Windows are one of the draftiest areas in the home. And remember, leaky spots are a two-way street: not only does cold air seep in, but warm air also gets out. Don't let those dollars fly out the window while your HVAC system attempts to heat the neighborhood. Use these tips to identify and seal the drafty windows in your home.
The first step to winterizing your windows is to use your senses to find out where the leaks are. You can do this by visually searching for areas where daylight appears around the window. You can also dampen your hand and hold it near the edges of the window; the dampness will make it more sensitive to the cold air. This is the same idea behind wetting your finger and holding it up when you're outdoors to feel which way the wind is blowing.
You can also hold a candle or lighter to the window, running around the window frame and watching for flickers. If you don't have central air conditioning but do have window units, be sure to drape a heavy towel or blanket over them, because even when the vents are shut, air travels through the unit.
Once you've identified areas in need of sealing, head outside and scrape the old caulk or paint from the outside of your windows with a putty knife and then clean away all the dirt and debris using a scrub brush and warm, soapy water. Be sure to dry them thoroughly with a clean cloth.
Insert a tube of exterior-grade caulk into a caulk gun (100 percent silicone sealant or "siliconized" acrylic caulk will work). These can be found in the paint accessories aisle at any home improvement store. Slowly apply a fresh bead of caulk around the outside perimeter of the window where the frame meets the siding.
Next, it's time to move to the interior part of the windows and weatherproof the sashes, or movable parts of the window that open and close. There are many different types of weatherstripping you can use to do this, but our favorite is the tubular rubber gasket kind. When compressed by the sash, this weatherstripping conforms to the space and seals out drafts nicely. Lots of manufacturers offer peel-and-stick adhesive backing, so it's easy to apply, as well.
Window Insulation Kits
Window insulation kits are a more temporary option for effective winterizing. They consist of large sheets of shrink-wrap plastic that seal the entire window. You attached them with double-sided tape and then use a blow dryer to seal them in place. They work nicely for keeping out drafts, but you won't be able to open the window until the spring, when you remove the plastic.
These are some great ways to winterize your home and save money in the process. What are some of the ways you're cutting energy costs this winter?
Sarah Kellner is a writer at Home Depot who provides do-it-yourself energy-saving tips to homeowners. Sarah's advice on preventing drafts due to leaky windows is geared to help you save money during the cold-weather months. A wide selection of windows available at Home Depot can be found here.