Winserts for winter warmth

IMG_4148You can reduce a window’s heat loss by 50 percent, without blocking the light, for an investment of only $15.

At a recent Hitchcock Center for the Environment workshop (in photo above), I built a winsert. First I fastened together pre-cut wooden frames sized to fit one of our home’s windows and covered the frame with two layers of clear plastic. Next, I stapled on pull tabs and affixed compressible foam weatherstripping around the rim.  When I got home, I popped my winsert into the bathroom window and felt the cold drafts disappear!

I am always looking for low-cost ways to increase the energy efficiency of our home. The workshop instructor, Bick Corsa, is a longtime and award-winning builder* in the field of green construction.  Bick has been my go-to guide to improving our house’s energy efficiency. Over the years he has installed solar thermal air panels, energy-efficient windows, winserts, insulation, and most recently, a Sun Tube to bring natural light into a dark corner of our house.

Along with his colleague Janice Kurkoski of North Quabbin Energy, Bick led us through the process of measuring our windows prior to the workshop, and then through the steps as we assembled our winserts.  He said that because of the double layer of plastic in the winsert, which creates a “dead air” space, and the airtight seal created by the compressed foam weatherstripping, winserts can dramatically reduce the heat loss of a typical window.

Bick says that if you get the materials like the plastic sheeting and foam tape in bulk, you can build the average size window (2.5 by 5 feet) for about $15. “Winserts are highly effective in terms of holding heat in.  They are as good or better than replacement windows and way cheaper,” according to Bick.

IMG_4143Rebecca, from Northampton, was attending her second winsert workshop.  At the first one she made winserts for her main living space. Those worked so well that this time she made one for a window in her basement.

I have tried to reduce energy loss through the windows of our old house by replacing some with new double-paned windows (not cheap!), by caulking windows inside and out, by using temporary window insulation kits,  by buying or making insulated window shades, and by constructing insulated panels to pop into windows.  What I like about the winserts is that they are easily reusable for many years, and they don’t block out the natural light, which is so precious in the dark of winter.

With the push to phase out the burning of fossil fuels due to their carbon pollution, we need not only a rapid deployment of clean energy infrastructure, but also a speedy increase in energy efficiency in all sectors of life in the developed world.  So even as I advocate a society-wide switch to carbon pricing, investment in clean energy infrastructure and mobilization of technical innovation, I will continue to seek ways for my household to live in a more conserving and thus sustainable way.

Now, which window would be a good place for my next winsert?

* Bick Corsa has built extremely energy-efficient houses in Amherst, Williamsburg and Turners Falls.  The house in Turners Falls, which he built for Tina Clarke, won first place for the lowest energy house in the Zero Energy Challenge sponsored by the utility companies.  That same house also won the NESEA $10,000 prize for its documented year of zero net energy use.

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2 thoughts on “Winserts for winter warmth

  1. Winserts do make a tremendous difference in heat loss. Though a bit more expensive, we find that plexiglass inserts fit right into the interior trim and don’t require a wooden frame. They are held in position by push pins. Only difficulty is that condensation that forms inside north-facing inserts can drip down and create mold or mildew on the wood below it. Leaving a small crack or drilling a small vent hole seems to eliminate that problem.

  2. Thanks for the post! Those who aren’t handy can have window inserts made for them by a company called Advanced Energy Panels in Hoosick Falls, New York. Of course the inserts will cost more than $15, but certainly less than replacement windows.

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