How To Beat the Cold: Tips for Making Windows Warmer for Winter

updated Jul 15, 2020
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Keeping warm in the winter time sometimes requires extra work and some ingenuity. Thankfully, our reader community is a generous one; people regularly share helpful tips and secrets in the comments. Today, I’ve gathered just some of their great ideas on how to seal up windows and deal with drafts — so you can live as toasty (and as cheaply) at home as possible this cold season.

gudnis: If you have double hung windows, head to the hardwre store and find some FELT weatherstripping. Put a strip of it where the window meets the sill and where it laps with the window above.
Stucker: I took some cheap burlap fabric, stained it with tea, and made rice-filled thin, sealed bags to go on all of my apartment window ledges and at the bottom of my front door. This doesn’t keep the cold from the glass but in my 1920s drafty apartment it works well.
retro: I’ve also used foam drawer liners, rolled up and stuffed into crevices. The self-sticking kind might be nice to line small crevices in windows and doors.
Richele: You’d be amazing what you can do with cotton balls and some tweezers. I went around and shoved as much cotton as I couldn’t into all of the cracks where I could feel air coming in, and it’s worked amazingly (not to mention super cheap)!
strange euphoria: I grew up in Maine in an old house with original windows. Each fall we used to put rope caulking [mortite] inside all of the window cases and then along the cracks of the outside window frame…Rope caulking should be available at any hardware store—it’s essentially a thin clay rope that you can press into a crack.
macbride: My recommendation is…Seal & Peel. I’ve got a 1930 Craftsman with beautiful wood trim around my windows. But there are gaps in that trim. I had my house professionally air sealed, and the Seal & Peel application is literally invisible. You apply it, then smooth it in the gaps with your finger. Really not noticeable, so a big change with no aesthetic downside. This is just in the trim around the window, and I can still open the windows, so for me it’s a one time deal with no need to remove or redo ever.
vmorgs: Put bubble wrap and plastic over all of your windows. No, it’s not pretty but it’s the best thing I’ve found (aside from getting new windows) to control heat loss via your windows. Dampen your windows with water from a spray bottle, and then cover the glass with cut to size pieces of bubble wrap. Then, cover the entire window (frame and all) with some clear plastic and seal it with removable weather stripping.
Alana in Canada: You can get clear window insulation film and it works well. But I have had problems removing the tape, so much so, I’ve stopped using it. But I may have to use it this year on a few windows. It’s been minus 20 celcius (-4F) or thereabouts for the last week and it’s not getting any warmer soon.
fixitchick: …to get shrink wrap off in the summer, turn your hair dryer on the tape to release the glue.
industrialstrengthhairdry: As a way around this problem, I discovered I could first put down a strip of electrical tape, and then adhere the double sided tape to the electrical tape (which easy to remove and doesn’t leave residue), then I finish installing the film as directed. Works like a charm all winter, plus the electrical tape comes in various colors to suit your interior.
joylk: Forget the sticky stuff! I saved $700 in heating last winter by making interior storm windows for my plaster-framed, aluminum windows that no sticky stuff in the world will stick to. Simply buy plastic sheeting on the roll and insert instead of screening in the metal screen window strips. You’ll need the metal strips, the plastic cording to press the sheeting in, and the little roller gizmo. About $200 for nine 3-1/2 x 5′ windows. Had to use one extra strip in the middle for bracing-just stuck in. Looks nice, and if you get the plastic just right, it’s nearly invisible. Used plastic weather stripping tucked into gaps around edge to hold in place.
therapyONdisplay: Got a extremely drafty bath or bedroom window? Try using plexiglass cut to the size of your window. You can secure it by using screws in each corner drilled into the exterior wood frame work to hold it in. When the weather changes store it under your bed. Or use as a desk chair floor platform.
Hilton: What I did was go to a Walmart and buy space blankets at the sporting goods dept. Then I got a couple of packages of thin quilt batting ( W doesn’t sell them anymore, damn, they were cheap there) and finally cheap but pretty curtain material. Layered all three, material/batting/space blanket, after measuring my windows and sewed them together, hung them and damn all they worked like a charm BUT it made things a bit gloomy as they kept out all the light as well as keeping out the cold. BTW today is the first day that I broke down and turned on the heat.
eiw: Old house owner in Massachusetts here. The plastic sheets/hair dryer things aren’t that great with huge windows. I have honeycomb shades (expensive but worth it — got mine online from Symphony Shades in VT) and sewed tubes filled with kitty litter to put on the tops and bottoms of windows plus heavy drapes lined with fleece for the nights. They make a big difference — let the light in during the day and close up tight at night.
Berae: Buy thin foam padding and sew the foam material to the back of the existing curtains. If you want the curtain look from outside put a tension rod with sheers on the inside.
T&J: One thing we do for our radiators that are right under windows is put aluminum foil shiny side toward the radiator, on the wall behind the radiator and under the window. This has allowed the heat to bounce back into the room instead of escaping out. We do other things that others have mentioned as well, but this was a simple thing that has saved money and seems to work as well.
rtra: Try using a fan to circulate the air. I had an apartment with baseboard heating right below the windows. A couple of oscillating fans set on low kept the warm air directed towards the inside of the apartment instead of out the windows.
Have any of your own tips to add to the conversation?

*Re-edited from a post originally published 12.17.13 – AB