General Question

Jeruba's avatar

Plastic sheets for window insulation: any comments and experience to share?

Asked by Jeruba (55823points) November 16th, 2013
16 responses
“Great Question” (0points)

A member of my household is pushing for installation. Should I overcome my resistance?

• Once in place, are they ugly?—a sheet of plastic across the whole window opening?
• Are they a pain in the neck to remove cleanly when the weather gets warmer?
• Do they cause any problems in themselves?
• What about with pets?
• Do they work as advertised?

I’ve seen the manufacturer’s installation video and a removal video and looked at Amazon customer reviews. I’d like some independent and unpaid reports.

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ibstubro's avatar

I find them unsightly.

The type that you install inside with double-sided tape and heat to draw tight are the best as far as insulation and view. I don’t recall removing them, sorry.

Are you unable to buy replacement windows or storm windows?

gailcalled's avatar

I too would recommend replacing windows with ones that are more efficient. In the long run, if you are not planning on moving somewhere else, they will pay for themselves.

Unbroken's avatar

I have tried them a few times. Usually not of my own urging.

I like you have reservations and can find them tacky I have lived in a cold drafty house just because I hate them. Also since I have a cat I am worried she would poke holes in them.

There is sturdier plastic but it is less transparent. Harder to get wrinkle free and harder to put up. But pet owners seem to use this more often and it is successful.

The tape removal doesn’t always happen but sometimes it comes off fairly easy. Other times employing patience, rubbing alcohol and razor blades.

They do however work as in limiting draftiness. The hair dryer zaps the bubbles and wrinkles out brilliantly. Think shrink wrap. You do have to deal with not being able to use the ledge decoratively and not having the option to open the window. Which for me is tough I like cracking the window near my bed even in freezing temps.

One year a landlord insisted I use something. He was paying heat so I couldn’t argue. I opted for blue Styrofoam that I painted cheerfully and one I put a mirror over. I made it through the claustrophobia but was gone before the next winter.

Judi's avatar

I read an article that said to put bubble wrap on the inside of your windows
I think it would look much better than a plastic sheet and your neighbors would like it better too.

Jeruba's avatar

It’s a 9-pane front window, and the stuff goes on the inside. There would be a depth of about an inch and a quarter between the glass and the plane of the plastic, which is the thickness of the painted wood frame.

We replaced all the side windows a year ago, but not the front. At the time the amount of disruption involved would have been too much for us.

There’s a lot of heat loss there, even when the drapes are closed, but of course it rarely even gets down into the thirties here.

I don’t think I want to look at a plastic sheet in my living room all winter, no matter how practical or efficient it might be, but I’m open to the voices of experience.

ibstubro's avatar

Unless your living room is strictly formal, I would not plastic sheet it, @Jeruba. It’s like being a fish in a fishbowl, looking through water and glass at the outside world. In my opinion, anyway.

Jeruba's avatar

Strictly formal? Meaning just for show, but nobody lives there? Nope, it’s a living room. I even put my feet on the furniture. And no, I don’t want to see the world through something grayer than glass.

These responses are extremely helpful. Thank you all.

tom_g's avatar

I’ve done it many times. It’s inexpensive and easy to put up. If you hate it, you can always take it down. Just make sure you follow the directions. The hair dryer really tightens the plastic so it is solid and wrinkle-free.

ibstubro's avatar

How was the removal, @tom_g?

jaytkay's avatar

It’s cheap. If you’re careful the results are not evident (especially if you have curtains or blinds). The insulation is significant.

Wait, aren’t you in California? Are you in the mountains? How bad is your heating bill?

wildpotato's avatar

I love them. They definitely help heat loss quite a bit, but I have never bothered to measure heat loss against any claims they may make on the box. Bottom line, they are necessary for us transient renters, and are nearly invisible when put up without any wrinkles. Just take your time and use a hair dryer.

I have never had issues with removing them in warm or cold weather – the double-sided stickytape they include comes off with a quick tug, and it does not take any paInt with it, in my experience.

I have two cats, one of whom cares about sitting in windows, and a 60 lb dog who likes to stand on her hind legs and look outside with her front paws on the sill. They have never punctured the plastic, partly because I usually have deep sills and like to tape the plastic close to the window (~½”) rather than at the wall-edge as most people do. This inset method is harder to install without wrinkles, but I do it anyway for the pets and because the stuff is cheap enough that I can afford to redo them when I mess up.

WestRiverrat's avatar

The plastic can trap moisture, so if that is an issue I would not use them. They can significantly reduce your heat bill. My parents did it when we were younger, but that was in a house that we rented, they didn’t want to replace the windows with no compensation from the landlord.

One season shouldn’t be a major issue, even with moisture issues, if you want to wait to replace the windows when the weather improves.

Cupcake's avatar

We do it every year, but on Lake Ontario the weather gets WAY below 30s!

We put plastic on the outside of the big windows in the front of the living room as well as the front door, because the curtains and shutters would be in the way on the inside. Once its up, you really don’t know its there. You can definitely tell the difference as the couch is in front of those windows and it has been COLD lately without the plastic.

We actually tape up a big sheet of plastic that we trim down to size, but the ones that you shrink with your hairdryer are even less visible.

Removal is a breeze, but you can see a faint line from the tape around the window on the outside. That doesn’t bother me.

Strauss's avatar

We have done it for the past few years, before we updated all our windows. I found that the older metal frames are the hardest to which to stick the double sided tape. Once stuck, though, the shrink-wrap effect smooths out all the windows, and it would be a challenge to casually observe that the plastic was there. It cut down on the draftiness, as well as the need for heat. The down side, as mentioned above, is that you can not open a window once it has been sealed in plastic. Removal, less than half the work of the installation.

jerv's avatar

The heat-shrink ones are practically invisible; you only see the tape around the edges, and if you have curtains, even most of that is hidden.

I usually got the thicker ones as cats can be problematic. They love their turf, and won’t think twice about ripping a hole in the plastic so they can lay in their sunbeam.

As for insulation, they make a huge difference. In fact, they work better than shoving a slab of styrofoam in the window; no drafts around the edges.

I never had an issue removing them come Spring. Quick and clean.

kritiper's avatar

Seal them well and calk the outside of the windows, too. A double seal works better than just one. Clean the woodwork and allow to dry before applying the tape.

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