Bubble wrap as cheap window insulation

Need a cheap way to keep your house warmer?

I’ve been using shrink film on my windows for years. It’s effective. It’s a little expensive and it takes a while to do, but it works. But today I read something that should work nearly as well and be cheaper: Use bubble wrap.

Spray some water mist on the windows with a spray bottle, then slap up a piece of bubble wrap and trim away the excess. It will hold even after the water evaporates. Big bubbles give better visibility than the little ones.

I frequently salvage bubble wrap out of the dumpsters behind furniture stores (useful for shipping). Now I know another use for it.

The savings? About $1.65 per square foot of window you cover. A layer of wrap basically gives you one additional R value on the window. And you can take it down and put it back up much more easily than you can the shrink film, so it has a convenience advantage.

If you’re ambitious, you can put up two layers of bubble wrap and gain a little more savings.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if you had a 100-200 square feet of windows in your house. Who couldn’t use a $165 savings this winter?

And the speed and ease that it goes up and down allows you to remove it when guests come. And if your neighbors don’t like how it looks, you can just put it up for the coldest stretches when it matters most, and take it down when it warms up a little.

Mark each piece so you know what window it fits. You can re-use them for approximately five years.

And frankly, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to use it in the summer too. Once you’ve paid for (or salvaged) the wrap and cut it to fit, it’s not like it costs you any additional money, and it doesn’t cost much in terms of effort either.

And while you’re messing with windows, fill in any gaps where the windows close (or any gaps that shouldn’t be there). I noticed some gaps in a couple of windows–whether they’re from age or poor workmanship, I don’t know–and filled those with silicone caulk, which made them noticeably less drafty. For gaps where the windows open, use rope caulk.  When warm weather comes back, you can remove it.