How to stop your drafty windows from letting out heat
We've put a bounty on chilly breezes
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Most of us have experienced it. Sitting on the couch on a snowy January day, watching your favorite movie, and then you feel it. The cold air on the back of your neck from the window. Not only are drafty windows annoying and uncomfortable, but they’re costly as well. Poorly insulated windows can cost you hundreds of dollars every year in unnecessary heating costs. In fact, Energy Star says that owners can save up to 15% per year on heating costs by air sealing their homes.
Fortunately, there are many ways to fix drafty windows. Here are some of the top products and tips for reducing or eliminating those winter chills. Don’t be afraid to use more than one of these approaches—they’re better if used together.
Understand what the problem is
When you’ve got drafty windows, your first step is to take a look at your windows and try to figure out where the air is actually leaking in. It could be that the seal between the glass and the window sash is cracked, allowing cold air to seep in this way.
Another possible failure point is the window sash not fitting tightly on the window sill. And, a third possibility is that there is missing insulation around the frame of the window.
Different points of air entry may require different solutions, so making sure that you understand the problem is an important first step.
Seal your windows with plastic covering
One of the easiest and most affordable ways to eliminate drafts from leaky windows is to use a window insulator kit. For only a few dollars per window, these sheets of plastic attach to your window casing, trapping a layer of air to serve as insulation and blocking any breeze coming into your home. Most attach with included tape and can be easily removed when winter is over.
You can also opt to use heat-shrink plastic, which clings to your window casing when heat is applied.
The biggest drawback of this simple solution is aesthetics—many people find plastic window coverings ugly. They also tear easily, so you need to make sure that children or pets aren’t clawing at them throughout the season, or you’ll have to put up new ones.
Weatherstrip your windows
Another simple and affordable way to fix leaking windows is to install weather sealing tape or weatherstripping. These two methods can be a great solution for windows with cracks around the edges of the glass, or if the window sash isn’t closing all the way.
Weatherstripping is also an excellent solution for dealing with drafty doors. Like plastic sheeting, it can be a bit ugly depending on where you need the weather stripping or tape, but it does the job to fix specific problem areas.
Weather stripping is not a realistic solution if your window is simply all-around drafty, or if you have single-pane windows that just radiate cold air from the outside.
Repair the window’s seal, and maybe call in a pro
Along with replacing or adding weatherstripping, resealing your windows may make a big difference. This process is a bit more involved than some of the others, and it may be worth hiring a professional to take care of it if you don’t feel comfortable. In a nutshell, to reseal a window is to replace the insulation and gaskets around the window frame itself, as well as along the glass.
Depending on the type of windows that you have, there are different steps involved to repair the window seal. The first is to remove the window casing, and then spray expanding foam around the exterior of the window frame, sealing up any holes.
From there, either remove or scrape away the window seal gasket connecting the glass to the window sash, and then install a new gasket or run a bead of silicone caulking around the seam, between the pane and the sash. As the process is different depending on the types of windows that you have, check with your window manufacturer for the proper procedures and materials.
Protection can be pretty, too
If aesthetics are important to you, and you have more budget to spend, think about investing in some high quality curtains or window treatments.
Thermal curtains provide insulation for both temperature and sound, and they can be purchased to match your own personal design style.
Curtains also offer protection year round by keeping cold air out in the winter and the hot sun out in the summer.
If curtains aren’t your style, many companies also make insulated window treatments and blinds, which, while not as insulating as curtains, can certainly make an improvement.
Whether you choose curtains or blinds or both, make sure that you are searching specifically for products with insulating capabilities—not all are designed with insulation in mind.
Consider whether it’s time to replace your windows
All good things come to an end, and windows are no different. They wear out and need to be replaced.You’ll know it’s time when no amount of weather stripping or caulk will stop the drafts.
While replacing your windows is a costly proposal—running in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars depending on your home and the types of windows you choose—replacing your windows is a sure way to seal up those annoying drafts and conserve heat.
New windows look great, too, and they can add value to your home if a sale is on the horizon. Just make sure when you are choosing new windows that the installers address your insulation concerns. And as with any contractor job, get multiple quotes from different vendors to ensure that you’re getting both the best deal and the best product for you.
No matter what level of fix you decide to take on, there’s no reason to watch movies with a breeze on your neck or accept those higher heating costs.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.