Living that supports aging in place is a major goal of our MWV Age-Friendly Community.  Older housing can be difficult to afford if the costs of heating continue to rise.  Yet nearly 80% of older adults want to stay in their homes for the duration of their lives.

One approach the MWV Age-Friendly Community has been addressing this problem is by partnering with Tin Mountain Conservation Center’s Energy Team to provide annual Window Dresser community builds.

Window Dressers is a 14 year-old non-profit organization based in Rockland, Maine that has developed smooth operations for building custom-made, pine frames wrapped in two layers of tightly-sealed, heat shrunk clear plastic film and finished with a compressible foam gasket that insulate leaky windows.  The inserts are easily inserted from indoors without fasteners and tightly seal the window while maintaining its normal light and vision.   They can be removed seasonally and when carefully stored, can last for 7-8 years.

The Window Dressers research has shown that “in a typical house, one medium 11 square foot pine insert (30” x 52”) may save an average of 8.5 gallons of heating oil every year, for an estimated savings of $15-$43 per year, depending on variations in fuel price.”  Savings will also vary from winter to winter depending on the number of heating-degree days and whether the homeowner has single or double paned windows.

The average cost of that size insert is $48.  It can pay for itself in 2-3 winters.  Importantly, that is a significant reduction in fossil fuel use as well.  The more windows covered, the greater the savings and greater comfort to the home with reduced drafts.

Window Dressers and Tin Mountain Conservation Center are very aware that some households cannot afford to pay the full price for their inserts.  Using the Community Build model and volunteer time, the prices of inserts are 50-75% less expensive than commercial products.  As a non-profit, grants and other fund raising has allowed Window Dressers to offer over 1/3 of the inserts free for those who cannot afford to pay (up to 10 inserts per home per year), and low cost for middle and high income households.

Trained volunteersTrained volunteers come to the home and precisely measure each window frame to the 1/8th of an inch.  The measurements are provided to the manufacturer in Maine where the frames are just as precisely cut and bundled. There are some limitations.  Inserts cannot be placed in windows that are badly out of square, lack framing (like in an older-model mobile home), or have unusual trim (like fixed curtain rods) inside the framing.   Rectangular or square double-hung, casement, and sliding windows of all sizes are all usually compatible.

Community Builds are where the fun comes in.  Everyone receiving inserts, their friends, neighbors and other volunteers come together for 4-5 days to assemble the inserts in a gymnasium, empty storefront, church basement or other large hall.  For three years, Settler’s Green in North Conway has donated storefront space. Volunteers often work as pairs, easily and quickly learning how to assemble each frame, double wrap it in tight plastic film with no wrinkles, and tape 1/4 inch foam to the outside of the frame so it will slide snuggly into place.  Every frame is accurately labelled with the homeowner’s name and its exact location in the home.  Volunteers work in shifts.  Some provide lunch or snacks.  Some help with logistics and phone calls.  Others help with set up or clean up.  There is something for people of any ability to do.

In the Mount Washington Valley, we have held three annual Community Builds constructing over 600 inserts and plans are in place for another for the fall of 2024.  The goal for 2023 was to construct 225 pine framed inserts for drafty windows to reduce by 30% lost heat in leaky homes and community buildings throughout the Valley. Besides many local residential homes, others benefitting from Window Dresser inserts are the Conway Public Library, the Gibson Center, and the Ossipee Public Library.  The goal was reached and when combined with all the community builds across Maine and New Hampshire the totals for 2023 along were staggering:

  • 1548 families served
  • 10,049 inserts assembled
  • 3446 of those (34%), going free to low income individuals
  • About 4250 volunteers.
  • With only 5 paid staff, that makes WD 99.9% volunteer driven.
  • Rough average of 560,000 gallons of heating oil saved since 2010 across Maine and New Hampshire.

It is important to sign up early for measuring that takes place in the spring of the year. Requests for inserts can be made by completing this form at https://windowdressers.org/sign-up-for-inserts/ or calling Window Dressers at 207-596-3073 or calling or emailing Nora Dufilho of Tin Mountain Conservation Center at Nora Dufilho – 603-447-6991 – .

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