Winter is coming, and if you're not prepared, it may take you by surprise. Especially in older homes, drafts from window fixtures are very common. These gaps or cracks let a continuous stream of cold air in, making your heating bills higher and your general comfort level lower. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, new sealing or weatherstripping on windows can reduce energy costs in the winter and summer. By reducing airflow out of your home, you can mitigate costs associated with heating and cooling.

If you're struggling to clamp down on drafts, the basic steps for finding and treating them aren't too complicated, and can end up saving quite a bit of money over time.

Identifying drafts

According to a guide by DIYNetwork, windows kept in good shape can be draft-free year-round. The first step to proper window maintenance is to find out exactly where the drafts are coming from. One of the simplest ways to do this is through the use of a candle. Light a small candle and hold it near windows you suspect may be drafty. If the flame bends at all when your hand isn't moving, then there is likely an air leak. Be careful when holding an open flame near hanging drapes or anything that could be flammable.

If you do detect a draft, chances are it's around the edges of the window frame. The caulk or glaze that seals the edge of the frame to the wall needs to be replaced periodically. This is especially obvious if the glass rattles when you tap it lightly. If you're still unsure of the sturdiness of your windows, a home inspection may help determine the cause and best way to correct it.

Repairing and replacing

Once you know where the drafts are coming from, you can begin taking steps to fix the issue. First, scrape all loose glazing or old caulk off the frame. A putty knife is the best tool to use for this job. Caulk softener applied two hours prior to scraping will make this task much easier. Work carefully to remove as much old caulk as possible, which will make it easier for the new caulk to adhere. The putty knife can also be used to test any glazing. After lightly tapping a few sections of glazing, remove any material that flakes off easily.

Now you're ready for new glazing. This material comes in a small tub to be applied with a putty knife, or a tube that can be applied to the surface directly with a caulking gun. The tub and putty knife method works best for small areas, since the putty knife or paint scraper can be used to firmly press the glazing into place. The application surface needs to be completely free of dust and dirt to ensure an even coating. No matter which method you choose, make sure to apply evenly and smoothly. Let the glazing dry before painting over it.

Now that the new glazing is out of the way, you can begin caulking. DIYNetwork notes that one tube should be enough to seal an entire window. Before application, cut the tip of the caulk tube at a 45 degree angle so that the point fits squarely with the groove of the window frame. When you're ready, apply the caulk in a smooth, slow motion across the frame. Move even slower in large gaps to ensure full coverage. Once the full area is covered, use a wet finger to smooth out the caulk where needed.