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Operable exterior thermal shutters


We are building a duplex in Yellowknife, Canada - climate zone 8 (design temp minus 45 - same as Fairbanks).

Our winters are long and dark so some sort of (external) insulated window shutter is a huge energy saving opportunity. Our walls are going to R50, while triple pane windows get about R4.

I'm thinking of using 2-3 inches of Roxul board sandwiched between wood. That could give up to R12.

Problem is to be able to open & close the external shutters without opening the windows. Non-thermal shutters (or shutters with very low R-values) are common in Europe & I've found some manufacturers of handles that open the shutters from the inside:




1 - does anybody import or make anything like this in North America?

2 - I imagine the French example could be adapted to use standard window opening hardware like this: Anyone ever tried this?


Asked by Andrew Robinson
Posted Tue, 06/10/2014 - 02:59


13 Answers

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Thorsten Chlupp is the King of Exterior Thermal Shutters. As far as I know, his shutters where site-built.

More information -- but probably not enough information to satisfy you -- can be found in his PowerPoint presentation here.

I'll post two of his slides below. (Click on an image to enlarge it.)


Exterior thermal shutters.jpg Exterior thermal shutters 2.jpg
Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Tue, 06/10/2014 - 08:44
Edited Tue, 06/10/2014 - 08:56.

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Funny to see the difference in design from "les francais" then the deutsch . :)

I have been tinkering with a product idea for this purpose for some time,
but lately haven't been able to focus on it to complete a possible design.

I will need a thermal shutter for a few near future projects, and as you,found out no suitable products for our cold climate.

A few points...

If your windows are recessed and have an exterior flashing box, it will be easier and more aesthetically correct to use a thicker insulation panel.

Even an R3-4 1" EPS/XPS board would make a good difference, i do not believe that going over R8 would be possible to justify.

One could use sunshades with motorization that would change position during winter from open during the day to close after midnight etc.. being used stationary as a sunshade during summer time.

Could even design it to work using insulated backed PV panels .

The german/french products you linked could be used to drive a panel that would sit between 2 bearings in the vertical axe ( or a bearing at the bottom and a bushing up top ).

Some other products use in wall or top of window roller shades.
This one is made out of insulated aluminum profile
( they happen to manufacture the alum windows i like the most out of EU )

Most motorized exterior products of quality use "somfy " motors and controls
( french brand ) and they can be easily purchased online by anyone if you dare DIY on your project.
Pretty cheap but reliable stuff.

You could then have the motor at the exterior directly driving the shutter itself
( u either install it inside the shutter or at the pivot point on the walls )
and you would only have to provide with ac or dc power
( they are wireless and can be fully programmed )

When designing this, think about snow accumulation on the border of the window !

Answered by Jin Kazama
Posted Tue, 06/10/2014 - 08:47

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MArtin : had forgotten about him ahah ..been a while last time i heard about his house.

He used hangar style ( we call it " porte de grange " locally ) hardware to hang the shutters.
If i recall correctly he closes them by hand ?

could be automated easily with the help of some cables/pulleys and the same somfy motors.

R20 !! :)

Between, using EPS/XPS boards instead of Roxul batts could give you the opportunity of gluing the thing altogether to get somewhat of a stiffening attribute
( similar phenomen to SIP panels ) where batts would not .

Answered by Jin Kazama
Posted Tue, 06/10/2014 - 08:52

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Here is a link to a FHB article on an Alaskan house where the owner made site built shutters.

Answered by Malcolm Taylor
Posted Tue, 06/10/2014 - 11:40

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Yes, that's a relevant article. It's another example from Fairbanks, Alaska.


Exterior thermal shutters 3.jpg
Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Tue, 06/10/2014 - 12:10

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R4 windows are really not very good considering your climate. In addition to the shutters, I would suggest using a much better performing window.

Answered by Jeff Stern
Posted Tue, 06/10/2014 - 13:41

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Martin: Thanks for the links to Thorsten's projects in Alaska - he is my inspiration to try and take this to the next level.

I have talked to him about this a few months ago & he had recently tried framing in interior sliding shutters - which did not air-seal well enough -with predictable results.

Hence my "return" to Europe & the time tested hinged, external shutter.


Answered by Andrew Robinson
Posted Tue, 06/10/2014 - 23:38

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Jeff Stern: I would very much like to know about windows with a rating greater than R4. Even more so if they have a solar heat gain coefficient greater than 0.5.

I wonder if we use the same method of measuring R or U -value for windows? I'm basing my estimate on Canada's HOT2000 software that calculates the effective R-value, including losses through the frame.

Can't get triple pane, argon filled, double low-e coating with insulated spacer windows to model above R-4.

Perhaps that is a discussion for another thread.


Answered by Andrew Robinson
Posted Tue, 06/10/2014 - 23:45

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Jin Kazama:

Thanks for the suggestions. In general I'm looking for something that lets in every ray of sunshine during the day but provides high insulation levels at night. Our climate does not have any overheating issues (yet).

The shutter R-value that can be "justified" naturally depends on the climate. At minus 45 you'll find your self justifying many things!

kind regards


Answered by Andrew Robinson
Posted Tue, 06/10/2014 - 23:50

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Some pleated shades claim to offer an added r3. Maybe two layers of pleated shades, running in tracks to get a bit better air seals certainly less painful than external shutters.

Answered by Jerry Liebler
Posted Wed, 06/11/2014 - 01:11

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Andrew, What i like about the example I posted above was that the shutters were considered as being more than just a way to increase the insulation at the windows, and became a prominent architectural feature. I hope you can incorporate them into your design so they act in a similar way, adding to the house's visual interest.

Answered by Malcolm Taylor
Posted Wed, 06/11/2014 - 11:41

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Andrew: I know Martin and GBA have written some fairly recent articles outlining many of the available high performing windows out there. The european imports tend to be the best performing with better glass (and most expensive), but I believe there are some very good performing fiberglass windows made in Canada. I used Zola Thermoclad Plus on my own passivhaus - roughly R-8 with .5 SHGC glass. Not only do they perform well, they are beautiful too. Good luck with your project.

Answered by Jeff Stern
Posted Wed, 06/11/2014 - 22:51

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Jerry: please ... R3 for pleated interior shade ... if very cheap, even if it performs only as R1 could be interesting as add on solution or to "diffuse" solar light during summer time maybe ?
( translucent white ones .. )

Andrew: adding insulation to the interior of a window seems easy ...until you understand that the temperature of the interior most glass will be low, lower than the interior room dew point , and will condense . So air sealing must be perfect ( too complex )

So the additional insulation on windows go outside.

If you have multiple smaller windows, it would probably be easier to buy the Deutsch louver product and make your own insulated boxes .

mr Chlupp approach is good for large windows, or multiples windows that are close together.

Most types we've discussed so far will let all the sun rays in when open .

I fully understand your POV about -45c :)
Every tiny bit counts .
We don't quite dip below -35c here, and it is already extreme.

There is always an aesthetic solution waiting to be found.
Keep diggind and thinking :)

Answered by Jin Kazama
Posted Thu, 06/12/2014 - 00:10

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