Plastic wrap – can it stop cold window drafts?

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Staying warm in an RV
Baby it’s cold outside and our windows are giving me a chill.

So it begins, the cold, wet, dark Winter in the Inland NW (WA State).   For us that meant we would not get enough sun to warm Bailey (the name of our 5th wheel) during the day – even solar panels wouldn’t be of much use here this time of year because of all the fog.  Ideally, the solution would be to head South, but we wanted to stay here to spend the holidays with our families. Find out of plastic wrap will help us fight the cold drafts to come!

Fight The Draft With ‘Bubble Wrap’

With the window shades drawn, you could feel a cold breeze on the back of your neck while sitting on the couch.  So we decided to put up the Reflectix that we used during the Summer to help keep the heat out that worked GREAT.  The cold draft was now flowing out the bottom of the window because the ‘bubble wrap’ sheet provided a solid surface for the air to flow around.  Ugh!

Let’s Try Plastic Wrap

What could we do to stop this draft?  We remembered using “window shrink wrap” which is essentially a sheet of plastic secured to the window by double stick tape.  The ‘shrink wrap’ comes into play since you then use a hair dryer to shrink the plastic up, making it a tight fit across the window.  The step of tightening the plastic allows you to be able to see a little more clearly out of the window. The product we purchased was Frost King Window Insulation Shrink Kit that we had used before, and it worked in our sticks-and-bricks home.  

If you are going to use the window wrap product we have two tips for you (as our application wasn’t 100% successful):

Plastic Wrap Tips

  1. We decided to apply the product in the middle of October when it was already cold out.  That may not be a problem in a sticks-and-bricks home, but the metal frames in the 5th wheel so frigid the tape had a hard time sticking.  Apply the product to the windows on a warm day will give you optimal results.
  2. If you have single pane windows, RV windows or expect sun with a Southern facing window DO NOT apply heat (‘shrink wrap’) to the plastic.  In our rig, we did apply heat to shrink the plastic, giving it a nice tight fit and trimmed off the excess plastic. Our 5th wheel had a Southern sun exposure on it’s largest window.  And of course, the only day that we had full sun here in North during the Winter, the plastic shrunk up so much the tape came off. There wasn’t enough length left of the plastic to try to put it back up.  

BONUS TIP for plastic wrap:  

If you do ‘shrink wrap’ your plastic, leave a few inches all the way around of excess plastic so you can reattach it later if needed.

We noticed a difference that night after applying the plastic to the windows. Sure, you could still feel the cold radiating from the single pane windows, but there was no cold breeze coming from them.  Now that the draft was fixed we were onto figuring out how to lessen the cold chill.

Next, Add Some Blankets

Since we had at least 5 extra heavy blankets sitting in our storage bay, we decided to put them to good use!  The challenge was trying to hang them off the window treatments. With the help of a dozen or so clothespins (we had on hand for chip/bag clips) the blankets were up covering the windows and are easy enough to take down – in the event we get some sunshine.  

One main draft was coming from the front door, which also received a stylish blanket.  Besides keeping the draft from setting off our furnace thermostat, it also aided as a block to the cold when you enter/exit the 5th wheel.  If it were easier to get inside the 5th wheel with the grocery bags and the blanket hanging up, we would probably have it up during the hot Summer temps.

Our window set up has made a huge difference!  Not only did it cut down on the draft and is helping to minimize the radiating cold, but we have also burned less propane running the furnace.  

The window set up is: window, plastic, Reflectix, fabric blinds (that Bailey came with) and the blanket.

Watch For Condensation Buildup

The only thing to keep in mind is condensation.  We have two windows that do not open, so they have no way to vent excess condensation build up.  The two windows are small side windows, so we did not put plastic on them. However, we did put the Reflectix between the window and the fabric accordion blinds to help keep the cold out. Unfortunately, this only created a perfect habitat for humidity, so much so, that the bottom of the window sill was retaining about an inch of water.  It was a good thing we had checked it, or we would have had minor water damage come Spring. To help with taking water out of the air, we do run a dehumidifier that works great (we will post a review) but, it is not a cure-all for window condensation.

Next year we may just skip covering the windows with plastic, but we will see when the time comes.  But we will definitely make sure to apply them when it is warm outside and not shrink-wrap any on the South facing windows, to get a better result!  

Read more HERE on what we did to the 5th wheel, to stay warm inside during our WA State Winter with zero degree temperatures.

Melissa McElfresh

Melissa McElfresh

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis (stomach paralysis), which made me realize life is too short and not to take simple things for granted. As an avid indoor-girl with allergies, I did not go on hikes of any sort. But, one day my Marine husband, Don, asked if I would go on a 'nature walk' with him. It was on the paved Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park. I went and was hooked, eager for our next adventure! The desire to see new places, meet new people, experience new cultures, has aided me to share with you my new adventure.

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We are sharing our adventures to not only document our full-time living in a 5th wheel but to provide others with information.  Our extensive research involved searching for answers to these questions: how to begin this lifestyle, what RV is best to live in full-time and what jobs could we do to support our dream.  However, we did not find a lot of answers out there that pertained to our quest.  Quickly we realized people choose this lifestyle and their RV for many different reasons.  There is no right or wrong answer.  We are here to provide you with another perspective.

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