Drafty Windows? Solutions for Every Budget

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. Obviously, the permanent solution to drafts is to replace old and leaky windows with new, energy-efficient versions. Not everyone, however, can afford the substantial cost of replacement windows, and for those who are renting a home, expensive projects simply don't make sense. But there are some quick and easy DIY fixes for drafty windows that can make a big difference in both your comfort level and your heating bills. Indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, reducing drafts in a home can result in energy savings that range between 5 and 30 percent per year, while keeping your family snug and cozy. Here are a few easy projects to help dispel those drafts.

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  1. Easy ID


    First, find the source of drafts in your home using a matchstick or candle. Slowly move the flame around the window frame. If the flame bends or flickers at any point, use a small sticky note to mark the spot so you can come back and seal it.


  2. Snake Surprise


    Make or purchase a draft snake to prevent warm air from escaping—or cold air from entering—around the sills of drafty windows and under doors. Draft snakes can be made of virtually any fabric, including old towels or socks.


  3. Storm Stoppers


    A good way to keep warm air inside is to install interior storm windows, which fit into the inside of an existing window frame. As an alternative to storm windows, Plexiglass or clear acrylic panels can be secured with screws in the corners of the window frame.


  4. Modern Shrinky Dinks


    Most home improvement stores sell plastic shrink insulation kits that can be easily installed in minutes. Apply plastic shrink film to the indoor window frame with double-sided tape, then heat the plastic with a blow dryer to shrink the film and remove wrinkles.


  5. Caulk Those Cracks!


    Window caulking is one of the first lines of defense against cold air—but it can develop cracks or gaps over the years. Seal small cracks by adding a new layer of caulk or by adding rope caulk, which can be molded into the cracks. If there are large gaps or cracks, remove the old caulk and replace it.


  6. Fantastic Plastic


    If you don’t need to open a window all winter, use bubble wrap to seal it. You can buy bubble wrap by the roll and cut it to fit your drafty windows. Use double-sided tape to keep the plastic in place.


  7. Draft-Stopping Decor


    Seasonally swap out your lightweight curtains for insulating window treatments. Opt for heavy draperies or layered curtains; honeycomb shades, which trap air between layers of fabric to provide insulation; or Roman shades.


  8. Close the Gaps


    Repair, replace, or add weatherstripping around drafty windows and doors. Choose from self-stick rubber weatherstripping, sold in rolls; felt weatherstripping, sold in sheets; V-seal weather stripping, sold in both plastic and spring-metal versions; or expandable spray foam weatherstripping, sold in aerosol cans.


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