Plastic Window Insulation

A low-cost way to stop window drafts quickly.

Plastic Window Insulation BoxEach winter, we install plastic window insulation on the windows we spend the most time next to or which leak cold air. In the spring, we take the plastic down.

Plastic window insulation is highly effective at keeping out drafts around older or poorly installed windows. If you can feel a draft near your window, a window insulation film should take care of it. (Try different ways to check for small window drafts.) Best of all, it's barely visible.

Window with Plastic Film InsulationIt takes about 10 minutes to cover a window. It's even quicker if you've saved the plastic from the previous year since it's already cut to fit.

The picture on the left shows a window with the plastic installed.

Advantages: Stops drafts without much cost or trouble. Very effective. If you need to open the window, the tape is pretty forgiving—you can often pull the plastic to one side temporarily.

Drawbacks: A pain to open the window. Can't set your coffee on the window sill. Need to take down in spring and reapply next winter. Tape may not be friendly to all window or wall surfaces—always test! (We've never had it damage the high-gloss paint on our frames.)

Applying Plastic Window Insulation

  • Plastic FilmClean the surfaces where you will apply the tape and let them dry.
  • Measure the window and cut the plastic a couple of inches larger on each side than you need. You can easily cut the excess plastic off.
  • Apply the two-sided tape that came with the plastic window insulation. Before you remove the backing, you may want to rub your fingers over it to warm it so the glue sticks better.
  • Put the plastic over the window with the tape holding it in place. You can remove the plastic and reapply or adjust as necessary.
  • Make sure the plastic is stretched evenly and that all of the edges are sealed with the two-sided adhesive tape.
  • Most brands of plastic window insulation recommend using a blow-dryer to heat and make the plastic shrink. This removes any wrinkles. We skip this step since we usually don't have many wrinkles, and want to save the plastic for the following year.

At the end of the winter, you can save the plastic and discard the tape. Two-Sided Plastic TapeThere's usually enough extra two-sided tape in the original kit to reapply next year. If you need more tape, you can buy individual replacement rolls without buying another full kit.

Caulking windows offers a more permanent solution but may not stop all leaks. For example, you can't caulk parts where the window slides open. New windows are another option but are very, very expensive.

Plastic window insulation is a quick and effective fix for increased savings and home comfort. Once the windows are done you'll want to take a look at outside caulking, plumbing penetrations, and your attic for more savings.

Try our Home Energy Checklist for more ideas on home energy savings.