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Fast fixes for drafty windows

October is Energy Awareness Month and if you are like most, you're about to get pretty "aware" of just how un-energy inefficient your home may be. As temperatures start to drop and heating systems kick on, receiving that first heating bill is likely to grab your attention pretty quick.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the typical home loses more than 25% of its heat through windows. So, here are a few drafty window fix tips to lock down energy loss from leaky windows before that first big bill show's up:

Test your windows
The first step towards sealing out drafty, inefficient windows is to figure out where the problems lie. Look for condensation inside the glass on double- or triple-glazed windows. This could indicate seal failure. If this is the case, you might need to replace the glass or the entire window.

Examine your windows and check for hot and cold spots or drafty areas inside your home near your windows. According to experts at Simonton Windows, you can also check to see if there are any "burnt out" areas on your carpets and furnishings where harmful ultraviolet rays have damaged the interior of your home. This is an indication that windows need to be replaced.

Here's another trick, have someone stand outside your window. With a small flashlight, stand inside and "travel" around the window's perimeter. If the person outside sees areas of light coming through, this is an indication of seal failure -- and probably energy loss.

Easy fixes first
There are a few easy things you can do to reduce your energy loss short of window replacement. Seal up any little cracks or gaps where air can leak into your home. In some case the average home has enough of these small holes to equal one three-foot by three-foot opening.

Check every window and door to make sure there is adequate weather-stripping and caulking which will ensure a secure seal around the openings in your home.

During the winter, open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight in to naturally heat your home. Close curtains a night to reduce the chill you may feel near cold windows.

Windows that save money
If you decide to make improvements, be sure to choose ENERGY STAR® labeled products for your home that can cut your energy bills by up to 30%. Energy Star qualified replacement windows that have an insulating glass unit with Argon gas (a harmless, odorless gas) sealed inside the unit to help reduce the transfer of heat and cold.

There's also never been a better time to replace your windows. Homeowners replacing their windows with energy-efficient windows in 2009 or 2010 can receive up to $1,500 replacement window tax credit from the U.S. government.

Windows installed must meet a U-factor rating of 0.30 or less, and a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) of 0.30 or less to qualify for the tax credit. For more details on replacing your windows, download Your Complete Window Replacement Guide, a free bonus chapter from my book, "My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure."

Tom Kraeutler is the AOL'S Home Improvement Editor and co-author of "My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure." He delivers home remodeling tips each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program.

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