5 steps to get your windows ready for winter

September 22, 2014

In much of the country, the beach and pool supplies have been packed away and the shorts traded for sweaters. If you believe The Old Farmer's Almanac, the upcoming winter promises to be just as harsh as the one experienced last year, and that means now is the time to take steps to winterize your home.

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According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some studies find 10-15 percent of a home's energy is lost through its windows. What's more, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates windows can account for up to 25 percent of a heating bill.

To get your windows ready for winter, follow this five step checklist.

1. Check for drafts

First, check your windows for drafts and holes.

While you may be able to see holes simply by inspecting the window frame, drafts can be harder to spot. Wait until a windy day and then light a taper candle or incense stick. Move the candle or stick around the frame of each window and watch for the flame to flicker or the incense smoke to blow, indicating a draft. If you don't want to wait for just the right day, you can get in touch with a local contractor who can conduct a "blower test" for you.

Mark each draft you find and after inspecting all windows, move to step two.

2. Weather strip or caulk leaks

Now that you know where the leaks are, it's time to seal them.

You can use caulk or weather stripping purchased at a home improvement store. Caulking is generally used around the exterior of a frame and can be used to fill in any holes. Meanwhile, weather stripping is applied to the inside of doors and windows. The process might vary depending on whether you have double hung or casement windows and well as the type of weather stripping used.

Prior to applying either caulking or weather stripping, be sure to clean the area around the window and frame well and follow all manufacturer instructions carefully.

3. Install storm windows

Another way to winterize your windows is to swap out screens for storm windows. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, storm windows can provide some level of insulation and prevent air from moving in and out of windows, even those with single-pane glass.

Storm windows can be made of plastic or glass and mounted either on the interior or exterior side of the window. While glass windows may be more attractive and have better visibility, plastic storm windows are typically cheaper.

4. Use a window insulator kit

If you don't have storm windows already and buying them is out of the budget, a window insulator kit can be an affordable option. Popular Mechanics reports a $5 kit typically can cover two windows, and manufacturers say the insulation can save an average of $17 per window during the winter months.

Insulation kits typically involve applying a plastic film over the interior of a window and then using a hair dryer to adhere the plastic to the glass. The plastic then acts as an insulation to help prevent air transfer through the window.

5. Consider replacement windows

Finally, if you're serious about saving money in the long-term, it may be time to consider replacement windows.

Replacement windows aren't the cheapest way to winterize your windows this year, but their benefits continue year after year. In addition, they may save time by eliminating the need to weather strip or apply plastic insulation each year.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates a typical home with single pane windows will save $126-$465 a year by using ENERGY STAR qualified replacement windows. Savings for homes with double-pane windows run from $27-$111 per year. New England, mid-Atlantic and northwest homes stand to save the most money.

Winter is on its way. All you need is one afternoon to evaluate your current windows and decide how best to face the winter winds. Will your home be ready?

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