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Don't let your energy dollars go out the window

4/6/2017 12:31:06 PM

Even when closed, your windows and doors may be more open than you realize, letting warm air escape in winter and heat to enter in summer. That's because leaky windows and poorly sealed doors are vulnerable spots for energy waste, resulting in higher utility bills.

New windows and doors can be expensive, so it's important to determine when a repair make sense and when replacement is the right choice. According to the Minnesota Commerce Department, simple maintenance and inexpensive repairs can extend the life of windows and doors, delaying the need for replacement. 

Here are some common window and door problems, with fixes that can improve durability and performance:

  • Damaged components. Cracked or missing panes of glass in doors and windows are obvious locations for leakage and energy loss. Replacement is best, but sealing with caulking can be a good temporary fix. Older windows may use a glazing compound (putty) to hold the glass to the frame. 
  • Defective air-sealing. The gap between jamb and framing may be empty or stuffed with fiberglass insulation. Gently removing inside trim will reveal this space, allowing for application of a window and door spray foam product or caulking. A quick and inexpensive fix for leaky windows can be the application of shrink-wrapped film on the inside. 
  • Loose or missing hardware. Latches, hinges, and the operating parts for crank-out windows can become loose or damaged. Often a simple tightening of screws will do the trick. 
  • Improper exterior flashing. Properly installed flashing diverts water to the outside of the siding, preventing intrusion into the wall or window/door unit. 
  • Worn or damaged weather-stripping. Installing effective weather-stripping will conserve energy by preventing air infiltration around windows and doors. You should weather-strip all doors that lead to unheated areas, such as an attic, garage or unheated basement. 

You can also improve the energy efficiency of existing windows by adding storm windows, replacing window sashes and installing window treatments or coverings.

For more information on repairing and replacing windows and doors, see the Home Energy Guide (pages 21-25). Check out the U.S. Department of Energy web pages on windows, doors, and skylights

Our next energy tip will examine energy performance when shopping for new windows and doors.

Minnesota Energy Tips is provided twice a month by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. Contact the Commerce Department's Energy Information Center at or 800-657-3710 with energy questions.

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