Home heating costs have been climbing at a frenzied pace and they show little sign of calming down any time soon. With windows being a major source of heat loss, adding window insulation is a fantastic way to cut your heating bill.
So what’s the cheapest way to insulate windows for winter? It makes zero sense to spend a small fortune on window insulation and have to wait years for your heating bill savings to cover the cost. You need effective, cheap window insulation that will save you big money, right away, this winter.
And the cheapest way to insulate your windows for winter is by using bubble wrap.
- Bubble wrap is really effective window insulation
- Bubble wrap is easy to find
- Bubble wrap goes on fast
- Bubble wrap is reusable
That last point is very important. With bubble wrap you buy it once and you’re done. Unlike the shrink-to-fit window films that are only good for one winter,
bubble wrap is the perfect reusable, cheap window insulation.
And it’s the way that I insulate all of the windows in my home. I love it!
You might also like: What’s The Cheapest Way To Stay Warm At Home This Winter?
Taking a few minutes to bubble wrap your windows is just one of the many steps you can take to stay warm without spending so much of your money on your heating bill.
I’ll tell you upfront that bubble wrap isn’t the prettiest look in the world, but when you need to save some money, windows with curb appeal don’t really matter.
In this article I’ll tell you everything you could possibly want to know about bubble wrapping your windows, I’ll explain why bubble wrap is the cheapest way to insulate your windows for winter, and I’ll give you step-by-step instructions for fitting it.
Here’s the table of contents, so you can skip to the section that you need, if you don’t have a lot of time to read an entire blog post.
How Does Bubble Wrapping Your Windows Reduce Heat Loss?
Bubble wrap is made up of lots of bubbles and those bubbles contain air. An air layer slows down the transfer of heat.
It’s why double-glazed windows have an air gap between the panes instead of simply sandwiching two panes together, or using one thick pane of glass.
When you use bubble wrap on your windows, you’re adding another layer of ‘glazing’ and an additional air gap.
How effective is bubble wrap on windows?
With bubble wrap, the heat loss through your windows should be 45-50% lower.
Why Bubble Wrap Your Windows?
- Your home will be warmer
- You’ll save money on your heating bills
- No loss of daylight
- No loss of solar heat gain on sunny days
- Bubble wrap is quick to apply
- Bubble wrap is reusable year after year
- You won’t have to deal with wiping away condensation every morning
- It’s perfect for renters
- It’s low cost and can even be free if you can get hold of unwanted packing material from local stores
- Anyone can do this – zero DIY skills needed
- Bubble wrap is much cheaper than thermal curtains or blinds
Your Home Will Be Warmer
Windows are a major source of your home’s heat loss. While you can stuff your wall cavities and attic space with insulation as an energy-saving measure, you can’t insulate windows to anywhere near the same degree.
Heat travels through all materials, and window glass puts up little resistance to that heat transfer.
The more heat you lose through walls and windows, the more heat you have to replace via your heating system or fireplace.
If you can reduce the amount of heat lost through your windows, your home will stay warmer. That makes sense, right?
You’ll Save Money On Your Heating Bills
With less heat escaping through your windows, you’ll be able to lower your thermostat and still maintain a comfortable temperature in your home.
A UK Department of Energy report (pdf file -see page 15) estimated that turning your thermostat down by 1°C from 19°C to 18°C would yield an energy saving of between 1,300 and 1,930 kWh per year.
And turning the thermostat down by 2°C from 20°C to 18°C would save between 2,630 and 3,900 kWh.
That’s a lot of expensive energy!
Based on a gas cost of 11.54p per kWh (OVO Energy May 2022) you could save around £450 per year if you set your thermostat 2 degrees lower.
To work out your potential savings, look at your bill to find out your heating cost per kWh, then multiply that figure by the kWh estimates above. Example:
11.54 x 3900 = £450.
I can’t give you my own energy savings because I heat with homegrown wood and biomass so I don’t have pre and post-bubble wrap heating bills to compare.
But I can say that we really notice how much warmer we are when the bubble wrap goes on, so in my opinion, dropping your thermostat by 2 degrees should absolutely be possible.
Bubble Wrap Goes On Fast
The first time you insulate your windows, you’ll need to spend about 5 minutes per window, to measure, cut, and apply. The following year will be even quicker since all you need to do is take the pre-cut bubble wrap, wet your window, and press it into place.
Removing bubble wrap once the weather warms up is even faster. Just grab a corner and peel it off your window.
Bubble Wrap Insulation Is Reusable Year After Year
The standard shrink fit, plastic film that you buy and stick to your window frame only lasts one season. As soon as you remove it, it’s ruined.
Not so with bubble wrap.
Because you ‘stick’ bubble wrap to your window with a mist of water, you can peel it off, fold it up and stow it away until the next time you want to use it.
Along with its low cost, this reusability makes bubble wrap the cheapest way to insulate your windows for winter
No More Condensation In The Mornings
Stopping condensation on your windows is another benefit you get with bubble wrap.
Wiping away condensation is a job that you have to do if you want to prevent rot and mold from forming on your window frames. It’s a time-consuming task especially when you’re in a hurry in the mornings.
Using bubble wrap on your windows stops the condensation and saves you time.
Condensation forms when the water vapor in the warm air inside your home touches a cool surface like cold window glass. Since bubble wrap doesn’t get cold, there’s no cool surface where condensation can form.
No loss of solar heat gain on sunny days
On sunny winter days, the sun can really boost the temperature in any south-facing rooms. Because bubble wrap doesn’t block solar radiance, you’ll still benefit from the warmth those lovely solar rays bring into your home.
On overcast winter days, you’ll appreciate your bubble warp insulation even more because it keeps your home warmer without blocking daylight. Winter is dark and gloomy enough as it is without shutting out precious daylight with thick curtains or insulating blinds.
Perfect For Renters
Many of the winterizing and insulating jobs that can make a home warmer and lower heating bills are off-limits to renters. If your landlord won’t make improvements, you’re stuck with a high heating bill.
Because bubble wrap is temporary and doesn’t require any hardware fixings to hold it in place, you can insulate your windows without needing approval from your landlord, or worrying about losing your security deposit.
It’s Ultra Low Cost
I bubble-wrapped my first ‘test’ window with packing material I’d saved.
Once I realized how much warmer it made the room, I ordered a cheap roll of bubble wrap from Amazon and put a double layer of bubble wrap on the windows and exterior glass doors in my home.
If you have any furniture or sport equipment stores close by, it’s worth asking if they have any waste bubble wrap you could take off their hands.
You could get lucky and score enough material to insulate your windows without spending a single penny!
Zero DIY Skills Needed
If you can measure with a tape measure, cut with scissors, and spray water from a misting bottle, you can fit bubble wrap window insulation.
It only takes a few minutes and doesn’t make any mess.
Bubble wrap is safe to handle so you don’t need to wear any protective gloves, eyeglasses, or particle-blocking face masks.
Great Alternative To Expensive Thermal Curtains And Blinds
Thermal curtains and blinds are very effective but they aren’t cheap.
One thing you should always factor into any project is the payback time.
If you splash out on window treatments, you’ll have to wait a long time before the savings on your heating bills cover the purchase price.
Another drawback of thermal blinds and curtains is their use is generally limited to night-time.
During the day you want natural light in your home, and on sunny days you need the warmth and the well-being boost that the sun brings.
Bubble wrap doesn’t block daylight or sunshine. 🙂
How To Bubble Wrap Your Windows
Step By Step Instructions For Bubble Wrap Window Insulation
5 minutes per window
Materials and Tools
Long straight edge (optional)
Spray bottle and water (or a damp cloth)
Clean Your Windows
Start with a clean window. Bubble wrap has a hard time adhering to windows covered with sticky finger marks from children or snuffle marks from pets.
Measure Your Windows
Use your tape measure to determine the width and height of your windows. Having some help will make measuring large windows easier.
Measure & Cut Your Bubble Wrap
Lay your bubble wrap on the floor or on a large table.
Measure out and mark your window dimensions on the bubble wrap.
Cut the bubble wrap to size.
Test fit on your window.
Wet Your Window
To make the bubble wrap stick to your window, the surface of the glass needs to be wet.
Mist your window with water from the spray bottle. Or wipe over the glass with a damp cloth.
“Stick” The Bubble Wrap To Your Window
Apply the bubble wrap to your window. Make sure that the bubble side is against the window glass.
Gently press into place. Do not pop the bubbles.
Apply A Second layer For Even Greater Heat Loss Reduction
You can prevent even more heat loss by adding a second layer of bubble wrap.
Simply mist water onto the first layer, then gently press the 2nd sheet into place with the bubble side against the first layer.
How easy was that? Now you’ve added some really effective cheap window insulation which will help you to cut your heating bill this winter.
Where To Buy Bubble Wrap For Windows
You can buy the bubble wrap you’ll need for your winter window insulation at office supply stores, stores that sell packing materials, Amazon, and Ebay.
Rolls of bubble wrap come in various widths, so try to get a width that is either the exact size you need or a little wider.
If your windows are wider than the rolls available, that’s okay, you can cut an extra strip to fill in the gap. Doing this won’t make any difference to the effectiveness of the insulation.
However, if you want the ultimate bubble wrap insulation, pick up a roll of greenhouse bubble wrap from a greenhouse supplier.
Greenhouse bubble wrap has extra large bubbles and it even comes in a twin-wall version.
This means that the bubbles are sandwiched between 2 layers of plastic which gives an even higher insulation value (R value 1.4)
This final step is the most important one, so don’t forget about it.
Go and turn your thermostat down a couple of degrees!
So there you have one quick and easy way to lower your heating bill without sacrificing your comfort. If you want to save even more money, you can take a look through my other heating posts here.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to wrap with bubble wrap bubbles out or in?
To create the biggest air layer, which is what you need for effective insulation, place your bubble wrap with the bubble side against the glass. This way you get the insulation from the air inside the bubble and the insulation from the air in the spaces between the bubbles.
What size bubble wrap is best for insulating Windows?
Bubble wrap with larger bubbles is best for insulating windows. The bigger the bubbles, the more air they contain, and it’s the air layer that creates the insulation. Big bubble wrap is harder to find though, and regular bubble wrap does a good job especially if you use 2 layers. Check out greenhouse suppliers to find special greenhouse bubble wrap with big bubbles.
Does bubble wrap on windows keep cold out?
Bubble wrap insulation works to keep heat inside your home. Using bubble wrap is like adding another pane of glazing to create an insulating air gap. If you have single-pane glazing, bubble wrap will give you the same insulation value as double-pane windows. Bubble wrap turns double-pane windows into triple-pane.
Does bubble wrap help with condensation?
Yes. Bubble wrap stops condensation. Condensation forms when warm moist air, hits a cold surface. On your windows, that cold surface is your window glass. Bubble wrap doesn’t get cold like window glass, so there’s no cold surface where condensation can form.
Is bubble wrap better than plastic for Windows?
Bubble wrap is better than plastic film if you have tightly sealed windows. It’s easy to apply, provides good insulation, and you can reuse it year after year. But if you have poorly fitting windows that let cold drafts in around the sides, then window film fitted across the entire window area is better because it stops the drafts coming in. Bubble wrap sits on your glass, it won’t stop drafts. The best thing you can do is caulk around your windows to permanently fill in the gaps.
Why do people put bubble wrap in their windows?
Because bubble wrap is really good for window insulation. Your home loses a lot of expensive heat through your window glass, and bubble wrap window insulation can reduce that heat loss by up to 50%.
Does bubble wrap block sunlight?
No, the great thing about bubble wrap is it lets sunlight through. Your rooms won’t be any darker and you’ll still get that all-important heat gain from winter sunshine.
How do you winterize windows with bubble wrap?
To winterize your windows with bubble wrap all you need to do is measure and cut the bubble wrap to the right size, then wet your window glass (on the inside of the window) and press the bubble wrap into place. Done.
Is bubble wrap good for windows in summer?
No, bubble wrap won’t work to stop sunlight from heating up your home. Bubble wrap acts as an insulator to stop thermal heat transfer but it doesn’t block solar radiance. Sunlight entering through your windows heats your home via its UV rays, so a better option for the summer is UV-blocking window film.
What’s the R value of clear bubble wrap?
Clear bubble wrap has an R value of 1. This is the same as a single-pane window.