Winter is a good time to discover air leaks around your windows and doors, but is one of the worst times to actually repair them. But don’t despair! We have a few tips to improve your windows and doors until it gets warmer and you have time to seal them properly. First spend some time discovering where each leak is. For large leaks this can be easy, but smaller leaks may be more challenging.Each time you discover a leak, note where it is. This can be a great help in the summer when you are able to make repairs, but in some cases it will help now as you block these leaks.
A particularly cold day will make leaks more obvious, but don’t wait around for it to get really cold; find the leaks that you can earlier and save yourself some money and increase your comfort! It’s a good idea to momentarily turn off any fans and your heat for a few minutes while you check for leaks. Remember to turn it back on when you’re done! To discover large leaks the hand test is your easiest tool. Simply place your hand near where you suspect there may be a possible draft and see if you feel one. Note that at the bottom of large windows or uninsulated doors it will often as if there is an air leak when in fact there is none. This is because the window or door itself is cold. Since cold air is heavier than warm air, the cold air will cascade down the inside of the door or window like an invisible waterfall. When the cold air reaches the bottom if will then flow away over the sill or across the floor.
Once you find and block major leaks you can turn to lesser leaks. The best way to find these is to make the invisible air currents visible. You can accomplish this by lighting a stick of incense and moving it to suspected leaks just as you did with the hand test. Watch the smoke stream and you should be able to spot leaks. If you don’t have incense or don’t like the smell, you can also do a similar test with a candle, only in this case you’ll need to watch the flame. This test is often less sensitive than the incense test, but it can still be effective. In both cases be careful around curtains and drapes! If you don’t have candles or incense you can use the wet finger test. You can dip your finger in water, or more effectively, simply stick it in your mouth, and then hold the finger near the suspected draft(s). The side toward the breeze/leak will feel colder as the water on that side evaporates in the breeze. Once you find the leaks you can try a few things.
Tunnel snakes: If you like to sew you can fashion a cloth tube and fill it with rice. This can be placed along the bottom of a door to block drafts under the door or along the bottom sill of a window if the sill is large enough. If you do not sew, you can accomplish the same thing by rolling up an old towel or fabric, or fill up old socks.
If you can still find some, you can still install window film. Make sure all surfaces are clean before doing this. Note that the double-stick tape may not work well in the cold, so make sure to wrap it around the outside of the window or door frame to reduce the pull on it from the weight of the plastic. When applying window film at this time of year it is NOT a good idea to use a blow dryer to make the film taut; this can pull the tape loose. If applying over a door, use a tunnel snake at the bottom to block air flow across the floor. If your double-sided tape doesn’t stick well, you can apply clear plastic packing tape (not scotch tape) around the frame OVER the tape. Don’t apply this tape over paint – it will very likely remove some when you remove the tape.
Can’t find window film? Clear plastic or even bubble wrap can work in a pinch. In this case you’ll probably need to use clear packing tape as identified in the above tip, since the double-sided tape will likely not be strong enough. Start with the double-sided tape to hold the plastic in place, then apply the packing tape.
Put up curtains or drapes. The extra layer(s) of fabric can make a big difference.
For windows that you don’t need to use, such as those in the attic, basement, or even a closet, you can buy foam board, cut it to fit snugly in the window, and push it in place.
Hopefully these tips will help you have a warmer (and less expensive) winter!
And when you’re ready to clean your windows, remember Star Brite for all your residential window cleaning.