Climate seal window inserts protect house plants from drafty windows as pictured in this photo.

Winter and all its chilly and beautiful weather are in full swing. One of the most relaxing things to do can be watching and enjoying the snowy outdoor wonderland from the cozy warmth of your favorite chair by the window. However, when you have a cold draft coming from windows, that favorite chair with the best view becomes obsolete during the winter when you have drafty windows.

Whether you are in a newer build home with vinyl windows or a classic older house with single pane glass, drafty windows can be an expensive nuisance due to the energy loss as well as discomfort year-round. From weatherproofing windows to how to seal drafty windows, there are many DIY fixes to learn how to insulate windows to avoid that icy breeze inside your cozy home you’re paying to heat. 

The Why Behind Drafty Windows 

There are many reasons you may be feeling a cold draft coming from windows. The previous owners of your home may not have followed the correct steps on how to weatherproof windows or perhaps never learned how to seal old drafty windows

Wood warps over time, especially when exposed to moisture. Changes in humidity and fluctuating temperatures are bound to cause changes to the materials of your window frame. The more extreme the changes in temperature and humidity, the more stress is put on your window frame as well as the window sealant, which eventually results in drafty windows.

Just like a rubber band gets worn out over time, so does the sealant to your windows. Imagine the sealant expanding and contracting as the weather and humidity go up and down, back and forth, warmer and colder, by the day and week. That sealant gets worn out as it is used in this way and can dry out, crack, or even fall off in chunks. This damage leaves gaps between the glass and frames, giving cold winter winds a direct line to blow that cold draft coming from windows

4 Ways to Detect Drafty Windows

Is that cold breeze coming from the air vent or just shoddy outside window weatherproofing? Here are four ways to detect drafty windows.

  1. Visible SOS

These apparent signs don’t require much investigation but should be immediately addressed. If you notice your windows have condensation, fog, or frost, consider these signs a direct SOS message to fix drafty windows ASAP.

  1. Cracked, damaged, or missing weatherstripping

The second most obvious way to detect drafty windows is by checking the outside window weatherproofing and the condition of indoor weatherstripping. Cracks and other obvious damages, or outright missing weatherstripping, can be a significant contributor to drafty windows and the inefficiency of your household’s energy use. Learning how to weatherproof windows and when to hire a professional to fix drafty windows can save your household thousands of dollars, and the condition of weatherstripping is a fantastic indicator of heat loss.

  1. The Light Test

During the daylight, open your blinds and turn off the lights in the room in which you are trying to detect drafty windows. Next, examine where the windowpane meets the frame of your window. If the sealant appears cracked or the frame shows signs of warping from weather, you may see daylight peeking through that area. Use sticky notes to mark where you see these cracks as you make your way through your home. The light test also works at night if you happen to have a well-lit evening view, like a cityscape. 

  1. The Flame Test

Be careful to practice fire safety while using this method. It can be helpful to use a small flame to check for a cold draft coming from windows if they are not identified using these other methods. A candle, long lighter, or incense can be valuable tools when attempting DIY drafty window repair

Ensure your heating and cooling system, including all fans, is off. Then, slowly and methodically follow the same path as you did with the light test, checking the seal between the windowpane and window frame. Mark the areas where the flame flickers, especially where it is blown out. 

5 Fast Ways to Fix Drafty Windows

Now that you have identified the source(s) of your drafty windows, you are probably wondering what to do next. Here are some fast but temporary ways to DIY drafty window repair.

  1. Decorative Draft Prevention

One overlooked area of functional design is window treatments, an aesthetically pleasing and wallet-friendly way to handle drafty window repair from the design perspective. By strategically layering window treatments with blinds, sheer curtains, and heavy drapes, you create a beautiful and multi-functional system to help with your DIY defense against shockingly the cold draft coming from windows. 

  1. Lock Check

Are your windows locked? Sometimes the most obvious solution isn’t at our top of mind. The simplest, most effective seal to your drafty windows is your locks. You may find that by flipping the lock, you have discovered how to seal drafty windows in mere seconds. For larger windows, consider installing secondary locks to spread out the security of the window seal throughout the pane. 

  1. Expert-level DIY Weatherproofing Windows 

There are many expert-level DIYs when you search how to fix drafty windows, especially how to seal old drafty windows. The time-consuming re-glazing of loose windowpanes and adding temporary caulk to drafty windows are among the major expert level DIYs of how to weatherproof windows. These expert-level methods on how to seal old drafty windows are often used when preserving a particular, historic piece of glass or window. The re-glazing of loose panes takes patience, time, expertise and is not recommended for glasswork beginners. 

Adding temporary caulk to drafty windows can be a quick fix, but it can also result in less aesthetically pleasing windows while still allowing cold drafts to seep in. Therefore, this method isn’t highly recommended when it comes to weatherproofing windows in climates with extremely cold temperatures. 

  1. Physical barriers are the best way to fix drafty windows

Door snakes, sweeps, storm windows, weatherstripping, and plastic or window film, often called PTE, are all pretty inexpensive ways to go about weatherproofing windows

Door snakes look like stuffed, long bean bags or can resemble pool noodles. It is often your exterior doors causing the chill inside your home, not drafty windows at all. A lot of heat can escape between the little space between the floor and the bottom of the door. Another solution to this door draft spot is what’s called a door sweep. This is a smaller, less noticeable, but also an effective solution to limiting the airflow in this area.

Weatherstripping is another added barrier to add protection from the cold draft coming from windows. If you have identified cracked or damaged weatherstripping to be one of the causes of your drafty windows, consider replacing this barrier. As with sealant, the material experiences stress over time as it expands and contracts with temperature changes, and often deteriorated weatherstripping is the cause of a very cold draft coming from windows

Polyethylene terephthalate, more commonly and easily referred to as PET, is a window film that acts as a barrier and is used when weatherproofing windows in more extreme climates like the Midwest, where temperatures can fluctuate dozens of degrees in just one day. Application is time-consuming but effective. The plastic is sticky like the plastic wrap you use in the kitchen and shrinks when heat is applied for a more precise application. Removal is fairly clean and simple, but this method can usually last a whole season and helps keep cool air inside in the summer as well. 

Another barrier to consider is storm windows. Storm windows are how to seal drafty windows in a very efficient, semi-permanent solution to prevent the cold draft coming from windows

The #1 Best Way to Fix Drafty Windows 

While DIY projects can be fun endeavors that work temporarily, you wouldn’t use a few plastic baggies filled with air as a DIY life raft because they just wouldn’t work for very long. The same goes for the DIYs above. When it comes to energy efficiency, it is often best to leave things to the professionals. 

Weatherproofing windows takes time, expertise, materials, and patience. Even if you have learned everything there is to learn about drafty window repair and how to insulate windows, you may be saying to yourself, “This is a lot of work to fix my drafty windows. Is it time to replace them?”

If you have used the above draft detection methods and DIY fixes to the majority of your windows, especially for more than one season, the answer to that question is most certainly, “Yes.” Outside window weatherproofing and drafty window repair DIYs can only do so much to stop the cold draft coming from windows, nor solve the exponential energy expenses incurred of said drafty windows. 

Energy-efficient windows and learning how to seal drafty windows mean more than keeping the warm air in and the cool air out in the winter and vice versa in the summer. Using a professional when weatherproofing windows can reduce drafts in your home simply, effectively and will result in energy savings of up to 30%. 

Relaxing in your favorite chair without the cold draft coming from windows is suddenly even more enjoyable as you rest comfortably, knowing your carbon footprint has lessened and your energy costs are minimized.

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