How to fix drafty windows for the winter

When I bought my first home – a farm over 100 years old – one of the biggest problems we faced was the windows. They were the original single windows of the house, and as you might suspect, they were extremely drafty, rattled in the wind and let a lot of cold air into our house.

Not only are drafty windows inconvenient, but they can also have a major impact on your heating bills in the winter. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that heat loss through windows accounts for 25 to 30 percent of homes energy use for heating, meaning repairing drafty windows can help lower your monthly energy costs. The good news, however, is that there are several ways to prevent cold air from seeping into your home, many of which are easy and affordable to implement before winter arrives.

What causes window concepts?

Draft is simply a stream of cool air that can sneak in through a window or door – if you stand in front of a closed window and feel a breeze blowing, that’s draft. You can also use a lighted candle or incense stick to find drafts. Hold it a few inches in front of the window, and if there’s a draft, the flame or smoke will flicker as the air blows over it.

There are several reasons why your windows can be drafty, the most common being age. Over time, window frames can crack or warp, and their seals can deteriorate or wear out. If your windows are 20 years old, like mine, you may experience drafts and/or heat loss. However, there are also other causes of drafty windows. Improper installation, extreme temperature changes and cheap windows can all cause air to leak into your home, increasing your energy bills in the winter.

5 Ways to Fix Drafty Windows

The good news is that you have several options for stopping drafts — and no, you don’t necessarily have to replace your windows. The solutions vary in price and installation complexity, meaning you can choose the one that best suits your budget and DIY talent.

1. Install Weather Stripping

If a draft is coming in because your window isn’t closing properly, one of the easiest ways to solve the problem is weather stripping. Foam insulating tape is inexpensive and has a self-adhesive design. When fitted along the top and bottom rails of each window, it creates a tighter seal to keep out cold air. Weatherstripping is quick and easy to install, but should be replaced every few years as the foam is likely to break down over time.

Even if you have installed draft excluders, it is important to keep your windows locked during the winter. Otherwise, the window may slowly creep open and let in cold air.

2. Use window insulation kits

Window insulation kits are another budget-friendly solution for the winter. These kits usually include double-sided tape that you place around the window frame and sill. Once the tape is in place, use it to secure clear shrink wrap over the window. You can use a hair dryer to shrink the material, eliminating wrinkles, and the plastic acts as an extra barrier to keep out cold air.

The downsides, however, are that it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing option and you’ll have to remove the window coverings in the spring if you want to open your windows again.

3. Put on thick curtains

If you only have a small draft, you can probably get away with hanging thick curtains or other window coverings to block out the breeze. The Department of Energy notes that form-fitting cellular shades can reduce heat loss through windows by 40 percent or more, but this type of window treatment can be quite pricey.

Conventional curtains can also help reduce heat loss from a warm room by up to 10 percent. There are even thermally insulated curtains with a special lining to keep out cold air – not to mention they will make your home cozier! For maximum effectiveness, hang the curtains as close to the window as possible and choose a size that hangs all the way down to touch the windowsill or floor.

4. Fill in gaps around the window

Drafts can sometimes creep in around the edges of windows, especially if they are not installed properly. If you see gaps around the edges of the window frame, press rope kit in the cracks. The product is extremely budget-friendly, and it is also easy to install and remove, making it a simple task for any DIYer.

5. Invest in Storm Windows

For old single-glazed windows, it’s worth considering replacing with double-glazed windows, which are much more energy efficient. However, if that’s not within the budget, storm windows are an effective alternative. The Ministry of Energy estimates that storm windows can save 10 to 30 percent on heating and cooling costs, and they are usually only 1/3 the price of replacement windows.

There are two types of storm windows available: indoor and outdoor. Interior storm windows are also called window inserts and are usually made of sheet glass or acrylic. The window insert is placed in the window frame to prevent drafts and is easy to install and remove every year.

Exterior storm windows, on the other hand, are essentially secondary windows that mount outside of your existing windows. They provide an extra level of protection against wind, precipitation and storms, and they also help block out drafts. However, exterior storm windows are more complex to install and they are permanent fixtures in your home.

Don’t forget your doors!

Once you’ve done all the work to improve the insulation of your windows, it’s a good idea to weatherproof your doors as well, as drafts can often get under them.

If there is a large opening at the bottom of your exterior door, a door sweeper can prevent air from getting in, while still allowing you to open and close it with ease. Door sweeps are usually screwed into the door, but if you are in a rental home, you can use a draft stopper, which can be easily removed. You can also apply weatherstripping tape along the edges of the door to create a nice, tight seal that keeps out cold air.

How do you prevent drafts at home? Let us know in the comments!

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