Stay Warm and Save Money
Drafts got you down? As outside temperatures plummet, leaky windows can make the inside of your home feel downright frosty—to say nothing of costing you money as your hard-earned heating dollars fly right out the window. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, reducing drafts in a home can result in energy savings of between 5 and 30 percent per year, while also keeping your family snug and cozy.
There are many ways to cut your heating bill, ranging from installing simple weather stripping to window replacement. Ahead, we’ve assembled a list of solutions to fix drafty windows that suits budgets both large and small.
Identify the Problem Areas
To fix drafty windows, your first order of business is to identify where the drafts are coming from. If you can feel a breeze or a chill as you pass a window, you likely have some sealing to do. If your window glass is fogged or there's condensation inside the glass between the pane, it likely mean that one of your window seals is compromised, and the window is not insulating as it should. Visible damage to interior or exterior weather stripping is another indication that frigid air is getting in.
If not sure whether or which window is the source of the draft, one way to pinpoint the source is to move the flame of a lit match or candle slowly around the window frame. If the flame bends or flickers at any point, use a small Post-It to mark the spot. Once you've identified all such problem areas, come back and seal the cracks in the frame with a weather sealing tape.
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Dodge Drafts With Snakes
The bean bag sock snake is a classic solution for drafts, but you typically see it used on doors. This draft stopper from Home Intuition works with windows as well by blocking cold air creeping in through the crack between the sash and the sill.
This model is sized to fit windows at 36 inches long. With its 4-inch thick size, fleece material, and polyester fill, this draft snake is a formidable barrier against Old Man Winter. Hanging loops are a nice touch, making it easy to store the draft stopper when it's not in use.
Though they're more of a strain on the budget than other solutions, storm windows, like these Larson aluminum storm windows, are the most effective way to stop drafts. Aluminum storm windows mount to the outside of the window casing, providing an additional insulating pane of glass that prevents cold air from seeping into the home.
Adding storm windows to your existing windows costs more than most other solutions, and they are more cumbersome to install than things like weatherstripping and storm tape. The upside is that they can save you as much as 30 percent on heating and cooling costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Modern Shrinky Dinks
Most home improvement stores stock plastic shrink film insulation kits. Like other products of its kind, the 3M Indoor Window Insulator Kit includes all you need to apply insulating film over as many as five standard windows. Double-sided tape holds the film in place until the last step in the quick and easy installation process, when you use a hair dryer to shrink the film to achieve an airtight seal.
Mind the Gaps
One of the easiest DIY solutions to drafty windows and doors is to repair, replace, or add weatherstripping. Duck Brand Heavy-Duty Self Adhesive Weatherstrip Seal works well, is reasonably priced, and comes in a variety of sizes. What's more, its rubber construction provides excellent draft protection.
That said, there are many types of weatherstripping worth considering, including felt weatherstripping (sold in rolls), V-seal weatherstripping (sold in both plastic and spring-metal versions), and expanding spray foam weatherstripping (sold in aerosol cans).
Caulk Those Cracks
Window caulking serves as a first line of defense against cold air. Unfortunately, caulk degrades over time, inevitably developing small cracks and gaps that allow in cold air. For this reason it's a good idea to inspect the caulk around your window frames periodically, and checking for any signs of failure.
Inexpensive, user-friendly rope caulk is a terrific solution for repairing small cracks and gaps in window caulking, and requires only your fingers to install. Larger openings in your caulk, meanwhile, necessitate the complete removal and replacement of the original, no-longer-viable caulk. Frost King's rope cord, which was our Best Bang for the Buck pick in our tested guide to the best exterior caulks, is our go-to choice.
Seasonally swapping out your lightweight curtains for heavier, insulation-boosting window treatments can also help keep cold drafts at bay. These thermal curtains from Deconovo were a top pick in our tested guide to the best thermal curtains. We like that they use three layers of fabric to provide insulation over the window (when curtains are closed, of course), which helps cut energy bills. Bonus: Your decor gets an upgrade, too.
In a pinch? It's nothing more than a temporary solution, but if you need a fix for drafts and you need it now, consider using bubble wrap to seal the window. Bubble wrap is sold by the roll. If you have some on hand already, simply cut it to size and use double-sided tape to keep the plastic in place. Standard bubble wrap is 24 inches wide and covers 350 square feet of window. Or use this insulating, reflective wrap, which comes in 2-foot wide, 10-foot long rolls and features a foil side that reflects heat.
Paint Cracks Closed
Cracked window panes can allow cold air in and warm air out of your home, which drives up your energy bill. Replacing that cracked pane should be a priority, but here's a short-term fix to hold you until payday: Clear nail polish, such as this one from Sally Hansen, can seal cracks in glass and prevent the window from cracking further.
Pull the Shades on Drafts
Insulating curtains are one way to stop a draft, and cellular shades are another. The honeycomb design of these shades creates multiple air pockets that help to trap warm air in your home while preventing cold air from getting in. They come in multiple color options to suit different styles of decor, so they won’t detract from the room’s aesthetics. Cellular shades are most effective when the shades fit snugly inside the window casing.
Insulate with Styrofoam
While this method isn’t practical for windows in the living areas of the home, it’s a great solution for drafty basement windows. Purchase styrofoam board, such as this R-5 sheathing, and insulation from your local home improvement store. Cut both to the size of the window. Place the insulation inside the window casing followed by the styrofoam board. The board will hold the insulation in place, keeping cold air out.
Replacing your windows is an big investment, but it could very well be worth it if your old, inefficient panes are costing you hundreds of dollars or more in energy loss each year. According to Energy.gov, heat loss due to drafty windows is responsible for 25 percent or more of residential heating and cooling energy use. Replacing those windows with an Energy Star-rated model, such as American Craftsman white vinyl windows, will cut those costs. Though the upfront expense of new windows is pretty sizable, you’ll eventually make that money back on your utility bill savings.
Prices listed here are accurate as of content update on December 1, 2022.
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