Picture of Bubble Wrap Storm Window  (Insert)

In this instructable I will show you how to make an INDOOR storm window that will keep plenty of cold out of a room, while letting light continue to come in. My version uses less than $4 worth of supplies, mostly from the DOLLAR TREE store.

I moved into an apartment on the 3rd floor. all windows were single pane. The building was built in about 1970, so there was poor insulation, and only single pane sliding glass windows.
It was very cold the first night and the pipes nearly froze in the bathroom. the window rattled and I knew I was in trouble.

By creating my bubble wrap storm window, I was able to raise the temperature in the room 15 degrees F in the first hour. As you can imagine the savings and comfort increased rapidly.

As you can see I do have some depth to the window so making this work was kind of easy. I suppose using clear tape , magnets, velcro etc, you might find another way to put a storm window of this type in place.

Just a new note 4/14  I found that after 2 years of use I needed to strip off the bubble wrap and put fresh on. It was mostly for looks to be cleaner as the bubble wrap still does a great job of keeping tub/shower much warmer.
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Step 1: Step 1

Picture of Step 1

In picture 2 you can see I bought clear tape and 1ft by 6ft rolls of bubble wrap from the Dollar Tree, (where everything is actually $1.00). I then found 2 wire coat hangers and unwound them to make a frame for the project.
I first rolled out two 6ft rolls side by side and taped down the middle. I actually bought 3 rolls, more on that later.
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McAldo4 months ago

Useful instructable, thanks!

I am about to insulating most windows with bubble wrap and I think I'll just go for spraying the glass with water rather than building a frame.

But I have a front door which is a massive heat sink and, given I am renting I cannot do anything radical to it to insulate it more, so I might make an upsized version of your project for it and install it at night.

Out of curiosity, have you ever considered bubble wrap or other materials to cut heat loss from the walls? Our master bedroom is, in line with a great English tradition, the only room of the house with three outward facing walls. So it's of course the coldest room in the house by several degrees.

kc8hps (author)  McAldo4 months ago

Thank you for your post I too am renting so I'm in a similar situation to yourself.

Speaking of walls cold I have a sliding glass door that is rather large and what I've done is I went to the thrift store and bought a whole bed quilts and actually put two of them back to back and put insulation in between the two and sewed them and then hung them in the window and they work rather well. The building I am in is brick so the top of the sliding glass door has a steel bar or I-beam that goes across to hold the brick. I use rather large magnets to hold the bed quilt to the steel frame on top as a way of securing them to the window those eliminating the need for a frame.

In the past I hope also purchased a piece of 2 x 2 Pine and used an old quilt and made something similar to a banner and hung it on the bedroom wall and created inside insulation with it, making just basically a wall hanging at the head of the bed. I'm sorry for what appears to be a run on sentences I am using voice to text on my iPad. I'm sure a piece of one and a half inch PVC pipe would also support an old quilt on the wall you could even make a frame with that fairly inexpensive thus making a portable from place to place. I hope this is of some assistance.


McAldo kc8hps4 months ago

Thanks for the advice Bryan, I'll give it a go and see how much the temperature changes!


karen.fuessel6 months ago

Question: I have plants on my front porch & decided to try the wrap this year on those windows....will the plants still get the needed sunshine thru the wrap??? THX

kc8hps (author)  karen.fuessel6 months ago
Hi Karen,

I'm not sure but honestly I myself would try it. The chance of light is good. The insulating factor should be fair with the bubble wrap as long as the temps dont dive to deep. The biggest protection should be in the area of freeze/frost damage.

If you spray your window with a fine mist of water before applying bubble wrap it will hold on to the window while you tape.. Makes it easier.. and will nearly suction it to the window for a better seal..

kc8hps (author) 9 months ago
After 2 years I took it down rebuilt it and have used it now 4 years. I will redo it again this fall. No telling how much money and heat this has saved but I'm sure its a ton ! Not mention the room is much warmer as well.
kc8hps (author) 2 years ago
It has been about one year since I have done much with this instructable.

UPDATE.. I have found the tape in a shower setting typically lasts one season. I think the time to remake it is well worth it..
The cost is still in the area of $2.50-$3.00 to do the project. If you are lucky enough to find free bubble wrap you can likely do a window for under a $1.

I have saved a ton of heat and a lot of discomfort from cold air while trying to take a shower. I also believe it has helped the shower pipes in the wall near by not to freeze and break.

Funny the apartment complex has a sign as you drive in the driveway.. :"leave your bathroom faucet on trickle to prevent freeze up" I Think I have found a better solution.

My instructable about weather sealing a sliding window is not so glamorous but still helps ALOT for very low money. Sorry the pictures on that one do not do it justice. :)

Peace, Bryan
Judith7562 years ago
Check you local Craig's List for free bubble wrap. We have it on ours every week. I actually use the "pool noodles" bought at Dollar Tree for a buck for cheap pipe insulation. Have never had a problem. Just slice it in a spiral, "twist" it on and duct tape a couple of places. Has worked for 8 winters here on my outdoor faucets.
Thanks for the ible.
kc8hps (author)  Judith7562 years ago
HI Judith,

I'm sorry I didn't see your post for so many months. YES I will check out craigslist for bubble wrap. IM about to do another version of the bubble wrap storm window. IT worked so well that I want to try and improve it a bit more.

Pool Noodles. I have seen those and have been dreaming of ways to use them. One I thought of was to use them on the edge of coffee tables, head boards so that they dont mar the wall if accidently bumped. I know that sounds over board but it might work.

Those noodles I would think would work great as pipe insulation. Actually as I recall they are a bit thicker if I am not mistaken.
Nice to hear from you.

unreal_ed3 years ago
How important is it to cover the window completely?

I've taped it over most of the window but it does not quite cover the edges of the glass (nor does the tape run the length of the wrap's edges). I've also not necessarily taped all the strips of bubble-wrap together along their lengths (I'm doing a lot of windows...)

Your talk of eddy currents is making me worried that not completely covering the glass will make the whole installation pointless. Is this a legitimate/reasonable concern?
kc8hps (author)  unreal_ed3 years ago
I would strongly suggest covering all edges, bubble wrap or glass. the idea is to seal the edges so that internal air can not move much.. this reduces the transfer of heat molecules from the inside of the room to the outside much slower. If you have gaps you are correct that it is pointless in a way.
Thanks for answering!

Also, what if the bubble-wrap does not COMPLETELY cover the whole surface of the window (but almost all of it) but it's is properly sealed along the edges? Is that better, or also pointless?
kc8hps (author)  unreal_ed3 years ago
If its sealed, I would say something is better than nothing
hms10183 years ago
I'm in Michigan and this is a sweet idea. Thanks
kc8hps (author)  hms10183 years ago
Hey, I'm glad you liked it. If you liked this one you might like my Instructable on how to weather strip a window on the cheap and I mean pennies!!!
nice. i usually use the specific window insulation made by 3M (clear plastic sheet, two sided tape and hair dryer), but this will probably work better.
kc8hps (author)  tomas.savage3 years ago
HI Tomas,

I have also used the 3M clear plastic sheet. I steered away from it due to tape in the wet shower conditions.

Keep in mind the bubble wrap keeps eddy currents in the air gap from moving due to temperature differences as heat molecules transfer places. if you can keep the eddy's under control you have greater insulation R values.

According to one of my professors an air gap of 3-4 inches or less makes this happen (keeping eddy's under control) this a double pane glass or triple pane situation.

good info thanks. i have a different problem though, maybe you'll have an idea. i have 3 windows that are nothing but a screen and a swing-away glass pane that close flush with the wall. with the window closed, there is about 3-inches of space between the glass and screen.

a crude 'visual'
[outside] [screen] [3 inches] [window-pane flush with wall] [indoors]

do you think this will work if i place it right up against the screen?

[outside] [screen] [bubblewrap insulation] [2 inches] [window-pane flush with wall] [indoors]

being from michigan, you already know what kind of weather we get out here. i don't know if the bubblewrap can last exposed like that.
Yes it will,

see my answer below, I used it folded over, tape the edges on all three open sides.
thanks. my upstairs "studio" gets very cold in the winter due to these badly designed windows and they're not a standard size so replacing them means expensive custom work.

i'll give this bubblewrap a try since it seems to be an easy and inexpensive 'fix'.
kc8hps (author)  MaxCrunch3 years ago
I agree MaxCrunch,

It will actually work better due to the inside air space. being STILL AIR. you might have to create a falls frame say the outside of a card board box to keep the wrap up against the screen and keep the 2 inch space open..

let me know what you think..
great idea, i have a similar problem ... I'm going to buy materials :-) thanks
jbrune3 years ago
Great job, I'm definitely gonna try this on our bathroom and basement windows.
bcccool3 years ago
Just to let you know you can use the bubble wrap and be done in 5 minutes with each window and its NO WORK except for measuring the window and cutting the wrap;
I live in Wisconsin and my winters are horrendous, measure windows and cut wrap to fit your window. THE EASY PART,
MUST PUT WATER ON IT AND APPLY THE WRAP. THATS IT! ! ! ! It keeps out the cold radiating from each window. Course you cannot see outside but the light still comes in. Great for bathrooms if you want to keep your neighbors from looking in
bri3223 years ago
This is a really great idea! I think I'll use it on windows we don't really look out: bathroom, basement, closet. YAY. We have old windows, so I might just leave it up year-round. Thanks!
kc8hps (author)  bri3223 years ago
Hi Bri,

In my old house I would use peices of R-11 fiberglass batting in the basement windows.. I know that is sort of over kill but hey I was never down there.
Windows to me are like open holes as far as heat loss goes.

Most of my north windows were well insulated during the winter months as they yielded zero gain as far as sun was concerned.

rpearse3 years ago
Great idea. Thank you for sharing.
I was doing that for a while, but bubblewrap isn't actually the best stuff to use, as the cell size is fairly large, and a lot of the area ends up being single wall. Much better is polyethylene foam wrap, otherwise known as that thin semi translucent stuff they sometimes wrap electronics and stuff in.

It's the best stuff for insulating pretty much anything, as it's essentially free (can be dug out of a variety of skips in large quantities), very insulative, and with a reasonably high melting point. I tested the last two by putting some over my hand and pouring boiling water on it. Felt slightly warm...
kc8hps (author)  SolarFlower_org3 years ago
Thanks so much for the information.. Yes I had considered using it and may in the future. the rigidity of it seems like it would be more suited for larger windows than regular bubble wrap..
Rigidity? We're talking about different stuff (I may have the name wrong).
This material is a mm or two thick and completely flexible.
Crispie J3 years ago
This is awesome!! In addition to being simple and cheap, it also looks good - gives the impression of that fancy pebbled glass.

I sure could have used this a few years ago when I lived in a huge house heated by an oil furnace. All of the oddly-sized single pane wood-framed windows had serious leaks. After the first $600 fill-up I shut off the heat to most of the 5 zones in the house and kept the thermostat at 15 degrees C (60 degrees F) all winter (and this is in Canada). I was having "cash flow" problems (all my money was tied up in real estate :p) and I tried (and failed) to come up with a cheap solution to this problem. Ironically I now live in an apartment where I have the opposite problem - heat and hot water are included in my rent. but the place is always so hot that I keep the thermostat off and appreciate the ill-fitting windows.
kc8hps (author)  Crispie J3 years ago
Crispie I can relate..

I had a house in Michigan. when I first moved in it had no attic insulation, no sidewall or bandjoist insulation.. the yearly oil bill was $2,500.00 for only a 24x30ft house.. YIKES..

that was 14 years ago. I wrapped the water heater. put an R-38 in the attic, and R-17 in the sidewalls. the first years winter heat bills after that were a total of $235.00

when I first moved in I could stand 3 feet from an outside wall and feel cold radiating off the walls. YES insulation helps! btw I used to live in Edmonton Alberta.
stevepuk3 years ago
Do you have any problems with condensation getting trapped between the bubble wrap and the window?
kc8hps (author)  stevepuk3 years ago
not typically since the window it is over leaks air a bit so moisture there has an easy way out..

If it were not an apartment I would do the work to replace/caulk/seal it. but I dont dare violate my lease by trying to fix it myself.
Squee3 years ago
Guys doing the same thing here, they just use water to get the bubble wrap to stick to the windows, no having to make an armature.
kc8hps (author)  Squee3 years ago
HUMM water on the window neat Idea.. Ill have to think that one over next time.
TigerMoon3 years ago
Nice! I live in a 41 year old trailer so I know about inadequate insulation! Have been using bubble wrap (the big bubbles) for a couple of years now. I actually like the way it looks too, nice diffuse light and it provides a bit of privacy, tho double layers would work better. Maybe I'll add an extra layer this year.
kc8hps (author)  TigerMoon3 years ago
Thanks, the first time I built this I had just moved 1200 miles, I had the bigger bubble wrap so I used it.. it worked well. this time the DOLLAR TREE had the smaller bubbles so I went for it and did three layers instead of two.
MargueritaM3 years ago
This is awesome! I was just trying to think of a way to do something similar :) I might use tension curtain rods, instead of the coat hangers. You can buy adjustable tension rods (meant for curtains) at WalMart. They have an inner spring and rubber caps on the ends. I use them a lot and I love the fact that they are not permanent. I can't wait to put some bubble wrap on some and try this out!
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