Author Topic: Is window film insulation worth it? (Read 16529 times)

Guses

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Is window film insulation worth it?
« on: November 18, 2014, 09:36:49 AM »
I am wondering if window insulation film is a worthwhile investment?

It seems to be pretty expensive considering the cost of heating.

I estimate that it will cost 50-75$ to cover all my windows with film whereas heating costs about 700$ per year. Anybody can weigh in on whether window film insulation is worthwhile?

We live in Ottawa, keep temperature around 19.5 C when we are home and live in a fairly recent home with appropriate insulation.


CommonCents

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2014, 09:47:56 AM »
Do you mean the plastic wrap you shrink wrap over windows? If you have older windows, single pane, or converted (I had a room that had an enclosed porch once), then yes absolutely it will help. Put your hand near the window and see if you can feel a breeze - if so, you definitely want to do it! I've done them a lot in the Boston area with older homes, almost every year. I didn't in our home last year because they are newer windows. I might actually consider try it on some this year though.

justajane

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2014, 09:55:15 AM »
Try bubble wrap instead. It's cheaper and reusable. Cut to the size of the pane, spray water on a clean window and place it on with the bubbles facing the glass. Remove at end of season and save for next year.

Gone Fishing

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2014, 09:56:44 AM »
I have a low end double pane window by my bed that I filmed to prevent the cold air from hitting me in the face at night. I don't think much air actually comes through the window, the temperature differential is just enough to to start a convection loop. It makes a huge difference. I leave it on year round and just open the other window if I want fresh air. If the windows are in an unused bedroom, utility room, etc. You can use regular clear construction type plastic, it is much cheaper. Also, you can save the film from larger windows to film smaller windows next year, if possible.

Guses

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2014, 10:27:03 AM »
I don't feel any draft from the windows at the moment (-11C out and very windy).

I would be willing to try a DIY hack approach but the plastic needs to be clear so that we can see outside.

Our windows are double pane with argon inside.

studentdoc2

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2014, 10:29:53 AM »
I bought some film on Amazon for this purpose. My partner spent a few hours put it all up and sealing it nicely. Looked great. Went into the other room to grab something and came back to find that the cat had totally dismantled the plastic in the span of less than 3 min. For those 3 minutes, though, sure was nice...

theSchmett

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2014, 11:40:20 AM »
Yes.

Koogie

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2014, 12:27:07 PM »
We live in a rented house by the lake near Toronto and it has craptacular double pane wooden windows in it. I put window film insulation on every year and it really makes it warmer. Also find it isn't that expensive for us because we heat with electric and the savings addup appreciably.


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deborah

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2014, 12:39:23 PM »
This thread is quite intriguing. Why do you only put window film on for winter? I thought it was sold for year round purposes, as it reduces heat transmission, so is good for reducing overheating in summer. In fact, my Energy Efficiency Housing Manual recommends film in summer, but not in winter, as it reduces solar gain (I guess it would be good on the south (north in the northern hemisphere) side of the house, which doesn't get any solar gain.

Guses

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2014, 12:52:36 PM »
I ended up calculating BTU heat loss with and without the plastic films assuming a gain of 1.25 R value with the films on standard double pane aluminum 3x5 windows.

In the best case scenario, the film saves about 100,000 BTU worth of heating in the coldest month. This equates to about 2$ worth of heating. Considering the entire heating season, this would save about 10$ over 6 months. This is for one window.

But like I said, this is a best case scenario where the temperature inside around the window is a constant 19.5 C which is likely not realistic...

@Deborah

It makes no sense to put films during the summer in our climate since nights are typically cool enough not to need AC (except 1-2 weeks in July-August). Maybe in a much hotter climate it makes more sense.

MayDay

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2014, 01:01:16 PM »
I like it, but I only put it on if I Arnav leave it year round. I pick a couple windows to open in summer, and window film the ones that I plan to leave closed.

I also put the exterior window film on those windows, too, to really seal them up. Not necessary for double panes, but we had a couple realllllllly old single panes in bad shape, and two layers of window film made a huge difference, as the single pane glass was doing nothing it had such large cracks around it.

The expense but also the annoyance of putting it up annually made me go to the multiple-year approach.
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CommonCents

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2014, 01:45:03 PM »
I'd take it off for the summer because 1) often by the end of the winter it was already coming off due to wind from the drafts, 2) it's not super hot in the summer, 3) I like having fresh air back, 4) I would either use ac in the bedroom only (not every night, just hot nights) or

I'm less worried about cost because I still have a stack of the films from when I complained about the heat at one apt building that was not meeting the requirements set by regulation. (Heat was included in rent.) They replaced the system when I left. I complained a bunch, citing the code, and they sent the handyman over to turn the heat on overdrive (I can do that) and to put film on the windows. I walked in to see him doing an unbelievable god-awful taped up the wazoo (across the film where he tried to piece two pieces of plastic together which doesn't work), with it stretching to the edge of the windowsill by many inches instead of flat, etc indescribable mess of two windows. I thanked him and said I'd do the rest. Immediately ripped it off and put new ones on. He left a pile - unfortunately of the frost king ones and not 3M, which are better :) Was enough to plastic wrap the next place for a few years. That said at that place I couldn't turn up the heat (condo and just not warm in the bedroom where it was on two exterior walls and not enough heating vents for the area) so plastic wrapping or heater were the only ways to go. Previously DH just froze apparently.

AlmostM

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2014, 01:50:37 PM »
Also try caulking and repairs. My windows are horrible, but the problem is more the frames. Just jamming a stick in the track helped sure up one and close a significant gap. See if you can get a free or low cost energy audit from your utility provider. Ours will come out and identify heat loss sources in the house for you and measure their individual impact to help you know which source needs to be addressed first.

TrMama

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2014, 02:32:40 PM »
I ended up calculating BTU heat loss with and without the plastic films assuming a gain of 1.25 R value with the films on standard double pane aluminum 3x5 windows.

In the best case scenario, the film saves about 100,000 BTU worth of heating in the coldest month. This equates to about 2$ worth of heating. Considering the entire heating season, this would save about 10$ over 6 months. This is for one window.

But like I said, this is a best case scenario where the temperature inside around the window is a constant 19.5 C which is likely not realistic...

In your case, the best savings may come from eliminating any draft from the window, which will allow you to turn down the heat. 19.5C is pretty warm and you'll save more from simply lowering the thermostat to 17 or 18C when you're home and lower when you're not home or sleeping. Or, you could skip the film and just turn down the heat. We've realized more heat savings this year from swapping our regular cotton sheets for fleece sheets so I can keep our heat turned down to 15.5C at night (17C in the kids rooms).

JourneyingJon

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2014, 03:28:31 PM »
I live in Calgary and just put some on a few windows in our house. We have a modern house, built in 2007, and even still some of the windows seem to have a large amount of heat transmission through them. The film cuts this down a little bit and I did it more for the comfort than for the cost savings. A bulk roll at our Home Depot was $37 and covered 3 medium sized windows and one large one.

OSUBearCub

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2014, 04:17:58 PM »
Back in Columbus, Ohio (fairly similar climate to Ottawa) I lived in a 100 year old apartment building with single pane windows.

The film worked pretty well but you may also want to insulate behind your electrical outlets and install insulation strips around doors. The window cling did half the job but the real difference was when I took the extra two hours to add in all the other insulating products. My electric bill dropped by almost 40%.

kimmarg

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2014, 05:15:24 PM »
Yes it's worth it. I've used it many times including Montreal. The best part is it completely blocks drafts from the windows. It doesn't add a ton of r value but it makes it air tight. So unless you have very new very tight windows it's worth it. Only place I would not recommend is the bathroom. The moisture tends of make the double tape not stay stuck.

Guses

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2014, 05:58:52 AM »
In your case, the best savings may come from eliminating any draft from the window, which will allow you to turn down the heat. 19.5C is pretty warm and you'll save more from simply lowering the thermostat to 17 or 18C when you're home and lower when you're not home or sleeping. Or, you could skip the film and just turn down the heat. We've realized more heat savings this year from swapping our regular cotton sheets for fleece sheets so I can keep our heat turned down to 15.5C at night (17C in the kids rooms).

We do have an infant with us this year :). We used to keep temp around 18 when here and 12 at night. We now keep it 19.5 and 17.5.

We also appear to have a bad condensation problem on the windows when we keep the heat too low. I understand that this will cut back with the film as well.

FarmerPete

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2014, 08:26:30 AM »
I just bought some. Menards had 3 windows worth for $2.99 this week. I'm sure it's not as good as the more expensive stuff, but the payback should be faster. All of my windows were replaced with energy efficient ones about 20 years ago, so while I'm sure newer ones would be better, they aren't that bad either. I just got the film for my basement. I've got a couple tiny single pane windows that need to be replaced. I've been thinking about changing them over to glass block windows. Hopefully the plastic will help keep the basement a little more insulated.

Bob W

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2014, 08:56:01 AM »
It probably pencils out barely depending on the variables and cost. The comfort level may improve according to your number of windows and proximity to them. Our house is very efficient now. (about$100 total heat cost in coldest months 3,000 sq foot), so I don't use them. But I did when I lived in an older smaller home with $300 bills.

One hack is to wait until after winter or mid to late winter when they are putting out spring stuff. (I know this would have been good advice last spring!) I remember our local Walmart having tables full of window stuff. They were marked down to practically free. (maybe $2 for 3 windows?). At that price it is going to pencil out just about every time.

Bottom line? - If your bills are high try them. If your bills are not that high not worth your time and money.

(for the super aggressive you can get some R - 13 insulation and used cardboard. Sandwich the insulation between the cardboard and tape together while cutting to fit snugly. You then put them in the windows when you are not using the view and take them down when you are. I calculated that we never use our window views during the average weekday and only for about 20 hours on weekends. So on an average winter week we use our windows on 20 out of 168 hours or roughly 10% of the time. We also have 7 windows in basement and backroom we essentially never use. You could get very fancy pantsy creative with this and paint a nice beach scene on the cardboard on the inside and a dickens xmas scene on the outside for passersbys to see! These would last for years if constructed correctly and result in perhaps a 30% savings in energy, while keeping you feeling warmer. Of course we would want to pull them down every Saturday and Sunday morning and put them up at night. Which is a hassle reward equation as well. Then we would have to store them and maintain them and find a place to set them and make them and explain them, and design them. Oh to hell with it! I'm not doing all that! lol
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FreeWheel

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #20 on: November 19, 2014, 10:09:16 AM »
We have newer, good quality windows in our home and still use the film every year. All you have to do is stand near the window before and after installation (on a cold day) to feel the difference. There is no way that the cost of only $2-3 per window is not recouped quickly in a colder area.

The elimination of condensation on the windows is another benefit. Without the film, we would get condensation around the frames, it would freeze on the coldest nights, melt in the sun the next day, and run onto the wooden sills/mouldings and damage them.

Before I used the film, I would go around the house every day or so with a towel and dry them off. Not anymore!
« Last Edit: November 19, 2014, 11:24:48 AM by FreeWheel »

MikeBear

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #21 on: November 20, 2014, 01:34:10 AM »
We have newer, good quality windows in our home and still use the film every year. All you have to do is stand near the window before and after installation (on a cold day) to feel the difference. There is no way that the cost of only $2-3 per window is not recouped quickly in a colder area.

The elimination of condensation on the windows is another benefit. Without the film, we would get condensation around the frames, it would freeze on the coldest nights, melt in the sun the next day, and run onto the wooden sills/mouldings and damage them.

Before I used the film, I would go around the house every day or so with a towel and dry them off. Not anymore!

Is this with the film installed inside the house, or outside the house?

enigmaT120

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #22 on: November 20, 2014, 10:26:46 AM »
We use it in the winter, even though we heat with free firewood. Even our new good windows get some condensation on the lower parts, and we don't want stuff to mold. We keep a few windows free of it so that we can open them -- our stove is very good at heating the house.


Guses

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #23 on: November 22, 2014, 03:05:46 PM »
So, I found a kit that should be able to cover all my windows for 28$. I went for it and will be installing this tomorrow.

I am hoping for some great things based on this thread!

FreeWheel

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #24 on: December 05, 2014, 02:09:13 PM »
We have newer, good quality windows in our home and still use the film every year. All you have to do is stand near the window before and after installation (on a cold day) to feel the difference. There is no way that the cost of only $2-3 per window is not recouped quickly in a colder area.

The elimination of condensation on the windows is another benefit. Without the film, we would get condensation around the frames, it would freeze on the coldest nights, melt in the sun the next day, and run onto the wooden sills/mouldings and damage them.

Before I used the film, I would go around the house every day or so with a towel and dry them off. Not anymore!

Is this with the film installed inside the house, or outside the house?

Sorry for the late reply. The film I use is the common (and low cost) stuff made for the inside. I've never tried any outside film, and frankly don't see how it could seal or hold up.

Cwadda

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #25 on: December 05, 2014, 02:27:11 PM »
My mom put saran wrap (I think) over the whole window and then used a blowdryer to suck out the air. You can't tell it's there.

TerriM

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #26 on: December 05, 2014, 02:41:32 PM »
I am wondering if window insulation film is a worthwhile investment?

It seems to be pretty expensive considering the cost of heating.

I estimate that it will cost 50-75$ to cover all my windows with film whereas heating costs about 700$ per year. Anybody can weigh in on whether window film insulation is worthwhile?

We live in Ottawa, keep temperature around 19.5 C when we are home and live in a fairly recent home with appropriate insulation.


It was worth every dollar for us, but we've always had leaky windows. Between getting rid of the electric heaters (and turning up the house heat to compensate) and putting the plastic on, we cut our elec+gas bill in half for the winter.

Also, if you're careful, you can save the plastic year to year--just make sure to label the sheets as to which room/window they were on. I am able to save half of them year to year. Inevitably the kids poke through one of them and I tear two more, but it's not bad. Then the tape just costs $10 or so.

Also, if you have blinds behind the windows that you want to adjust using cords, cut a slit in the plastic, then use 4 pieces of clear packing tape to make a rectangle bordering the slit. Keeps it from breaking. Do not just cover the plastic with tape and then cut through both as the tape will continue to tear where you cut it.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #27 on: April 29, 2016, 06:11:20 AM »
Is this something that covers the glass only, or the whole window frame?

I'd be keen on trying something to keep this place warmer, it can get a bit chilly in the winter, as I've got no central heating.

Guses

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #28 on: April 29, 2016, 07:10:56 AM »
I had mine installed by protection plus.

You paid someone to have those installed? How much did this cost?

I did the math and while it is worthwhile to install them yourself, paying for it quickly eats into your bottom line.

HipGnosis

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #29 on: April 29, 2016, 02:10:39 PM »
My mom put saran wrap (I think) over the whole window and then used a blowdryer to suck out the air. You can't tell it's there.
I believe you are mistaken. The window insulation kits are made to shrink when heated with a hair dryer to take out the wrinkles, which makes it virtually invisible.
It doesn't take out the air, as that layer of 'dead' air is doing the insulating.

KCalla

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #30 on: April 29, 2016, 08:15:07 PM »
It seems to me that at least two very different products are being discussed in this thread, and that all are usually described as "window film":

1. A thin film that is applied directly to the window glass. It is cut and measured carefully, and applied to the inside of a window with a liquid (sometimes water, sometimes water and a surfactant). This type of film is often familiar to people as the type used to tint automobile windows. It can have a tint, be clear, or even be "mirrored". It usually offers significant UV protection (my primary reason to use it) Some varieties reflect heat and sun "out" (used in sunny, desert climates). Some reflect heat "in" to the house (cold, overcast climates). These are not for the purpose of slowing or stopping drafts from leaky window seals. The do sometimes help with convection drafts because of temperature changes in the clear part of the window.
These can be very fiddly to apply well. It is often applied with a squegee (not even sure how to spell that!). It is easy to trap air bubbles between the film and the glass, which really does not look good at all. Once you put these on, you leave them on for many years. You can still open and close your window. No functionality is lost. There used to be some controversy about using them on double pane glass. Some thought it increased the chance of cracking of the inner pane. I have used these on home windows in two houses with no problems, but this may be luck related. Sometimes the installer leaves a quarter inch of glass uncovered at the edges. I have been warned that application can void window manufacturer's warranty for some companies.

2. A thin (or thick) film that is applied to the frame of the window to create an insulating air gap between the the inside of the room and the glass. The films that "tighten up" when exposed to the heat of a blow dryer become almost invisible. These are MUCH less ertxpensive, in my experience, that the technique in #1 above, but are for a different purpose. They work great for stopping leaks and reducing. They keep you from opening the window. I used these in apartments and older homes I lived in. They worked great and made the space much more comfortable and lowered heating bills. They caused no permanent affect on the window....easy to remove. Mine were not reusable. Their advantages remind me of the benefits of old fashioned "storm windows" without the cost, hassle and storage space.

And there are many variations on these themes. These two are both "inside" options.


asiljoy

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #31 on: April 29, 2016, 08:26:18 PM »
Try bubble wrap instead. It's cheaper and reusable. Cut to the size of the pane, spray water on a clean window and place it on with the bubbles facing the glass. Remove at end of season and save for next year.

You don't have to tap it or anything??

cchrissyy

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #32 on: April 29, 2016, 09:07:37 PM »
Super helpful, Kcalla.

I'm following this thread bc I'm considering option 1 for my south facing windows

fishnfool

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #33 on: April 29, 2016, 10:06:30 PM »
I had a 3M window film installed on all of the windows that got afternoon Sun. It works quite well for keeping the house cooler. Not sure about how well it works for insulation from cold. It wasn't cheap and if I could have, I would have installed it myself.

frugalparagon

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #34 on: April 30, 2016, 09:40:21 AM »
I had a 3M window film installed on all of the windows that got afternoon Sun. It works quite well for keeping the house cooler. Not sure about how well it works for insulation from cold. It wasn't cheap and if I could have, I would have installed it myself.

We applied that hairdryer kind of film of our swamp cooler. Works really, really well. And this isn't just like a poorly insulated window--it's basically a hole in the wall. We could really feel a breeze coming through before installation; afterwards, nothing.
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TravelJunkyQC

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Re: Is window film insulation worth it?
« Reply #35 on: May 02, 2016, 07:26:48 AM »
If your windows are newer, I'm not sure. We use them because we live in a condo (Qubec City - very cold in the winter months) and we aren't allowed to change our old windows. We DO feel a draft through them, which is why it's worth it. We estimated that they saved us about 100$ of heating costs last year for the 3 coldest months (December to February, in the -20s and -30s for several weeks). But again, this is because our windows are exceptionally shitty.