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I am a college student living in a cheap rental. I have a window in my bedroom that leaks a lot of cold air. I live in a northern climate, and during this recent cold snap my heater can't keep up. The window is in a recess and I currently have a thin curtain covering the window. The window looks only on the side of a neighbor's wall.

Would it be a stupid idea to buy insulation to stuff into the recess and prevent cold air from leaking, and would it be effective? I've been researching and others have suggested thin plastic window covering but this doesn't seem like it would greatly improve the situation. A few drawbacks I can see to my idea is that it would obstruct the view which I don't care about and would not let any sun in which might effect my sleep.

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4 Answers 4

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You could, but getting the foam to fit right and seal won't be easy. The easiest is a plastic window covering. They make some that you shrink with a hair dryer after installing. This will ensure a seal.

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    The clear film will seal air leaks which are a big contributor to heat loss in windows. Since you don’t care about the view, I’d suggest putting rigid foam insulation into the opening and then installing the clear film over it to seal the window.
    – Mark
    Jan 6, 2018 at 13:45
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For $5 you can retain the natural light the window provides and hold back a lot of cold air; very noticeable difference. Heat shrink window insulation kits are easy to install (5 to 10 minutes) and the double-stick tape that holds the plastic is easily removed. When installed it's barely noticeable. Trim any excess beyond the tape with a sharp knife. I just removed and replaced (after three+ years) this type of insulation on two of my basement windows just an hour ago. Easy peazy.

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  • These kits are great for stopping drafts and they don't ruin the view or block sunlight. But as others have mentioned, the gap between the film and the glass is typically enough to decrease the effectiveness of the trapped air's thermal insulation. Cardboard or Styrofoam filler will make a better thermal barrier, but they block sunlight, which can help warm the room. Instead, use bubble wrap as a filler (with the large bubbles). It will take a number of layers. Tape each layer in place from the glass out to fill the window cavity to the molding. (cont'd)
    – fixer1234
    Jan 7, 2018 at 4:46
  • Then cover everything with the kit. The bubble wrap will break up the gap into small, contained air pockets with decent insulating properties and will still let sunlight through.
    – fixer1234
    Jan 7, 2018 at 4:46
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You could even consider cutting out flat sections of a corrugated cardboard box and fitting them over the window opening. Best would be pieces cut from a large box that covered the whole opening at once from side to side of the recess but using multiple layers of overlapping pieces can work just as well.

Use the two inch wide style of blue painters tape to hold the cardboard pieces in place and seal the edges to the wall. Painters tape is recommended for this because it can later be removed without much damage to the wall surfaces (paint and window trim).

This solution can make a substantial difference in the room warmth during times of extreme cold spells. The loss of ability to look out the window can easily be weighed against the energy savings and comfort. And if the existing window curtain covers the opening you do not even have to look at the brown corrugated cardboard. When warmer weather returns the cardboard can easily be removed to allow light to come into the room again.

For future plan to keep a roll or two of the tape around and do not recycle every cardboard box.

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When insulating a space, the primary objective should be to remove air movement in that space. A single layer covering over the recess will not prevent thermal transfer in the enclosed space and will not be very effective.

Layers of cardboard fully enclosing the space will be more effective, as it restricts air movement to the channels in the cardboard, as well as reducing the amount of air in the space. The cardboard will also provide some restriction to the temperature transfer.

Expanded foam sheets will be more effective, if they are cut to completely fill the space. Remove as much air as possible by carefully trimming the pieces to fit tightly against the window and window frame as well as the edges of the recess. Fill as much of the recess as possible.

If you are unable to purchase suitable foam sheeting, one can also use packing peanuts and fill the space. It's debatable whether this method would be as effective as cardboard sheets, however, as the volume of air between the packing peanuts may be greater than that in the cardboard corrugations.

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