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Friday, December 31, 2010

A Cheap and Easy Solution for Window Heat Loss and Condensation

Nasty! Click to zoom in...
This week the temperature outside has plunged into the single digits, and it will be about -10º f. tonight. Along with the cold weather comes a reoccurring problem: condensation on my patio door windows. As you can see in this photo, its not a minor problem. It's caused mildew and mold on the bottom of the frame. It shouldn't even be happening, since my house is "Energy Star" rated, and built just 3 years ago. Money is tight these days so there is nothing in the budget for a replacement door: though that's coming. Seeking an inexpensive solution until money falls out of the sky for a replacement door, I tried one of those plastic shrink wrap window kits last year. And the result? MASSIVE FAIL. I had to buy 2 long window kits, and the tape included wouldn't stick from the start, even though I cleaned and dried the entire door. After just a few days, the plastic started falling off. I had wasted several hours and about $10.

This year, I started searching the internet for another solution, and discovered a trick that works like a charm, costs very little and can be done in minutes. The answer is a spray bottle of water and bubble wrap. Here's how it's done:

Before you start, you'll need to know how much bubble wrap you'll need.
Since I can't see out it anyway, putting
bubble wrap on it won't bother me.

Finding the right length is never a problem, rolls of 30 and 100 feet are common. Your problem will be width: standard bubble wrap comes in 12" and 16" widths. Fortunately, it's easy to stitch it together with standard clear packing tape. So, measure up your windows and do the math. For me, the windows are 63" x 21", and I needed enough for 2 windows.
I bought 1 foll of 12" x 30 foot bubble wrap. I taped together 2, 12 inch x 64" sheets. Tape together on the smooth side, NOT the bubble side! It helps a lot to have someone holding the bubble wrap while you tape it together. You'll want to make it a little larger than the actual window glass, and then trim it with a very sharp utility knife when done.

Once you've got the bubble wrap cut to size and taped together, clean the window with window cleaner and let it dry. Once dry, spray the window with an even mist of plain water and apply the precut bubble wrap, bubble side against the glass, starting at a top corner and smoothing it as you go. When done, trim the excess from the edges, and DONE! It does help to have someone hold the bubble wrap while you cut it.

Wow, that was easy. And if I remove it in the spring, roll it up and store it in a cool place, it can last up to 5 years. Heat will explode the bubbles and make the plastic brittle. My total cost was about $5, and I'll easily get that back in reduced energy cost in the first year. But the fact that condensation doesn't form and drip on the floor and cause mildew and mold makes this little trick well worth the minimal effort and cost! And, I still have about 10 feet of bubble wrap left. Hmm, I think that bathroom window is next!

Update: We had lows around -8º this weekend, my windows are condensation free, and it feels warmer sitting next to them. A word of warning: If you have children, they may will be mischievous and pull the bubble wrap off the windows or pop the bubbles. If you can keep the bubble wrap hidden behind drapes or mini-blinds, you'll save yourself some future headaches. 

Update, 2013: I just put the bubble wrap back up for the third year - THE SAME BUBBLE WRAP!  Try doing that with one of those plastic sheet and tape kits!

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