Most people who live above the 35th parallel are likely experiencing a bit of cold weather right about now. Though November’s weather can be downright schizophrenic in its oscillation between balmy days and freezing rain, December tends to settle down a bit so winter can establish itself more firmly. In addition to leaving us chilled every time we leave the house, these frigid days bestow upon us the added bonus of cold drafts through our homes—particularly in older buildings where there are cracks and gaps around windows and door frames.
In order to fend off freezing temperatures in our living spaces, it’s a good idea to add some insulation to the areas that let in the greatest amount of cold air: windows, and doors. Though most modern homes have double-paned glass, and doors that have been well-fitted to the frames, older dwellings may have slanted walls and ceilings which contribute to ill-fitting windows and such. If you suspect that there are leaks and cracks around yours, wait for a windy day and then move a lit stick of incense all around the frames: the incense smoke will flutter when it encounters a draft. Marking off the most leaky areas with a pencil will help you to seal them more effectively, and to do so, you have a few options available to you.
Since you’re unlikely to be cracking windows open for a bit of fresh, freezing air in the middle of winter, the best option is to seal them up until spring.
Rubber Sealing Tape
This tape is inexpensive, and simple to use: you just measure your window frame, cut pieces to the right length, and peel off the backing to stick them to your windows—it’ll seal off the vast majority of leaks, and can be removed quickly and easily once the weather warms up again. This doesn’t affect the quality of light coming through your windows, but can wreak havoc on your frames: when you remove the tape, it can leave a gummy residue behind that’s difficult to remove, and it will often tear off bits of paint from any coated surface it’s come into contact with.
Plastic Insulation Film
My favourite way to seal windows is with the sort of insulating shrink-wrap that you can get at your local hardware store. It comes in sheets that you apply to the outside edges of the frame with double-sided tape, and then you use a hairdryer to shrink it, thus creating an airtight seal. The tape it uses rarely causes any damage to the frame, and though the window itself can look a bit cloudy over time, it’s not terribly noticeable, and doesn’t dim any sunlight.
By sealing up your windows for the winter, you’ll not only stop drafts from seeping into your home, you’ll also save on heating costs: you won’t have to crank up your heater to combat the cold, so your electricity or gas bills will be lessened as well.
Insulating doors is a little bit trickier than windows, seeing as how we tend to use them on a daily basis for entering and exiting our homes. Since most of us aren’t keen on barricading ourselves into our houses for the entire winter, door-sealing options have to be as effective as possible without restricting movement through them.
Closed-Cell Foam Tape
This tape is similar to the sealing tape used for windows, only it’s a bit more hardcore: those closed cells are little pockets of air, so they insulate rather effectively. This stuff is ideal for exterior doors through which outdoor air is more likely to seep in.
For interiors, consider a door snake: these are long tubes of fabric that are placed at the foot of doors to stop drafts from slipping in through the gaps beneath entryways. Since cold air sinks and is more likely to slink in at floor level, blocking off those lower door gaps can actually help to keep your rooms nice and toasty.
In addition to these sealing ideas, consider hanging heavy drapes over your windows and even over hopelessly drafty doors: though we’re unaccustomed to seeing curtains over doors nowadays, they were used quite extensively in the past to help insulate homes in wintertime. A velvet drape hung at the back of one’s bedroom door can be a lovely decorative addition, and using heavy window curtains is actually a great way to keep your home warm—keep south-facing drapes open during the day to let in as much sunshine as possible (it’s warming!), and then close them as the sun is setting to keep all the toasty-ness inside.
Featured photo credit: old farm in the mountains at winter via Shutterstock