Insulating Window Openings
Do you still have older double-hung windows or aluminum framed windows that were installed in the 1960s when energy was cheap? There are ways, short of buying whole new windows, to protect yourself from cold drafts and heavy draughts on your pocketbook.
The first step is to try caulking around the window (though not at the opening) from the outside. Get high quality caulk as some of the less expensive "painters caulk" is subject to shrinking as it dries. Buy caulk in tubes, load the tube in the caulk gun. Cut the plastic tip from the tube with a utility knife, tin snips or the wire cutter on a pair of pliers. Make the opening about 3/16 inches. Push the caulk out of the gun by pulling the trigger. You can push the caulk as you apply it to obtain a smooth surface. However, it can be laid into openings and then smoothed with a bare finger. Do not try to fill gaping holes with caulk.
For places where the window opens and closes, there is removable caulk. This is a great application for protecting your house for the winter and then simply peeling the caulk away in the spring.
There are a variety of types of windows. Newer windows will generally be sufficiently insulated, but on older ones, you can apply weather stripping to areas where windows slide. A place where air frequently moves into the house is through the gap left between the sashes when a window mounted air-conditioner is placed in a double-hung window. A strip of insulation is usually provided with air-conditioners, but it is often not well-secured. Cut a piece of foam to fit this opening.
A plastic sheet can also be taped around the window to slow air movement. This can be somewhat effective in stopping air flow and will create an air pocket that will slow the loss of heat from the house.
Plastic film is another possibility. It can be found at most hardware stores. This is a sheet of film with a glue backing that can be laid on the window. It will help to reduce the flow of heat out of the house through the window. However, the film can be unsightly, obstruct views, trap moisture, and the glue may even damage windows.
A more costly, but permanent measure is the addition of storm windows. Houses built before about 1950 often came with a set of storm windows that were swapped with screen windows just before the winter season began. Many homes still operate on this system. However, modern storm windows are made much in the manner of storm doors. They are fairly inexpensive considering the expense of actually replacing old inefficient windows. Storm windows are also fairly easy to install.
Once doors and windows have been addressed, the homeowner might do well to look to the house's plumbing system.