The most up-to-date doors and windows are great at keeping out the winter cold, and homeowners often notice a difference in their heating bills after an upgrade. However, older doors and windows can be made nearly as effective by adding weatherstripping—additional seals made of rubber, metal, plastic, or caulk.

Permanent weatherstripping solutions can be more expensive and difficult to install, but they provide better barriers against intrusive drafts of frigid air. In milder climates, temporary, cheaper alternatives may be the way to go. In either case, the following weatherstripping options for doors and windows can be installed by homeowners themselves or with the help of a handyman, and they’ll all protect your house against drafts and energy loss.

Permanent Weatherstripping Options

Tubular gaskets, made of rubber or vinyl, are relatively easy to install and fairly permanent. The coil of material can be cut to the length needed and then attached to door jambs or the undersides of window sashes with heavy-duty staples or tacks; many brands of gaskets are even self-adhesive. For high-impact areas such as front entry doors, gaskets reinforced with metal are the best choice.

Interlocking metal channels are recommended by the Department of Energy as an “exceptional weather seal” for doors, and it’s easy to see why: when the door is closed, the components fit together to create a seal impenetrable to drafts. However, because proper alignment is crucial, installing interlocking metal channels is usually considered a job for a professional.

V-channels, also called V-strips or spring metal, are most often used to weatherize older double-hung windows. The sash is removed, and the strips, usually made of bronze, are tacked into the channels on which the sash slides up and down. Before the sash is replaced, the V-channel is flared out so that the tension of the metal will create a firm seal with the window.

Temporary Weatherstripping Options

Door sweeps are rubber tubes or squeegee-like blades designed to prevent drafts—and insects—from creeping under outside-access doors. They can be permanently installed with screws, but many door sweep products are also held in place by magnets or simply by the pressure between the bottom of the door and the floor.

Plastic sheeting for windows is inexpensive, easy to install, and ideal for renters who can’t make permanent upgrades to their house, condo, or apartment. Some plastic sheeting is made to be stapled to the windows’ exterior, while interior plastic sheeting works similarly to shrink-wrap and can be tightened with a hair dryer. In both cases, the plastic sheeting will be effective and virtually invisible if you stretch it tightly and carefully trim away the excess.

Rope caulk, also called caulk cord, is probably the easiest temporary weatherstripping solution to install. With the window sash closed, simply unroll lengths of caulk and press the cords in the seams between the window’s sashes and casing. This will offer lasting protection against winter drafts, and when the weather warms up and it’s time to open the windows again, the product can be easily peeled away.

Clearly, there’s a weatherstripping option to meet every need. After you evaluate your doors’ and windows’ susceptibility to drafts, select a permanent or temporary solution and install it yourself or with the assistance of a handyman. During the winter, it’s a simple, cost-effective way to keep warm air inside and money in your wallet.

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Sources: Bonneville Power Administration; Michigan Energy Options; Michigan State University Extension; US Department of Energy.

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