Old, drafty windows can be a killer this time of year - both in terms of comfort and cost. Cranking up the thermostat to combat escaping heat can often double or even triple your energy bills, plus it makes your heat and cooling systems go into overdrive which can shorten their lifespan.
While I am a huge fan of the latest and greatest energy efficient windows on the market, I understand that sometimes replacing that old glass isn’t in the budget. Keeping this in mind, I wanted to give you a few tips to help you retain some of the heat you’re losing from those old windows.
First, it’s important to remember that windows are one of the biggest sources of air leaks, which is a big deal in two of our four seasons. In the cold weather they let the heat escape, and in the warm weather they let it in, making your climate control systems work much harder than they have to. While the simple solutions I've outlined below will help you retain some comfort, window replacement will be your best bet long term if you’re tripling your energy bill during certain months of the year. So let’s get to the tips:
Put up curtains. Believe it or not, hanging heavy fabric drapes can help you retain up to 25% of the heat in your home. This is especially true with large glass doors that aren’t being used in the winter months. The fabric acts as a barrier and while it won’t stop the air from getting out, it will slow the leakage. Plus, they can be very helpful in the summer, especially if your house gets a lot of direct sunlight.
Seal up gaps. Wooden window frames get warped with age and can lead to serious air leakage. For cracks that are smaller than a quarter of an inch, a silicone caulk will work to plug up areas where air can flow through. For larger gaps and places that need to still open and close, weatherstripping is an excellent solution. It comes in foam, felt, vinyl and other materials and is both cost-effective and easy to install.
Add a layer. Single pane windows in homes that were built more than 50 years ago simply can’t stand up to our cold winters. If you feel air coming right through the panes and the glass rattles with the wind, beef them up with some heat shrink film. This product can be found at any home supply store and can be cut to fit just about any pane. Using heat from a hairdryer, the plastic adheres to the glass, giving you a little bit of extra protection against the cold.
Close up the attic. While not a window, people with an attic hatch are likely losing a ton of warm air through its frame. We all know that hot air rises, so seal up that hatch with heavy duty plastic, or build yourself an insulated box to fit over the entryway if you still need access to storage.
Don’t forget the doors. We don’t often open the windows in the winter, but doors are a different story. They let lots of air escape, but they can’t be sealed completely because we need to use them. I always suggest inspecting your door sweep to ensure it’s not damaged, and replace it if the bristles have come loose. A door snake or seal can also come in handy, which can be purchased at any big box store or even made at home with an old pair of tights and some rice, beans, newspaper or another filling.
Bob O'Donnell is the owner of O'Donnell Bros, Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ask the Pro”. All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O'Donnell Bros, Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.