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Using Plastic Wrap and Glue Sticks to insulate Windows

Posted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 5:07 pm
by startbyserving
I realize this may not apply to those choosing to do without heat or those in warm climates, but this forum seemed like the most logical place for a couple reasons.

1. This is relatively inexpensive method of replacing something which has a higher priced consumer alternative (This takes more labor and patience though.)

2. Because this requires a certain skill or patience (Okay mostly patience) It might be best performed by someone trying to acquire skills and competencies as described in Jacob's book. (I'm not saying this is going to increase said skills and competencies, only that they may be a huge asset in this task.)

Finally I apologize for posting this so late in the year, however I just joined this forum, as well as getting to this in my own house. Fortunately, this so "Affordable", it has a very short payback period in many instances and hopefully expands the general creativity base for some people.

Okay enough disclaimers:

Total Cost: $2 (Enough for a number of Windows) Total Savings: ???

I've been using various forms of plastic covers for winter-proofing for a number of years now. The first thing I tried were the boxes of plastic sheets and double-sided tape sold by stores such as Wal-Mart. "Duck" brand I believe. Although the plastic is fairly high quality I encountered 2 problems. First the double sided tape was only good for a very limited type of applications. The double sided tape was also very difficult to apply. Metal was one of the very few things you could apply double sided tape to without damaging, and the tape didn't seem to stick well to the Metal. The Second issue was these boxed kits seemed a little expensive for the materials provided in them.

I soon learned that glue sticks worked fairly well in most situations for applying the plastic to windows, frames, etc. If a window is really drafty sometimes I will put several layers at possible points (Directly against either side of the window are possible places to put a layer. Flush with the wall or frame is a possible places to put a layer of plastic.) These are the "washable" cheap glue sticks that kids might use for a school project. Not a glue gun. At Dollar Tree a package of 3 or 4 can be had for a dollar.
When I ran out of plastic I scrambled to keep insulating more windows. I ended up finding plastic wrap was a good replacement for the boxed plastic provided you had the patience and ability to keep it from sticking to itself. I've tried two different methods of apply the plastic. Either work depending on the person's preference.
Method 1:
Attach one end of the plastic to the window / wall / frame.
Carefully unroll the plastic covering the desired area.
Cut the other end of the plastic from the roll and attach to the window / wall / frame.
Repeat until entire window is covered (A two inch overlap is recommended for beginners.)

Method 2:
Measure the length of plastic needed. Cut that amount.
Place glue on window / frame / wall.
Carefully attach plastic to desired area. - Plastic may want to stick to itself more using this method.
Repeat until entire window is covered (A two inch overlap is recommended for beginners.)

Tip: Use very sharp scissors.

For most windows I prefer Method 1. Having the plastic on the roll will help keep it from sticking to itself to some degree. 2 people working as a team can be more effective or disastrous depending on how well you work together.

The first few seasons I covered windows in some inefficient houses I was shocked at the difference. The air flowing through the windows presses against the plastic like a blown up balloon! (One reason I frequently did multiple layers. Otherwise the plastic would not withstand the force.) - I'm still a little shocked every time I do it. - Wrapping a screen in plastic wrap is a way to create another layer. I haven't done this in a while because windows in newer houses are efficient anyways, and if you aren't careful you may damage them or their seals (Too much heat once you start getting sunny warm days.) However I found my skylights have a serious draft I was not aware of if I stand on a ladder close to them. They just got sealed along with a window that faces north and gets almost no sun during the winter. (North North East , so it does get a couple hours in the morning.)

Interesting physics bit. Any window I've ever wrapped has always had the air from out side press against it trying to blow into the house. That is until I covered my skylights. The air "Sucks the plastic up" since heat rises and the plastic is holding the air trying to escape upward.


- I'm sure there are some counter-arguments against this such as: wasting money, unneeded, decreases air quality. However I think there are a lot of people doing a retirement /savings method a little different than Jacob this might be useful for. One last tip concerning buying quality as Jacob has mentioned. The plastic in the store boxes are often re-usuable and could provide a long term value if you carefully remove and store them. Using plastic wrap is a one-time use then throw away option. I guess this is one of the reasons I was hesitant to post here. Anyways feel free to use whatever material you have available / fits with your strategy. I've considered other options such as having plexiglass that is screwed to the wall / frame then removed once the temperatures are above freezing. (Perhaps with some sort of rubber or gasket between it and the wall / frame to form a seal.) For those ideas I would recommend looking for something used / throw away and "create rather than buy".

FAQ:

Q: I use heavy curtains / blankets / etc. over the window. I don't need this method do I?
A: Any such effort is bound to help "Some", however the key to the method of using "Thin" plastic is to use adhesive so that the window is "Sealed". Other barriers will simply slow or reduce the airflow somewhat. This method greatly reduces it, if not stopping it altogether.

I was trying to add some photos, but they are too large. It seems the codes to "Resize the Image" aren't active here or are different than other forums. Anyways. Here are some picks for anyone interested:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set ... ab2398ba3b

Re: Using Plastic Wrap and Glue Sticks to insulate Windows

Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 5:54 pm
by Green328
Thank you! This is great.

Re: Using Plastic Wrap and Glue Sticks to insulate Windows

Posted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 6:02 pm
by bradley
I did this in my previous apartment, although I used the pre-packaged version. Thankfully my landlord paid for it. Either way, thanks for bringing it to my attention again. My leaky windows have made for some cold nights!

Re: Using Plastic Wrap and Glue Sticks to insulate Windows

Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 12:56 am
by startbyserving
Glad you all liked it. Haven't had to do my own in a while since I live in a house with newer windows. This winter seems to be an exception though.

Re: Using Plastic Wrap and Glue Sticks to insulate Windows

Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 2:55 am
by saving-10-years
We're now (from this Winter) using rigid acrylic sheets and magnestised strips which allow us to take the extra layer off so that windows can open if need be. Its available as a kit from a company called Extraglaze http://www.extraglaze.co.uk/ here in the UK and is particularly good for drafty sash windows in listed buildings (where the history of the house means that you can't remodel with something really efficient). Ours are very large and draughty windows so the plastic wrap method does not work for us. Thinner plastic sheet (less rigid than those we have just installed) bounce in and out as the drafts come in through the glass panes. Seriously, 300 year old sash windows are not much of a barrier to a determined climate. We're expecting to use this system for at least the next decade and as its pretty okay noise insulation its worth it for us Cost was £800 for seven pretty massive windows. The borders covering the magnets can be painted (supplied bare rather than with plastic coating) so that they blend in exactly with the paintwork - its honestly hard to see this is there so having it in place all year is going to be fine.

Using one of those remote heat measuring things we note that the temperature registered across the window in the evening is 2 degrees higher with these in place rather than without.

It would be possible to do the magnet strip thing and obtain reasonably rigid acrylic more cheaply than in this DIY kit. It definitely works well for bigger windows where you would prefer to do the job once and leave in place. So applications where you would like some sound proofing as well. Too expensive to take on if you were renting or wanted a temporary solution.

Re: Using Plastic Wrap and Glue Sticks to insulate Windows

Posted: Tue Feb 24, 2015 9:57 am
by Green328
Hi all,

I wanted to expand on my earlier comment, though I haven't written a proper introduction yet.

I live in an 1860s stone cottage, and although technically outside the "historic district" (meaning I could do what I want to fix), I like the aesthetics. BUT IT IS COLD, GUYS -- for an extra layer, sweater-wearing, heat stove minimizing person. So always on the hunt for window fixes in particular and never considered glue sticks. I wrap our windows with film, have heavy curtains, and applied "Energy Film" (http://www.energy-film.com) to the single glass panes.

All this helps, but, considering more permanent indoor options like mentioned above.

I am also considering making more robust, DIY insulated curtains using material like this:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BIGRG8Y/ref ... PMZI3U7UV6

Anyone with experience there?

Recently came across this idea of "micro-heaters" via an interview Jacob did at rich-soil.com, which seems good for spot heating (like, over my laptop as I type). http://www.richsoil.com/electric-heat

More ideas welcomed. Brr.

Re: Using Plastic Wrap and Glue Sticks to insulate Windows

Posted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 9:20 am
by Tommy
I stumbled across this, and thought I'd share it.

This guy uses bubble wrap to insulate his windows with good results.

http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Co ... lewrap.htm

Re: Using Plastic Wrap and Glue Sticks to insulate Windows

Posted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 1:25 pm
by Riggerjack
If you want to put in the time and money, a friend built double pane lexan inserts for each window. (Lexan from Boeing surplus) He mounted magnets in the sashes and on his inserts, with a foam weather strip on the insert face. Each fall, he simply pulls the inserts out of the shed, washes them, and sets them in place. More work, time and money, but a permanent solution for your historic home. He says they make o world of difference. But there can be condensation issues.
I'm more of a replace the window and seal properly, kind of guy. Vinyl windows have gotten cheap!
Be aware that the best Windows are going to be about R4, with average double pane being R3, and real world testing showing they rarely achieve their ratings. Still, going from drafty R1 to sealed R3 is a world of difference.

Re: Using Plastic Wrap and Glue Sticks to insulate Windows

Posted: Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:03 am
by startbyserving
Thought I'd bump this as "Winter is Coming".

This year also planning to move in to a smaller bedroom which has dual benefits:

Much smaller area if we use a space heater. Master bedroom is larger and has a vaulted ceiling. (Space heater isn't as 'efficient' as a heat pump, but it is heating a much smaller area.)
Master bedroom is in the back of the house, while the inside unit is located in the attic above garage in front of the house. Other bedrooms can be on uncomfortably warm while Master is still cool.


- I considered pitching a tent, but couldn't get away with that. Last year I made a canopy style bed, but didn't make it look real nice, would need to do a better job this year for it to be acceptable.

Good luck to everyone staying warm! Trying not to fear the cold, and adjust my body and habits to the weather.

Re: Using Plastic Wrap and Glue Sticks to insulate Windows

Posted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 7:35 pm
by not sure
Glad I stumbled upon this - thinking through insulating my large sliding door + window this weekend!

One tip I heard re: double sided tape damaging window frames. Apply painters tape first, then stick double sided tape to it. Will be easier to remove without a sign

Re: Using Plastic Wrap and Glue Sticks to insulate Windows

Posted: Sun Feb 14, 2021 3:58 am
by ertyu


More ideas welcomed. Brr.
here is my solution: i sit on a pillow on the floor, with my butt and back right in front of a radiant space heater. my laptop is on my bed. if i need to leave the room (to go to unheated rooms) or go outside, i put on my winter coat. i switch off the heater at night. i sleep with a long sleeved t-shirt and a sweater so getting out from under the covers isn't active torture. hope this helps.