A Homeowner’s Guide to Drafty Windows
Drafts are a notorious characteristic of poor quality windows. Drafty windows allow heat to escape in the winter and cool air to penetrate from the outside. In the summer months, it can have the opposite effect once you turn on the air conditioning.
Drafty windows can make for uncomfortable living circumstances inside so it’s important to address the problem. In certain instances, there are DIY projects or basic repairs that may address the issue. In other situations, your best bet is to consider investing in window replacements.
The homeowner’s guide will walk you through drafty windows and address the different ways you can try to fix the issue.
Common Issues with Drafty Windows
Window drafts create an assortment of issues for homeowners. In addition to contributing to uncomfortable living situations, they also become costly. When controlled air escapes your home it subsequently causes your HVAC systems to work harder.
Energy bills are notoriously higher in homes with drafty doors and windows. Since heated air escapes in the winter, and cool air in the summer some HVAC systems have to work twice as hard to keep a controlled temperature which also wears on those machines as well.
Primary Causes and Contributions to Window Drafts
What are the primary causes of window drafts? Before you can address the issue you need to find the source of the draft on the window(s). Here are some of the most frequent contributors:
There are a number of reasons why window seals break. The seal is bound to wear and tear over time. It can also be related to the outside elements that are beyond your control. When a window seal on a double or triple pane window breaks the argon gas between the glass escapes and makes the window less energy efficient.
Caulk is a really resourceful substance. It helps create an extra seal around the window from where the frame meets the structure of the building. It is a lifesaver when it comes to preventing drafts. However, it does crack and deteriorate over time so you periodically need to inspect it and replace old caulking with a fresh seal.
It’s very important that you hire a professional window installer. There are a lot of companies that offer these services. Secondly, some homeowners attempt the installation as a DIY project. It isn’t recommended. There is a lot to window installation and poor workmanship can lead to a number of issues, even with a brand new project. It includes drafty windows.
Higher Energy Bills
Does it feel like your heating and cooling bills have been astronomical of late? If you keep records have you noticed a substantial increase in energy costs over the last few years? If so, it’s a good indication that your windows are drafty. New double-pane windows or triple-paned versions can help eliminate drafts.
Old Windows Past Their Lifespan
The bottom line is all windows eventually hit their peak. Every product has its own designated lifespan and that figure is related to good maintenance and reasonable weather. There are circumstances where there’s little you can do other than replace the window(s) altogether.
In addition to the above factors, it is also important to consider the material of the window. Most older windows were made of wood, or potentially aluminum. Neither material is considered great for long-term effectiveness. Wood, for example, expands and contracts and is known to rot. It leads to drafts.
Meanwhile, most new windows are built with vinyl or fiberglass. Both materials are much better solutions long term for window drafts. The material does not rot or crack near as easy and also requires less maintenance.
Recommended Repairs for Drafty Windows
Once you locate the source of the drafts, it’s time to address the issue. In some cases, you can greatly reduce air drafts, or eliminate them with the right repairs. Some of these solutions are pretty easy to apply and DIY home improvement projects.
- V-Seal Weather Stripping: Weather stripping is a cheap, easy to apply solution to help with drafts. The plastic weather stripping goes along the sides of the sashes and helps restrict airflow. What is nice about V-Seal weather stripping is you can still open and close the window, unlike plastic window wrap.
- Plastic Window Wrap: It’s not the most attractive presentation which is why some homeowners dislike the remedy yet it is an obvious way to improve window performance nonetheless. Window shrink wraps are plastic covers that can get applied to the interior of a window to prevent drafts. The problem with window wrap is it’s not a long-term solution. Most people use it for the winter months but you have to replace it often as it eventually deteriorates.
- Rope Caulk: Rope caulk is a premium type of caulking that’s still very affordable. You can mold the soft, sticky substance to fit into bigger gaps where drafts are notorious. Most people use it during the winter months than consider taking it out once spring arrives.
- Draft Snake: A draft snake is a foam and fabric substance that can get custom cut to fit the drafty window. The tube extends across the bottom of a window to restrict airflow and usually is sold with a washable cover. After the window is closed over the seal it should help reduce drafts.
Long Term Solutions for Drafty Windows
The solutions listed above are considered cheap, relatively short term aids for window drafts. Here are some more long term ideas that cost a little more money yet could help solve the problem:
- Replace Glazing: Glazing gets loose or completely missing over years of use. The glazing putty seals the window panes and does crack from the sun and other elements. However, replacing glazing is not an easy fix. You may need to hire a handyman or professional to complete the task.
- Install Storm Windows: Some older homes have storm windows that are likely sandwiched somewhere in the basement in storage. It’s time to put these storm windows to use every winter. Storm windows help with drafts and provide a lot more insulation. Consequently, the home becomes more energy efficient.
Window Replacement Options
If any of the above solutions prove ineffective you may have exercised all your options. Window replacements are costly but sometimes your best long term option.
Instead of wasting time, money, and hassle a few times trying to maintain old windows with short term fixes, your home could use a major upgrade and you’ll definitely appreciate the long-term energy cost savings and better peace of mind.