Help us weatherproof our house.
October 17, 2005 6:25 PM   Subscribe

I need suggestions for inexpensive weatherproofing on our home.

My husband and I rent a townhome (in Denver) and it is horribly drafty. We can feel cold air coming in through most of our windows. We love our little house--it's a lot of space for the money--but we have a very uhm, "hands-off" landlord and there's little to no chance to get them to invest any money in weatherproofing. With energy prices the way they are, I'd love some low-cost suggestions for how to weatherproof our windows along with any other tips for keeping warm while keeping our energy costs down. We're living on a one-income graduate student budget, so I have to stress the low-cost part. Thank you!!
posted by Kimberly to Home & Garden (10 answers total) you need a temporary solution (for the winter season) or a year-round solution? Do you need to have consistent access to opening and closing the windows while they are "weatherproofed"?

Are the windows casement or double hung windows? Vinyl, metal or wood?

These would help me (and others) to suggest ideas. And good for you to think about this kind of thing, btw.
posted by jeanmari at 6:44 PM on October 17, 2005

Best answer: 1. cheap: Plastic for your windows! You can get it at hardware stores pretty cheaply [whole house of wondows for maybe $20-30 if you shop in bulk at Home Depot or someplace. It's a bit ugly but basically you tape this plastic over your windows, use a blow dryer on it to shrink the plastic, and voila, you can see out but wind can't get in. Hair dryers cost a few bucks at a thrift store if you don't have one. If you have friends, borrow a heat gun if possible.

2. nearly free: make little outlet and light switch gaskets. [instructions]

3. make from common household items: draft stoppers for underneath doors. Get an old pair of nylons and stuff them with rags, old socks, other fabric and some sand/rocks/something heavy. Lay on floors by doors to the outside or colder rooms.

4. worth the $: curtains and rugs and a hassock for your feet so you don't notice the cold as much. Close curtains at night, open in the morning. An electric mattress pad warmer can heat up the bed before you get in it without you having to sleep under a plugged in appliance all night.

5. also: if it's a big house shut off a room or two that you don't use much and cut off the heat to those rooms [if you can] and focus on the parts of the house you actually live in. Cook more meals that take longer to heat up the kitchen. Keeping moving helps you stay warmer.
posted by jessamyn at 6:46 PM on October 17, 2005

Response by poster: Hi jeanmari. Good questions! I didn't even think about those things.

This would just be for the winter, and it's ok if we can't open the windows as long as we could undo the weatherproofing in the spring and open them again. We have the double-hung windows (in the livingroom they look like your picture, the bedrooms they open side to side instead of up and down). The frames are metal.

We also have a sliding glass door off the livingroom that is drafty, but we would definitely need to be able to go in and out of that.
posted by Kimberly at 6:57 PM on October 17, 2005

Check your local utility company's website. They likely have a list of energy saver tips, household energy guzzlers (so you can prioritize), programs that provide weatherization and/or discounts to low-income households. Call them too. Some util companies are willing to schedule a free onsite energy audit to help you find the worst offenders.

The plastic over the windows trick is good. Just make sure you're using the right tape. Some can leave a gummy residue or else pull off the paint/wallpaper underneath. Painter's tape is not transparent, but it's designed to remove cleanly.

If the landlord is willing to greenlight DIY improvements, $20-30 in materials can buy enough weatherstrip, outlet/switch seals, and door gaskets for a 1 bd apt. All you need is a screwdriver, a pair of scissors, and several hours time. Since weatherstrip just fills in the gaps between door/window and frame, you'll be able to open & close year-round. Plus in the summer it'll help keep out whatever bugs normally come in through those same gaps.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 7:35 PM on October 17, 2005

Heavy drapes/curtains help a lot.. Like velvet with a liner.
You can find cheaper velvet curtains at places like Sears
Penny's and Target. If they aren't lined buy another set of
CHEAP curtain panels to hang under them. You can use another curtain rod , cheap as it won't be seem.

I was heaterless last winter and my curtains help a good deal to keep me from freezing.

So will having 3 cats who feel you are their personal heating source. Just be care when standing up: the cats
seems to believe they that a personal heater that I never
stand up. If I do they cling to but one by one fall off ruining whatever it is I wearing
posted by bat at 8:25 PM on October 17, 2005

Programmable thermostats are cheap ($30 or so?) and you can install one yourself in minutes. Set it to turn the heat down when you are under the covers, back up a half-hour before you rise, way way down while you are at work, etc.
posted by LarryC at 8:57 PM on October 17, 2005

Best answer: Here is what I did a couple of years ago (in my case it was mainly to reduce my cooling bills, but they're still applicable):
  • Install curtains or other air barriers on all windows and sliding-glass doors.
  • If your existing HVAC thermostat is not a programmable "set back" thermostat, replace it with one that is.
  • Replace or install weatherstripping on windows.
  • Replace or install weatherstripping and door sweeps on exterior doors or a door to a garage. Also consider installing weatherstripping and door sweeps on interior doors to less-often used rooms.
  • If you have a little-used room, such as a laundry room, close the heating vent to the room, install a vent cover, and keep the door closed.
  • Caulk cracks (use a good UV & weather-resistant caulk for the exterior and a cheaper paintable caulk for the interior). In particular, check around the roof-line or anywhere something penetrates a wall (such as ceiling beams, vents or pipes). Make sure to seal around any exterior outlets (and consider installing exterior outlet covers).
  • Seal air leaks and other larger gaps with expanding foam. Good places to check are around switch and outlet boxes, places where ceiling beams penetrate interior walls, etc.
  • If your HVAC ducts are accessible, seal any leaks with metal-backed tape or mastic. Also consider applying insulation, if they are uninsulated.
  • Install outlet cover plates on interior outlets in exterior walls.
  • Install foam gaskets inside all interior electric outlet and switch boxes behind the outlet and switch plate covers.
  • If you have a hot water tank, consider installing an exterior tank wrap (make sure it doesn't warn against using a tank wrap).
Note: I've used EFI for the links because they consolidate this stuff all in one place. However, these items typically can be found at hardware stores.
posted by RichardP at 10:01 PM on October 17, 2005 [2 favorites]

If heavy curtains are too expensive you could just use blankets for curtains. They will help a lot.

As far as drafts, you should attempt to seal any places you feel air. The smoke from a cigarette can actually be helpful in finding the sources of drafts, either into or out of the place.

Set your thermostat pretty low and wear more clothes.
posted by 6550 at 10:29 PM on October 17, 2005

Good advice: I grew up in possibly the coldest, draftiest house in the world and we had weather proofing on all the windows, draftstoppers on all the doors (ours were shaped like weiner dogs, tres chic), HEAVY curtains with special liners that ran ceiling to floor over all the windows, down comforters, electric blankets, hot water bottles and no heating at night.

And sweaters, lots of sweaters.
posted by fshgrl at 10:40 PM on October 17, 2005

Best answer: I use "Seal-and-Peel" around the windows. It's like a removable caulk. Works wonders, and can be peeled easily in spring. You can find it next to the caulk in your local hardware store.
posted by luckypozzo at 11:04 PM on October 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

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