I’m a little chilly. Can I have another strait jacket?
– Ned Flanders
One of my favorite tropes on the TV program Buffy the Vampire Slayer was that right after Spike (an unslayed vampire) made some big, dramatic statement, he’d often fall down or get smacked in the head. That’s roughly what happened to me today when I was applying insulating window film. I was preparing to do a window in our bedroom, and I was thinking, “I am the queen of doing this! I should post tips on how to do it, because I am soooo good at it.” And then this happened:
That blurry bit at the bottom of the window is where I mis-measured the film and had to use packing tape to add a bit to finish sealing the window. Yay, me!
If you’re not sure what I’m on about, insulating window kits help reduce drafts by adding another layer to your windows without blocking the view. It’s like Saran wrap (UK: cling film) for your windows. The clear film attaches around the edges of the window frame, and then you shrink it with a hair dryer until it’s tight and it pretty much disappears. When you want to open your windows in the spring, you peel off the film. There are a bunch of brands, and they all work basically the same way. We usually use the Scotch brand shown here.
If you have good windows, then you don’t need insulating film. If you have old drafty windows that you’ve been meaning to reseal and insulate since you bought the dang house, then window film application might become your annual ritual. It really does help.
Despite my recent d’oh moment with window film, I do have some tips that can help maximize your window kit and minimize application time.
1. Measuring. Obviously, measuring is important before you cut the film (see above), but it took me a couple of years to realize that it can be most efficient to cut it “sideways”. What I mean is that the film comes in a long folded sheaf, and it seems like you want to measure along the length of it to cut your vertical measurement. However, the short direction might be long enough unfolded to cover your window with less waste. Check your vertical measurement against the size of the film before cutting.
Also, don’t be like me! Make sure your measurements include enough film to wrap around the edges of your window frame.
2. Wrinkles. The instructions usually emphasize the importance of attaching the film as tightly and flat-ly as possible. You know what? Film is filmy. It’s hard to avoid wrinkles. Do what you can, but the hair dryer can take a lot of slack out of this stuff.
I stick the middle-top of the film to the middle-top of the taped window frame, and then do the same at the middle-bottom. Then I smooth down the film along the top edge before tapping the film into place simultaneously along the sides. Finally, I wrap the film around the sill and smooth the bottom edge. Avoid outright folds around the edge (you can peel the film off the tape and reset it before you shrink it), but a few wrinkles around the edge are not a problem.
On this window, I had some wrinkles at the edges that made ripples as deep as a half-inch (1.25 cm) across the front of the window. Here’s a picture of those edge wrinkles after just the initial shrinking.
To get wrinkles out quickly, point the dryer along the wrinkles, then 90 degrees the other direction — super-quick tightening, and the wrinkles just disappear. Then generally “dry” the entire surface to finish it off.
3. Repairs. Many be-filmed windows have fallen victim to cat-based violence around here. A bird flutters by, someone lunges, and the film ends up with a big hole. If you keep the end of the film roll, it’s easy to repair. Trim any ragged edges and use clear tape to secure a patch to the intact parts of the original film, then use a hair dryer to tighten it all up. It’s not ideal, but it does the job.
You may also find that otherwise un-felined film starts to sag a little over the winter. Ten seconds with the dryer tightens it back up. I wish my bottom were made of this stuff.
Fixing up the windows is on the 2014 list — maybe no plasticized windows next winter!