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Winterizing Your Windows in Minnesota

Does Insulating Windows With Plastic Work?

There are things we do to stay warm in the winter that are proven to keep the heat in our homes, like
sealing up air leaks
, changing your furnace filter, and programming your thermostat. But there is one winterizing task that has many people questioning if it really works, or if it’s just an oldwives’ tale – insulating windows with plastic. So the question is, when it comes to our widows, “To plastic, or not to plastic?” Winterizing Your Windows

How Effective is Plastic Window Insulation?

First we need to look at how plastic window insulation works. You can find the plastic film kits at your local hardware store or online. Some are designed to go on the interior of the home, while others are made to install on the exterior. Most kits come with the plastic covering (fit-to-size or trim-to-size), and double-stick tape that you use around your window frame to keep the plastic in place. The type of kit (inside vs. outside) will be labeled on the box and usually is dependent on the type of tape and plastic included. For example, outside kits have tape and plastic that can hold up during the coldest and wettest conditions. Many people remember the days when you needed a hair dryer to help shrink the film tightly on the window. Now, though, most kits are made of plastic that can be stretched to remove wrinkles, saving you installation time.

Similar to how a double-pane window works, the plastic acts as a barrier, reducing the air exchange between your house and the outside world. The Department of Energy's window tips suggest using heavy-duty, clear plastic sheets will help reduce drafts. By sealing and insulating windows for winter, a homeowner could save between 10 and 25 percent on heating and cooling costs, depending on the type of window. With most kits costing around $2.50 per window, that adds up as a cost-effective way to stop drafts and retain the heat coming from your furnace. 

More Efficient Insulation Solutions

Although it may be true that plastic is cost-effective in the short term, there are additional, and perhaps more effective ways, to air-seal your windows and reduce drafts in your home. This list from the Department of Energy suggests that homeowners should:

  • Caulk and weather strip windows and doors that leak. 
  • Cover single-pane windows with storm windows. 
  • Replace old windows with more efficient double-pane windows or those with high performance glass.

Whether you decide to go for the budget-conscious move of using plastic, or the long-term solution of updating with ENERGY STAR windows and making sure to seal your home for winter is an important part of keeping your home air quality safe and comfortable.

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