Is there any benefit in sealing windows for the winter?

A lot of people think that they will reduce heating costs and be more comfortable by sealing their windows with plastic for the winter. They don’t open their windows until spring. Is that the right solution?

Without reading all the files available on numerous websites, many people reject this solution, stating that their entire family’s security outweighs any savings. Imagine a three year-old playing with a piece of plastic! Or a five year-old trying to escape through a window during a fire? It could be your grandchild, your nephew, your niece.

Source : iStockPhoto

Windows are emergency exits. For people and for odors. For odors, windows act like an air exchanger. The humidity released through cooking, showers, clothes drying indoors, cigarette smoke, burnt roasts or vegetables sautéed in steak strips are just a few sources of pollution imprisoned inside a house.

You also have to take changes in the weather into account. There are often spring-like days in the winter. Sometimes they can last up to a week. Plastic covered windows still stay closed.

There are a number of other solutions that you can resort to, other than installing Energy Star windows and electronic thermostats, by a professional of course. You can make small changes that will save you big according to the experts: caulking or window hardware; the dried joints of a window that move slightly in its frame when you touch it; or the weather stripping that no longer serves any purpose because it’s become hard and thin rather than flexible and thick. The only thing to do after that is cover the glass with a plastic film.

A transparent sheer curtain can also reduce the amount of incoming cold air while letting the light in. Since it’s loose, it will let air circulate. Louvers or double windows on the inside or outside do the same thing while giving your house a completely different cachet. This prevents the creation of a space between the curtain and window where humidity forms.

For your information, Health Canada recommends a 30% rate of humidity: your furniture, your plants and your family will be well protected. If you have a sore throat, allergies and static electricity in the air and in your hair, the humidity is too low, closer to 20%. Above 40%, stains, mildew and foul odors materialize.

What if it’s not just the windows that are a source of energy loss in your home? Do some detective work with your family by looking for air leaks on cold and windy days. Check the baseboards, electrical outlets, cables or pipes that pass through outside walls. All you need is a light veil or a feather tied to a thread to find the leaky areas. Insulators for electrical outlets, wires and pipes increase energy efficiency and reduce your heating bills.

Regardless of the solution, the goal is to be able to use the windows as emergency exits, keep the rate of humidity at 30% and foul odors outside!


Natural Resources Canada Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE)