What is the best way to seal windows for winter

What is the best way to seal windows for winter

There’s a lot of fun to be had in winter. Building snowmen, sledding, ice skating, snowmobiling – all these wintertime activities are incredible fun.

Each of those activities has something in common, too. They are all outdoor activities. The cold weather of winter makes for enjoyable opportunities – as long as that cold weather stays outside.

All the fun is over in a flash as soon as any of that cold air enters your home. Temperatures near or below freezing – or even lower – can make simply being in your house uncomfortable. The cold makes your home’s furnace work even harder, likely leading to more maintenance needs and higher home energy bills in the mail each month.

Luckily, there are many steps you can take to keep cold air from sneaking into your home, lowering the temperature and putting pressure on your heating system. One of the best tips: seal up and winterize all windows.

How windows let cold air in during the winter months

Windows are a primary culprit of air not only finding its way into your house, but also escaping from your home when you’d rather keep it inside.

This is because of air leaks, often tiny holes or gaps somewhere in the window structure. Windows often have moving parts and other parts that connect to the building. Any of these parts can be susceptible to air leaks, but the following window parts are the most vulnerable:

  • Faulty seals due to worn caulking, sealant or outdated weatherstripping
  • The glass in the window sash, the part that supports the glass
  • Gaps around the frame or in other parts near the sash

How to identify window air gaps

While you may not be able to feel the air itself whooshing inside or outside, there are ways to tell if an air leak is allowing air to move through some part of the window.

Symptoms that point out the fact there could be an air gap in one of the windows in your home include:

  • A rattling sound from windows, which could be easier to notice in windy conditions
  • Gaps that you can actually see around the window trim
  • Pests coming into your house through the window or a buildup of dust appearing only around gaps or holes in the window
  • Odors entering the house
  • Peeling paint around the frame

Think you have air entering the home?

Once you notice any of these symptoms or signs, it’s time to confirm whether in fact there is an air leak before determining what the best fix or solution may be for the problem.

Energystar.com has a couple of DIY recommendations for how to find the location of an air leak in a window.

  1. The paper test: Find a piece of paper. Open the window and then close it on the paper. If you can then move the paper easily, even when the window is closed, then that could be a source of a suspected air leak.
  2. Take a stick of incense and hold it in your hand next to the seams or the sash of the window. If you see the smoke move in one direction over any other, then there is likely a leak.
  3. No incense stick? You’re probably not alone. You can use the same method with anything that makes or puts off enough steam.
  4. Finally, hire a professional. There are certain tools the pros have that can definitively tell you whether or not there is a leak coming from the window.

The best ways to seal windows during the winter

More often than not, there is absolutely no reason to panic if you do find an air leak in one or multiple windows in your home.

Luckily, there are several DIY methods you can use to seal up leaks, keep heat inside, help your furnace work more efficiently and lower utility bills. These methods often involve a trip to a home improvement or hardware store, but none of the items you need to purchase are too costly. They’re small expenses now that could save you a lot of money later.

Cover the window with plastic wrap

A common method of winterizing a window that’s letting in too much cold air is covering the window by installing plastic wrap that shrinks and fits tightly over the window. This seals the window off and prevents cold air from entering your home.

You can find window kits with this plastic wrapping in home and hardware stores, plus many larger chain stores. After buying the kit, you will only need scissors or utility knife, a hair dryer and possibly a ladder or step stool.

Simply follow the instructions that come with these kits. The difference should be readily noticeable.

Apply caulk or weatherstripping around gaps and leaks

Another solution isi to apply caulk or weatherstripping around the outside or inside of the window. Be sure that you purchase products that are rated for your needed location. Caulk typically is applied around frames and between other non-movable parts.

You will need to remove old caulk or weatherstripping, as well as clean the area the old material was removed from, before applying or installing the new material.

Use window treatments to retain heat

One other lower-cost solution is to find blinds, curtains or shades that have better energy ratings and are capable of keeping heat inside your home.

When you find the right window treatment, simply install and keep them closed to cover the problematic window. Of course, this may not be the proper solution for significant air leaks.

Time to replace?

If all else fails, it may be time to replace the window with one that is more energy efficient.

There are many different styles of windows to choose from, but be sure to check the energy performance of each style that interests you. The better performance, the better for your home’s heating and cooling system.

Better windows, better home heating

When windows keep cold air out of your home in the winter, your heating and cooling system performs at a much higher level.

In the end, this means a longer life for furnaces, air conditioners and other HVAC equipment that keep you comfortable no matter the time of year.

Want more home heating and cooling tips? Check out our blog.

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