Is Cold Air Leaking Through Your Windows? - ACRE Explains

All anyone can talk about this week is the weather. We are in the middle of a “Polar Vortex”, and it is so cold that your home could be suffering. From pipes bursting to ice forming on the INSIDE of your windows, the deep cold can wreak havoc on your house. But the most common complaint we get from people during the bitter cold is that they think they feel cold air leaking through their windows.

If true, this indicates either your windows were installed improperly or your windows need to be replaced entirely. But more importantly if cold air is leaking through your windows, it is costing you potentially thousands of dollars a year in energy bills.

So it is our job today to describe for you how to check your windows and doors for those pesky and extremely costly air leaks! There are endless articles about this on the internet, so I’ve rounded up a couple articles/videos that explain this best for you.

Four Tests To Check For Air Leaks

(From Yahoo Home Blog)

  1. Touch Test: (aka Common Sense Test)

    What to do:
    Move your hand around the frame of the window or door and see if you feel a draft
    You know there is a leak if:
    You feel a draft of cold air from the frame
    Our Opinion: Not the most technical or scientific, try another test . . .
  2. Flashlight Test: Look for light!

    What to do:
    This needs two people. Have one person inside the house pointing a flashlight at the corners of the window/door and have one person outside looking for light leak
    You know there is a leak if:
    You can see the light shining through the window or door frame. If light can leak out, then cold/hot air can come in
    Our Opinion: Makes perfect sense, if you can see light through your frame, basically you have a hole in your house and that is never a good thing.
  3. Paper Test: Can you slide a piece of paper between your window or door?

    What to do:
    Shut a door on window on a piece of paper and try to slide the piece of paper cleanly through one side.
    You know there is a leak if:
    You can push the paper through without ripping it
    Our Opinion: Sounds unscientific, but it was mention in every study/article we read. And it makes sense if a piece of paper can slide through your window/door then certainly air can creep in.
  4. Pressurization Test:

    What to do:
    Shut all windows and doors and turn of all heaters/air conditioners and water coolers. Then, turn on exhaust fans that blow air outside. Light a candle/incense stick (anything that is lit and has smoke) and move it around the edges of the windows/door in question.
    You know if there is a leak if:
    The smoke from the candle/incense is warped, sucked out of, or blown into a room.
    Our Opinion: Very technical & somewhat time consuming. Many moving parts here that you could get wrong. But if you do the test right, seems like a sure fire way to tell if you have leaks and where they are.

Advice From The Government

The United States Department of Energy advocates that the best way to test is with a "blower door" test. But if that is not available, you visually inspect your home. Look not just at your windows and doors, but at the following other areas:

  • Electrical outlets
  • Switch plates
  • Door and window frames
  • Electrical and gas service entrances
  • Baseboards
  • Weather stripping around doors
  • Fireplace dampers
  • Attic hatches
  • Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners.
  • Cable TV and phone lines
  • Where dryer vents pass through walls
  • Vents and fans.

Any cracks or gaps in these can cause air leaks, so it may not necessarily be from your windows or doors.

Lastly, they recommend to try rattling your windows & looking for daylight around the window or door frame. If it moves or you see light creeping in on the edges, there is an air leak.

Don’t feel like reading? — Here is a YouTube video!

Bottom Line:

If you think your windows are leaking, perform one of these tests. Most likely if you are sitting on the couch and feel a draft of cold air there is a window leak in your home. The key to stopping it is first admitting that there is a problem. Otherwise, you are basically throwing money out the window!