5 Ways to Insulate Windows for Winter

A caulking gun next to a window in preparation for insulation in winter.

Homeowners looking for a quick and economical way to seal drafty windows should find this article useful. Many windows, especially those in older homes with wooden frames, can allow the cold, outside air to enter the warm confines of the interior. While these older types of windows offer a beautiful and eclectic look to your home, they are not very friendly during the winter months. The details below will provide quick and effective measures to seal drafty windows during the harsh months of winter.

1. Caulking Window Frames

Re-caulk window frames on both the interior and exterior of your home. Even the smallest crack or crevice can allow the cold to seep in or conditioned air to escape. Tightly sealed windows and door frames can help to reduce your energy use, which can decrease your monthly energy bills and save you money. It will also help to keep you warm and snug during the winter months when the temperature drops.

Pros: A cost-effective way to eliminate drafty window and door frames

Cons: Applying caulking can prove to be difficult for the inexperienced. A bad caulk job can result in an undesirable look and/or costly repairs to correct when not done properly.

Tip: Choose a high-quality latex caulk to seal your window frames, especially in painted areas. Many homeowners make the fatal mistake of using silicone, which will not hold paint.

2. Installing Rubber or Foam Weatherstripping

A roll of foam weatherstripping.

Most home improvement centers and hardware stores offer an assortment of weatherstripping materials. Most often the material is foam or rubber and incorporates a self-adhering strip for easy installation. This type of weatherstripping is especially useful in homes with old, wooden sash windows that can be quite drafty. Examine the windows thoroughly to identify large gaps where cold air can enter. Simply measure the length of the gap and cut a piece of weatherstripping to size, remove the backing tape, and press in place.

Pros: A quick and inexpensive means to seal drafty windows

Cons: Because of the adhesive, removing the weatherstripping once the temperature rises may peel or chip underlying paint, requiring a minor touch-up.

Tip: A strip of duct tape will also help to seal gaps around drafty window frames.

3. Installing Curtains

Curtains are time-tested sheets of fabric used to treat window openings. Available in many styles, colors and types of fabric, they also provide another dimension of color to your home's décor. Heavy fabric curtains also help to insulate window openings and cut down on drafts. Today, curtains are available that incorporate a thermal backing for additional insulating properties.

Pros: The many styles and colors can add to your home’s décor while insulating your windows.

Cons: Heavy curtains will block out the light and can be expensive. In addition, they require periodic cleaning by a professional.

Tips: Without a moderate skill set in home improvement, hire a contractor experienced in curtain installation for a professional result.

4. Shrink Wrapping Windows

Someone applying window film in winter for insulation.

Many home improvement centers stock various sizes of clear window film to help reduce window drafts. Often referred to as window shrink wrap, the material incorporates an adhesive strip that affixes the material to the window frame. A quick blast from a hair dryer shrinks the film tightly to the window, providing draft protection while maintaining an appealing appearance.

Pros: An easy, inexpensive, and temporary solution for drafty windows of all sizes

Cons: If not installed properly, you may be disappointed with your shrink wrapped window's appearance.

Tips: If appearance is not important to you, use a sheet of Visqueen, which is clear plastic sheeting, and a roll of duct tape to seal drafty window openings.

5. Cellular Window Treatments

Cellular window shades provide some degree of insulating properties while still allowing diffused light to filter into the room. Standard sizes are available at home improvement centers and can also be custom-fit to any window opening.

Pros: They are easy to operate and can be used in most window applications

Cons: Depending on the type you purchase, they can be expensive

Tips: Without a moderate skillset in home improvement, hire a contractor experienced in window shade installation for a professional result.