One of the things I love about living in the Midwest is the fall weather, and I remember it fondly now that we’re in the middle of the long dark winter. The crisp leaves crunching under feet, the bright sun overhead, and the cooler breeze against my skin all encourage me to spend time outside. Instead of having to wear heavy winter coats, I can put on layers of cute clothes: scarves around my neck, sweaters on top of pullovers. It is a lot of fun to mix and match. But, once I’m inside, I want to be cozy. I want to curl up with a book, sip a hot cocoa, and pet my cat. I don’t want to feel the breeze on my skin anymore. Fortunately, getting rid of a drafty window is a lot like dressing for fall.
Locate the Drafty Windows
Whether you own your home or rent, locating the leak is the first step towards getting rid of a draft. In my home it was pretty easy to see that all of the windows were leaking. Curtains billowing when the heat is off, and the windows are closed, is a dead giveaway. If you’re not sure which of your windows is the cause for heat loss you can use a lit candle or a stick of incense to help you locate where you will need to get rid of a draft. Wait for a breezy day and then light the candle or incense and slowly move it around the perimeter of the closed window. Watch for the flame to flicker or the incense smoke to shift directions. When you find a spot, mark it with a post-it note or a piece of tape.
If all of your windows are leaking you may need to replace all of the windows for more energy efficient windows. The average cost is $600 per window. Whether you are renting or owning the home, this solution can be cost prohibitive, and basically not an option. Fortunately there are many solutions that can help you get rid of drafts.
Temporary Solutions to Block a Drafty Windows
There are Window Insulator Kits available at any hardware store.
They come with adhesive tape, shrinkable film, and alcohol wipes. If you have standard sized windows you can get kits that have pre-cut rectangles which can be trimmed to fit. If you have odd sized windows it is better to opt for the single sheet which can be cut to fit each window. Either kit usually contains enough materials to cover 5-6 standard windows. You can find the 3M Window Insulator Kit from Amazon for an affordable price.
Every fall, I announce to my family that *this* Saturday is Window Plastic Day. The collective sigh is deafening. But it’s better than freezing during the winter.
You will need (besides cookies for bribes) a clean, large working surface. Measure your window and cut the film per instructions (about 1-2 inches allowance around the window). Use the alcohol swab to clean any oils and dirt off of the window frame. Next, unroll the double stick tape around the frame. Finally, carefully stick the film down to the tape, pressing it all around the edge of the window frame. The directions on the kit will have you tighten the film with a blow dryer. The heat will shrink the film until it fits snuggly, creating an air pocket that will act as a layer of insulation between the window and the room.
A variation on this final step is not to shrink the plastic.
If your windows are very old, or very leaky, you may not want to shrink the plastic too tightly, or at all. In our first winter we followed the directions but after several storms where the window was howling around the house, the pressure of the wind against the tight plastic proved to be too much for the double stick tape and we started to lose what little draft protection we had achieved. The next year, we opted not to shrink the plastic all the way, and allow for some play for the wind to billow. The plastic stayed put, we still enjoyed the insulting pocket, and we were able to get rid of our drafty windows.
If you want to add a layer, you can also put a draft snake at the bottom of the window. A draft snake is easy to make. Simple sew a tube out of an old bath towel and fill it with foam beads or rice. Sew up the end and put the draft snake to work at the base of the window. This should get rid of drafts where the window meets the sill. Bonus: place a draft snake on the floor at your door to get rid of a drafty door.
You can get rid of a draft caused by a crack in your window by using clear fingernail polish to fill in the crack until the weather improves to replace the pane, or you can afford to replace the window.
Semi Permanent Solutions for Drafty Windows
Even if you choose a temporary solution like a window insulating kit to get rid of a draft, you might want to add a layer of protection in the form of v-seals, or foam seals. These products are sold in rolls and are relatively inexpensive solutions to help you get rid of drafts. They are simple and quick to install. Follow the directions on the package. Simply peel off the protective strip and press the adhesive side to the window jam (or door frame) where the window sash meets up when closed. You can find rolls of this type of insulation from Dennis at Amazon.
For the home owner, it is important, periodically, to inspect the caulking and glazing on your windows. Both caulking (on the exterior) and glazing can become dry and brittle, and will need to be replaced to get rid of drafts.
This type of solution has many added benefits. A great bi-product of sealing your windows is that you will see fewer bugs get in, especially those tiny ones that can find the slightest gap like Asian Beetles and Drain Flies. Sealing your windows can give you a great two-for-one — keeping critters out and reducing your draftiness.
Permanent Solutions to Block Drafty Windows
If you’re able to invest in storm windows, these are a great way to get rid of drafty windows. This is a more permanent solution to the problem, but some of the new options for interior storm windows are super easy to install (simply press in place) and would cut down on having to gather friends and family for the Annual Install the Window Insulation Plastic Party.
Last but not least, as with any good layered look, you will want a pop of color. That will be in the form of curtains. Insulated window treatments can vary in price from $5.00 per panel, all the way up to some unrealistic $$ amount for custom blinds. Consider curtains an accessory to the window. You can get rid of a draft without them, but every layer adds another bit of protection from the winter chill leaking into your cozy sanctuary.
Whether you opt for just one layer or several to get rid of a draft, this winter you should be able to sit back and enjoy an extra cookie or two in your cozy home.