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DIY Window Insulation – 4 Ways to Cheaply Insulate Your Windows

DIY window insulation

Upgrading to energy efficient windows is the best way to reduce heat gain and heat loss through your windows. However, sometimes investing in good energy efficient windows isn’t an option. Or maybe you have energy efficient windows but want to increase your window efficiency even more. How can you achieve that? When you raise the R-value rating of your windows through insulation methods you can reduce heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter.  These DIY window insulation options can help you find the right balance between insulating your windows and managing your costs. 

Caulking and Weatherstripping

Sealing air leaks can be cost-effective DIY window insulation. Air leaks can be a huge burden on any HVAC system, so it’s important to take care of them first.  Sealing leaks can reduce the heating and cooling costs of your home, improve the durability of your windows, increase your home’s comfort, and create a healthier indoor environment. To find the air leaks, look for daylight coming in where there should not be. Try to rattle the windows to test for any movement which means possible air leaks. Shut your window on a dollar bill, if you can pull it out you are losing energy. In order to find the less obvious leaks, you will need to hire a qualified technician. Contact us for an energy audit and we can help you.  

Caulking is used to seal small cracks or gaps between stationary building components such as the wall and window frame. Most caulk comes in disposable tubes that fit in a caulking gun. Make sure to apply a continuous bead of caulk at a measured pace. Apply caulking to joints in the window frame and joints between the frame and wall.  Reapply if necessary to fill cracks completely. Average sized windows use approximately half a cartridge of caulk to seal properly. There are many different types of caulk available and it can be a little overwhelming to know which one to use. The U.S. Department of Energy has a handy chart and helpful tips in selecting the right caulk for your job.

Weatherstripping is used to seal the moveable parts of your window. Good weatherstripping will seal well when the window is closed but still allow it to move freely. Just like caulking, there are many types available, some more efficient than others.  Consult the U.S. Department of Energy’s website for help in choosing the best weatherstripping for you. 

Felt and open-cell foams are inexpensive and easy to apply.  They are best used for low traffic areas because they are less efficient at blocking air flow and more susceptible to the weather. Vinyl is slightly more expensive and more durable. Metal weatherstripping will last for years and could add a nice touch to older homes where vinyl would look out of place.

When buying weatherstripping, measure the perimeter of your window(s) and add 5-10% for possible waste. Remember to make sure that what you are buying will fill the gaps since weatherstripping comes in varying widths. When installed properly, it should be snug against both surfaces and compress when the window is shut.

Lined Drapes

You might be surprised to hear that drapes are actually pretty good insulators. Their efficiency, however, depends on the fabric type, color, and installation. Medium colored drapes with white backing can reduce your heat gains by about 33%. Their pleats and folds lose heat through convection which will help keep your house cooler in the summer. Draperies are most efficient when hung as close to the window as possible and fall all the way to the windowsill or floor. To maximize the efficiency even further, you could install a cornice (ornamental molding just below the ceiling) and seal drapes on both sides with tape or velcro.

Insulating Window Film

Insulating window films are self-adhering, easy to install sheets of plastic. These sheets can reduce the solar heat going through your windows by up to 70%, block 95% of incoming UV light, and stop 50% of radiant heat transfer. They act as low emittance coating, and they are only effective on glass that is not already Low-E coated. Silver, mirror-like films are more effective than transparent films, but they impair window visibility. Prices can vary depending on specifications, which can include design, visibility, scratch resistance and glare reduction.

Window Shades

Window shades can be simple, effective DIY window insulation. They should be mounted as close to the glass as possible with the sides as close to the wall as possible. This seals the air space which will increase the effectiveness of your shades. If you want greater efficiency, purchase reversible shades with a highly reflective color (white) on one side and a heat absorbing color (black) on the other. With the reflective color always facing the heat source, inside for winter and outside for summer, you will maximize the efficiency of your shades.

Honeycomb, or cellular, shades have multiple layers of fabric that create layers of air pockets. These shades act in a similar manner to foam insulation by creating a barrier of air between the window and the room. In terms of effectiveness, you can find honeycomb shades with an R-value of up to 7.8 according to some manufacturers! However, they are most commonly found in the 2 to 4 range. You can take advantage of the insulation without blocking any of the incoming light if you get opaque or translucent varieties.

Which option works best for you?

You don’t have to remodel your home or make a huge investment in order to insulate your windows. For a relatively small price, you can achieve a great reduction in the heat transfer that occurs through your windows. If you’d like to learn more about the DIY insulation options available, check out our other articles, or contact us directly.





Image credit: hunterdouglas.com

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