Green Energy Times staff
Volunteer groups in Vermont have begun to adopt a Community-Workshop approach to the problem of drafty windows and high heating bills. Custom-fitted inserts, that can be equally suitable for old casements or new replacement windows are produced by executing an elegantly simple production scheme developed by a Maine non-profit called WindowDressers. Made-to-measure frames are fabricated by volunteers from locally sourced pine and covered on both sides with transparent plastic film. The double-sealed inserts provide an effective and attractive cold-air barrier that is held in place by a compressible foam gasket. Because the inserts are friction-fit to the inside of a window, they install quickly without hardware, and can be easily slipped out and re-used over multiple seasons. Annual savings on heating costs, though affected by the original condition of the window and the type of fuel involved, roughly average $27 per window, meaning that a homeowner or renter can recover the cost of their inserts in 1-2 years.
WindowDressers was sparked by the weatherization challenges of a Rockland, Maine church. In the course of solving the problem of heat loss through the sanctuary windows, the two founders (an engineer and the president of the church) ended up refining an operation that needed only a simple set of readily mastered skills, some well-designed jigs, and a communal, energetic corps of volunteers. The WindowDresser solution caught fire throughout Maine, and to date groups assisted by the non-profit have manufactured over 35,000 inserts, conserving over a million gallons of heating fuel. Because of the volunteer labor involved, insert costs are kept low and between 25% and 30% of interior storm windows can be donated to low-income households.
The Glover Energy Committee first brought WindowDressers to Vermont, hosting a pilot workshop last January that fitted 26 homes with inserts. Now workshops have been scheduled for 2020 in six towns throughout the state: Bristol, Charlotte, Montpelier, Thetford, Strafford and again, Glover. As of this writing, the first series of five Thetford/Strafford workshops have successfully concluded.
Preparing for the workshop after first engaging with WindowDressers is a yearlong endeavor. Customers are signed up and each window measured, volunteers are recruited for roles such as shift manager, lunch provider, transport crew or workshop staffer, and additional funds are often raised. In the case of the Thetford/Strafford workshop, residents of these towns, the Mascoma Bank and New England Grassroots Environment Fund donated money to help subsidize inserts for income-qualified recipients who might otherwise miss the opportunity to make their homes more comfortable and lower their contribution to climate change.
Residents of other Vermont towns showed strong interest at the WindowDressers booth during this years’ VECAN conference, so it seems likely that participation will only grow in the 2020-2021 season.
Any towns interested in getting involved should contact WindowDressers’ executive director, Laura Seaton, at 207-230-9902 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jack Sumberg is a contact for WindowDressers in Vermont. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 802 525-4277.