When you realize there's a draft coming from your windows, you might think about new windows or storm windows if you have older, wooden windows. These are the traditional solutions to reducing unwanted air flow, to stop cold air from outside getting into your home. New windows are the right long term solution but what if they're not in your budget right now? That's when it's time to look at lower cost options – bubble wrap windows or window weatherproofing kits.
Should You Bubble Wrap Windows?
Yes, it's easy to bubble wrap windows. While we normally associate bubble wrap with moving or packing fragile items so they won't break, there's insulating magic in bubble wrap. The air pockets that provide a cushion against impact, can also provide a barrier to reduce the flow of cold air. The concept is the same way as dual pane windows providing a pocket of air between 2 panes of glass. It is the trapped air that provides the insulating value, as it slows down the transfer of air.
There are many reasons to bubble wrap windows. If I'm missing some, please share them with us by leaving a comment below … as that's how everyone can benefit.
- Unlike insulating shades that block the sunlight, bubble wrap is clear and lets sunlight through. This means you can still have a cozy, inviting room that is warmer and feels more open.
- Bubble wrap can be reused for several years, generally 5-7. You'll know it's time to replace the wrap when it sticks to the window and removing it gets difficult.
- With more an more people ordering online, there are lots of people are throwing it out. Check with furniture stores and other retailers who throw away bubble wrap on a frequent basis and volunteer to dispose of it for them … so it might be free (well, your time really isn't free).
- Hardware stores sell “window sealing kits” that use sticky tape. When the sticky tape is left on the window too long, it's difficult to remove. The film isn't reusable so you need to buy new kits each year.
- Bubble wrap windows are easy to put up, take down and roll up to store over the summer. You should label each piece of bubble wrap. Otherwise you'll find they all look the same, and you won't know what goes where next winter. Draw a layout of the rooms and label each window AND bubble wrap, i.e. DLB = dining room left window bottom, DLT, DRB, DRT, etc.
Installing Your Bubble Wrap
- Measure each window pane, following the well known rule “measure twice, cut once” … following diagram shown here.
- Cut the bubble wrap, using a paper template if that makes you more comfortable.
- Spray a light film of water on the window using a small spray bottle. If it's used, clean it thoroughly as you don't want to leave a film on your glass or worry about the bubble plastic.
- Press the bubble side against the window while it's still wet, and position it to fill the space fully. A tight fit means both the air trapped inside the bubbles, and the air between the window pane and the back of the bubble wrap will help reduce air flow, and save you heating dollars.
- If the bubble wrap windows start to separate from the window, the recommendation at BuildItSolar.com is to add glycerine to the water.
Removing Bubble Wrap Insulation
The bubble wrap should come off easily. Depending on the quality of the plastic, it should last several years and when it becomes difficult to remove, it's time to replace it. Peel gently, starting at one corner. Remember to mark each piece as you remove it so each piece goes back where it started.
There shouldn't be any mess but you're already there. Maybe this is the perfect time to wash your windows … at least inside, especially if it isn't warm enough outside.
Where to Get Bubble Wrap for Windows
You want to bubble wrap windows but haven't been collecting bubble wrap. Don't worry because it's relatively inexpensive to buy. It's bulky but not very heavy, so it's the perfect product to buy online. Here are tips for buying on Amazon, or other websites that sell moving supplies.
- Most bubble wrap you can buy will be 12 inches wide, although I found some Duck Brnad that also comes in 16 and 24 inch widths (you've got to search for this info).
- Bubble wrap has big or small bubbles and my educated guess is the small bubbles are slightly better at providing insulation. Some products give the height of the bubbles (3/16s of an inch) and taller would be better. If you want this information, you can call the manufacturer.
- Check Amazon customer reviews as too low a price may mean using 2 layers because of … very thin plastic; not confident using this for fragile items and will need to add extra layers.Calculate the cost on a per foot basis when comparing products with 12 inch width. If you're comparing the wider bubble wrap, calculate the cost per square inch. Prices vary greatly so this calculation is very important. For example, comparing products from the same manufacturer, which one are you going to buy … and try to find free shipping (Amazon Prime)?
- Duck Brand (large bubbles, 12 inches x 15 feet) sells for $14.97, on sale for $4.87 = $1 per foot
- Duck Brand (original cushioning, 12 inches x 150 feet) sells for $20.99, on sale for $16.88 = $0.11 per foot.