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Blow-dryer + box cutter + window insulation kit + 20 minutes = $$$

Photo Courtesy of Thrifty and Chic

Every year, when it starts to get cold, and I can feel a slight breeze coming from closed windows or from under the doors, I take a trip to the hardware store to get ready to seal up the house by shrink-wrapping the windows. And every year, my wife looks at me as if I just transported us back to a Depression-era shack in the middle of the woods. You’d think I was wrapping the house in a tarp.

For the rest of the winter, every time we draw the drapes or open a curtain I’m subjected to my wife and our two kids singing a horrible rendition of Elvis’ “In the Ghetto,” while they laugh hysterically at my expense.

Hopefully, the singing keeps them warm and happy. I know the money I save keeps me warm and happy. And thanks to modern technology that has brought us improvements in plastic and adhesives, shrink wrapping your windows is not only easy and can save you a ton of money, but it's also not as ugly as my family would lead you to believe.

Drafty windows can make up nearly 30 percent of your heating bill. Compared to caulk and draft stoppers, window shrink wrap is an easy and affordable way to keep the heat in and the cold out. The air barrier that it creates also acts as a great insulator. This solution is particularly good for older homes with older windows but works well on any windows that aren’t perfectly sealed.

You can pick up window insulator kits at almost any hardware store. They come with double-sided adhesive to stick the plastic securely to the window sill and some individual plastic sheets to cover several windows. All you need is a box cutter and a blow dryer and less than 10 minutes per window.

I’ve written out some instructions below and found a nifty video on YouTube that shows how easy it is.

1. Clean the windows. I generally use paper towels and some warm water to remove as much dust and grime and make sure the sticky strips stay stuck. Don’t go crazy and leave the heavy cleaning for the spring, when you’re supposed to do it.

2. Apply the double-sided adhesive to the edges of the window. If you’re planning on using the blinds, make sure the adhesive is strategically placed. I’ve sealed in some blinds in my day.

3. Remove the paper cover from the adhesive. This is the worst part of the job, but there’s a trick. Once you’ve stuck the adhesive to the window, use the box cutter to slice a light cut in the paper that’s not stuck to the window (facing you) and peel from there. Trying to grab the paper from an edge is super frustrating.

4. Apply the plastic sheets to the adhesive. Start at the top and work your way down the sides. Pull the plastic as tightly as you can without forcing it as you press it to the adhesive along the sides of the window.

5. Get your hair dryer. This is the fun part. Blow hot air towards the plastic, keeping the hair dryer about two inches away from the plastic. You want to shrink it, not melt it. You’ll see it start to tighten. You should be able to see right through it like glass eventually.

6. Trim the extra bits of plastic from the edges with the box cutter or utility knife. Don’t worry about being perfect. Cut as close to the adhesive as you can. If you’re going to make a mistake, make it away from the adhesive. You can always clean it up later.

That’s it. Sealed and draft-free. I can now walk around barefoot without freezing my toes off and enjoy the tiny voices of warm and happy children singing Elvis songs.

Here’s that video I told you about that shows the whole process:


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