How to Fix Drafty Windows Without Replacing Them

How to Fix Drafty Windows Without Replacing Them
Photo: Kert, Shutterstock

If you live in an older home, drafty windows are often a problem. Rather than replacing them — at an average of $850 per window — you can use window inserts to help fix the problem, save you 50% on installation costs, and lower your energy usage (and bills) over the long term.

Why window inserts can be the better choice

Easier to install. One advantage of using inserts rather than replacing older windows is that you don’t need to wait for a nice day to avoid discomfort and extra energy expense to install them. Waiting for a dry day in the Pacific Northwest or a cool day in the Southwest isn’t an issue, as inserts don’t require the removal of your old windows to install.

They preserve the look of your home. For older homes especially, replacing older windows cost $1,000 or more per window, and the replacements won’t look as good as your originals, or likely last as long. Not to mention you’ll be trashing some beautiful, old growth mullions and handmade sashes. Inserts can go on inside your old windows, preserving the look of your home while insulating you from the elements. Window inserts don’t just block drafts, but they can also help reduce noise from outside.

How to install window inserts

Choose DIY inserts. There are a variety of inserts on the market in different types and grades. Choosing one depends on how much hands-on DIY you can manage and what you hope to accomplish. If you choose a DIY approach, there are types of inserts that can take you from measurement right through to installation. Some include features like UV protection, scratch resistance, and noise reduction; you can choose the features you want most. This DIY kit from Indow comes with online instructions and support for any trouble you may run into, from measuring to installation.

Hire a pro. If you don’t want to handle your own install, there are lots of options for professionally installed inserts. They are available in double pane, laminated glass, plexiglass, and epoxy varieties. Once you’ve chosen a model, and booked your installation, you’ll need to remove window treatments and move furniture out of the way so your install team can get to the windows. The pros can install your interior storm windows in a day, and you will notice the difference right away.

A few downsides worth considering

The cons to window inserts is that they aren’t all created equal. The cheapest types often don’t allow you to open your windows while the inserts are in place. The more complicated varieties will cost more, but still not as much as replacing your windows altogether. The best window inserts won’t offer quite as good a return on energy costs as the best replacement windows, so if that’s your primary goal, paying for high-end replacement windows is your best bet. But for a close second, often at less than half the cost to install, inserts are a good alternative.

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