cordless ones that can be raised/lowered easily without binding, and there are "Transofrmations" ones that can be slid from translucent to opaque. (Let in sun during the winter, or block light completely in the summer.)

http://lowes.levolor.com/products/cellular-shades/options.php

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You could also do a type slatted awning or shade, either straight out from the building, or over the windows. The idea is to (partly) shade the summer sun, but not the winter sun, but it takes some mathematics to get right. You see these on office buildings.

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awnings are great. Use them if you can. –  DA01 Jul 27 '11 at 20:35
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