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Consumer Regrets: Plastic Window Film (and how to hang it)

Updated on January 6, 2011

Window replacement vs. window insulation?

Short of a total window replacement that can be costly, what can you do if your windows are drafty or just plain cold? Plastic window film is an effective insulation to conserve heat but, unfortunately, not earth friendly. Hence, it makes it on my consumer regret list.

Where can plastic window film be used?

Plastic window film is not only for drafty windows (although you’ll see quite a difference in the room or house temperature if this is the case). You can use the film to help insulate any windows and it is wonderful for large bay windows which may transfer a lot of cold inside.

How much do you need?

The best way to determine the amount you need is to measure your windows before you go to the store. Each box has a measurement on the outside to easily determine how much you will need. Most brands also include the necessary double sided tape but read the box carefully to be sure.

If your window(s) are particularly drafty, you might want to put on two layers of plastic film. Double your measurements for those windows.

How to put up plastic window film

Years of experience have shown that putting up plastic window film is much easier with two people. It is possible to do it by yourself but be prepared to be patient. (It’s not as bad as hanging wallpaper but you still need patience.)

What you will need:

- enough plastic film for your windows

- enough double sided tape for your windows

      (usually included in the box with the film)

- pair of scissors

- damp cloth

- cutting blade (optional; may be in the package)

- a friend (optional)

- measuring tape (optional)

- blow dryer

Step 1:

Wipe all the window sills and frames with a damp cloth. The tape doesn’t stick well to dust or dirt. Allow the sills and frames to dry before putting on the tape.

Step 2:

Put the double sided tape around the windows. *Do not peel off the wax paper*. Peel off the wax paper only when you are ready to stick the film to the window.

Caution: The double-sided tape may peel off bits of paint around the window when you remove it in the spring. If you can stick the tape to the plastic frame that will protect any paint or wallpaper.

Option 1

Measure the window
Measure the window
Measure the plastic
Measure the plastic
Cut the plastic
Cut the plastic

Step 3:

You have two options for measuring the film. With either option, leave a good few extra inches of film on all sides of the window.

Option 1: Measure the windows with a measuring tape then measure the film and cut the size you need (leaving a good few extra inches all around).  The drawback with this is that you need to be very exact when you hang the film or you will be left short on one side.

Option 2: Begin to hang the film from a corner of the film roll. Cut the film after all sides have been stuck down. (Remember to leave a few good extra inches all around.)

Option 2

Peel back the tape
Peel back the tape
Hold the plastic taut, stick from the middle up
Hold the plastic taut, stick from the middle up

Step 4:

With either option, start hanging the film from the top of the window. Peel back the wax paper as you go (if you peel back the entire side you run the risk of getting the bottom stuck while trying to hang the top). You might find it easier to peel back a long strip and then press the plastic film starting in the middle of the exposed tape section.

Option 1: If you pre-cut the film then pick up the film a few inches in from the top corners (leaving your few extra inches at the top and side).  Press the film to one of the top corners and then to the other corner. If the middle sticks at the wrong place while pressing the corners on, gently pull it off then apply it again and work toward either corner.

Option 2: Take a corner of the film, peel back the wax paper across the top a few inches and press the film on until it is halfway across. Go back to the corner where you started and begin to peel the paper and press the film down the side of the window to the bottom. Go back and continue across the top, down the other side and finally across the bottom.

Step 5:

Set your blow dryer to the ‘hot’ setting and hold it a few inches away from the film slowly moving it around the window. This makes the film taut and smooths out any creases.

*I’ve found the film is still effective if this step is left out but I had to live with a few creases. Make the film as taut as possible by hand if you do not blow dry it.

The finished window (non-blow dried)

Step 6:

Periodically check the window film through the season to make sure the wind hasn’t loosened the film anywhere (or little hands haven’t poked any holes!). This is also a great way to see if any window is drafty as you will notice the plastic becomes convex from the incoming wind.

Can plastic film be reused?

If you leave quite a few extra inches around the plastic film and remove it carefully to avoid rips, it is possible to use the plastic again for another season (or possibly two). When you take the plastic film down from the window, you will have to very carefully remove the double sided tape if it is still stuck to the film. If you do this carefully it can usually be peeled off without ripping the film.

Other suggestions?

If anyone knows a more environmentally friendly way to insulate large bay windows  or seal drafty windows (short of replacing them), I would really appreciate hearing your suggestions!

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