How do I insulate my windows?
July 7, 2008 9:11 PM   Subscribe

What is the best (most cost effective way) to insulate my apartment windows?

My girlfriend recently moved into a new one bedroom apartment in your average 70+ yearold railroad style 4 story stone walkup building. (Think So. Philadelphia or Brooklyn, NY)

The place recently had its interior renovated, and she really likes it. Between the kitchen, main room, and (small) bedroom, there are 5 large ceiling height casements with the crummiest, creaking, squeaking, out of the runners single-pain windows you can think of.

Since it's a rental, replacement is not an option, and since it's already hot as hell, I'd like a DIY solution I could start on tomorrow. How can I insulate these things? We have a large, new window airconditioner with a rating that far exceeds the square footage of the apartment, but it just can't keep the place cool!!
posted by judge.mentok.the.mindtaker to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
...the crummiest, creaking, squeaking, out of the runners single-pain windows you can think of.

Sounds like they're a pane in the ass. Buy some heat-shrink plastic for this purpose at the hardware store, tape it on, and shrink it with a hair dryer.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:23 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks. If only I could go back and edit my immediately noticed spelling error. For that matter, I wish I could fix my incorrectly parenthesized headline question.
posted by judge.mentok.the.mindtaker at 9:27 PM on July 7, 2008

The goal is to create a trapped airspace to act as insulation. In double- or triple-paned windows, it's glass that does it. But if it's a rental, that's not really possible for you.

I've seen kits offered which allow you to tape a piece of transparent plastic on the inside of the window frame, in order to create such a trapped volume of air. They aren't very expensive, and they can be removed easily when time comes to move out. The disadvantage is that like any plastic film they're not going to be as transparent as glass.

Sorry, I don't have a link for you. But I bet that someplace like Home Depot would know what I was talking about.

If nothing else, you could buy a wide roll of plastic sheeting and tape it in place with masking tape.
posted by Class Goat at 9:27 PM on July 7, 2008

If you need to keep sun + heat out, go grab yourself a roll of that aluminum bubble wrap that normal people use to insulate water heaters.
Air the house out at night, run the fans, get the place as cool as you can. When you're leaving for work, close up the windows, put up the aluminum stuff, and go to work. When you come home, don't open the place up until the inside temperature is equal or greater to the outside temperature, run the AC instead, but just a little bit. Your house will look bizarre, expect the neighbors to ask questions, but also expect that it'll keep the inside at least 15 degrees cooler.

I have a 820sqft apartment that I successfully keep cool in 100 degree temps with lots of aluminum insulation, one ittybitty AC in a sunny window and strategically placed fans, not just talking crazy talk. I think I've had to run the AC twice this year, and that was because it was 109 degrees outside.
posted by msamye at 10:55 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

There are two ways that heat escapes: radiation and ventilation.

Radiation is all about the nice warm air in your apartment heating the glass on contact. The glass then heats the outdoors. You solve this with either nice double-panes, which are out of the question, or nice shrink-plastic, which has been suggested. But don't forget the low-tech solutions too, like nice thick curtains. Those will help.

Ventilation solutions depend a lot on what kind of window you have. If it's a slide-up-and-down double-hung, then you need to sew some long and slender bean bags to rest on top of your lower panes. Those seal the biggest gaps pretty well, and can be removed for summer quite easily.
posted by scarabic at 11:34 PM on July 7, 2008

Um... shit. Ignore me. Or wait 6 months and then read my answer!!!
posted by scarabic at 11:35 PM on July 7, 2008

I doubt that the looseness and creakiness is really your problem right now, though it will be in the wintertime.

Do these windows get much direct sun? If so, clear plastic film won't do much of anything for you; something reflective like light-colored drapes or msamye's aluminum faced insulation would be much more effective.

Are you on the south side of the building? The top floor? Did the interior renovation not involve insulating the walls? You may have some problems that are hard to deal with. If the walls are not insulated then you'll be contending with the thermal mass of the stone exterior walls; it may take a long time to cool the place down.
posted by jon1270 at 3:19 AM on July 8, 2008

I put a piece of cut-to-fit art foamboard in the big, south-facing window of my apartment on hot days. With the window slightly open on each side, I still get air circulation and can take it down at night.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:09 AM on July 8, 2008

Response by poster: Top floor, some direct sunlight. Very very deep window sills, plenty of room to stack stuff, even between the ventian blinds and the curtains. I'm probably going to go the route of getting some sort of reflective insert for the windows that get the most sun.
posted by judge.mentok.the.mindtaker at 11:27 AM on July 8, 2008

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