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Affordable Leaky Window Solutions

Tin Mountain Energy Team Wants to Help Warm Up Your Windows

A Window Quilt® installed above a set of double windows. Photo courtesy of Window Quilt®.

Russ Lanoie

The Mount Washington Valley’s Tin Mountain Energy Team, originally formed to help local residents install solar hot water systems following the PAREI model (Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative) is joining with the WindowDressers of Rockland, Maine to produce and install low-cost, double-layer interior inserts through community workshops. The Energy Team recognizes that one of the most effective ways to reduce building energy consumption is to stop the heat loss through and around windows, especially those in older homes that may still have single pane windows, even if they have aluminum storm windows, which in many cases do little to stop air infiltration.

WindowDressers is a volunteer-driven, non-profit organization dedicated to helping Maine residents reduce heating costs, fossil fuel consumption, and CO2 emissions by lowering the amount of heat loss through windows. Each insulating window insert is made of a custom-made pine frame wrapped in two layers of tightly-sealed, clear polyolefin film and finished with a compressible foam gasket. The foam allows enough give for the inserts to be slid easily into place in the fall and removed in the spring, while holding firmly enough to provide a tight, friction-based seal that stops drafts and adds two more insulating air spaces between the home and the window. The inserts are installed inside of your existing window jamb with no fasteners required.

Two workshop volunteers apply the plastic film on an insert destined for their own home. Insert recipients are encouraged to participate in the workshop if at all possible. Courtesy photos.

This fall, several Tin Mountain Energy Team members participated in the multi-step process of measuring and constructing the actual inserts under the guidance of veteran WindowDressers volunteers. Team members attended a measuring workshop to learn the way to accurately obtain window dimensions which are recorded into a custom database and sent off to Rockland, Maine for the production of the pine frames. These unassembled frames are then sent to several community workshop locations throughout Maine and upcoming locations in Vermont where volunteers assemble the frames, wrap the two layers of plastic film and add the foam edges, again under the guidance of seasoned volunteers.

Because most of the work is being done by volunteers, including the end users who are encouraged to participate whenever possible, the cost of the inserts is well below the cost of commercially available products. Since its inception, WindowDressers insulating window inserts have saved an estimated 880,000 gallons of heating fuel and over $2.2 million at today’s fuel prices. In 2018 alone, over 1,000 volunteers worked together to build 7,597 inserts at 33 community workshops across Maine. In 2018, 34% of these inserts went for free to low-income households.

A workshop coordinator at right shows a Tin Mountain Energy Team volunteer how to apply the double sided tape that will hold the plastic film in place to the edges of an insert frame. Well-designed jigs and fixtures help make this and other processes simple and accurate. Photos: Russ Lanoie.

Among the first buildings to receive WindowDressers inserts in New Hampshire is the Gibson Center for Senior Citizens, an old building in North Conway, NH with many leaky windows, some of which face the northwest wind that blows across the Valley. Gibson Program Coordinator, Jill Reynolds, found that the first day after the inserts were installed she no longer needed an afghan to keep warm, because her office “was like a sauna.”

For more information on WindowDressers insulating window inserts visit https://windowdressers.org/.

At the same time the Tin Mountain Energy Team is planning on hosting WindowDressers workshops, two team members are bringing commercially produced Window Quilts® back to the Valley. One of the senior members who had a very active Window Quilt® dealership in the 1980’s is helping a newer member establish her own dealership. Window Quilts® are very different from window inserts in that they are moveable in the same manner as a shade and provide privacy as well as a vapor barrier, added insulation and a tight seal. Window Quilts® are manufactured in Brattleboro, VT and have been installed in many public buildings and homes, and owners still comment on how well they work even decades after they were installed. Like WindowDressers inserts, they are custom-measured for each window but remain in place year round and can also be used to keep out summer heat.

Another workshop volunteer runs the insert under the heat gun to tighten up the plastic film before the final step of adding the sealing foam edges.

Although WindowDressers inserts and Window Quilts® provide very different approaches, they each provide effective solutions for reducing heat loss through windows. In certain cases they can even be used together for very leaky windows. For more information, visit https://www.windowquilt.com/.

Russ Lanoie is a long-time solar proponent in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and operated his Alternative Systems business in the 70’s and 80’s selling solar hot water systems, composting toilets and Window Quilts®. He lives in a passive solar home which has had Daystar solar hot water for forty years and 11kW of PVs on his barn since 2015. www.RuralHomeTech.com.

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