WindowDressers: Reducing Emissions, Keeping Homes Warm & Building Community
April 8, 2022
WindowDressers is a nonprofit on a mission to reduce heating costs and fossil fuel consumption for Maine homes by lowering the amount of heat loss through windows - and build community along the way. Volunteers gather at Community Builds across the state to assemble the low-cost insulating window inserts, which serve as custom, interior-mounted, reusable storm windows.
WindowDressers estimates that inserts save 1-2 gallons of heating fuel per square foot of insert per year. Based on this, WindowDressers estimates the 48,753 inserts built since 2010 have prevented the burning of over 2.6 million gallons of heating oil or its equivalent.
This work to improve efficiency contributes to reaching Maine’s goals of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2045, both required by state law. In fact, 2,043 Maine homes were weatherized in 2021 alone!
WindowDressers Board President Sam Saltonstall explains more about the inserts, community builds and the order process.
- How did WindowDressers begin?
In 2010, the Universalist Church of Rockland, ME conducted an energy audit that identified leaky aluminum-clad windows in its sanctuary as a major cause of heat loss. In response, a friend of the Church attended a workshop on the construction of insulating window inserts, then built and donated twenty-six new inserts to the church. The increased comfort, lower heating bills, and reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions led to parishioners inquiring whether the inserts might work in their homes. With 185 requests in hand, parishioners worked together in basements and garages, initiating our first “Community Build.”
- Why windows? How do they impact a home’s heating efficiency?
A helpful way to look at this is through R-value, which is a measure of how well a barrier, such as a layer of insulation or a window, resists heat loss. A double-glazed window has an R value of 2. An insulated 2X6 wall has an R value of around 20. Clearly, there is much more heat loss through windows than walls.
- How do the window inserts work?
Our inserts have two layers of plastic, one on either side of the frame, which add two dead air spaces on the inside of the existing window. Drafts around its perimeter are reduced due to the tight seal of the inserts. Conduction, convection and radiation are all reduced in the presence of tight fitting insulating window inserts.
- Who would benefit from installing insulating window inserts? Are there types of applicable windows?
Everyone! To start, anyone whose existing windows are single pane or leaky could benefit from these inserts. Leaky old windows are very expensive to replace. While the improvement for single-pane windows is more profound, even people with quality double-paned windows experience warmer homes and lower heating bills with inserts in place. Our inserts are custom measured and guaranteed to fit. Neglected basement windows and skylights make for great candidates, as do North and West facing windows - even if these are double-glazed. Learn more here.
People struggling to make ends meet would especially benefit. We are a nonprofit, so our inserts are not expensive - they cost exactly what it costs us to operate. Additionally, we give 25-35% of the inserts we produce each year to low-income households at no cost to them. Generous donations and grants support this program.
- What kinds of things do customers report back to you?
We hear comments like: “Draft from our north-facing bathroom window has been eliminated. Yippee!!” and “We have noticed a big difference in our comfort level.” Customers also report their rooms are less drafty, easier to heat, and energy is conserved. Street noise is also reduced, and “cold day” condensation is eliminated.
- How do the Community Builds work?
We supply all the needed materials, tools and jigs. Our volunteer team leaders train and support the local participants as they assemble and wrap pre-cut and drilled frames at local “Community Builds.” While building window inserts as a DIY project is possible, assembling the inserts with us is much easier due to our assembly line approach, innovative tools, and on-site training.
- How can Mainers sign up for inserts or volunteer?
I’m glad you mentioned volunteers. Many of our community builds attract volunteers who just help out because of their concern for the climate. Others enjoy the opportunity of working alongside neighbors they are meeting for the first time. There is a nice sense of accomplishment when you put in a shift or two with us. We build community as well as insulating window inserts! Signing up to acquire our inserts or volunteer is easy at our website.
We are also always seeking new volunteer team leaders to bring a Community Build to their town. By expanding our reach, we can help more Mainers stay warm, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and keep their heating bills down. If you are looking to lead a meaningful climate change mitigation project in your community, please reach out to us!