Home News and Features WindowDressers Helped 40 Local Families Save Energy This Winter

WindowDressers Helped 40 Local Families Save Energy This Winter

Laurie Keltie, left, and Blaire Haggett from Green Mountain United Way volunteering to prepare frames for insulating window inserts as part of the early winter WindowDressers “community build” in Barre last November. Photo by Cassandra Hemenway.
By Kate Stephenson

WindowDressers, a volunteer-led project to build low-cost, insulating window inserts, completed its third Community Build in central Vermont earlier this winter. Volunteers built 258 window inserts for 40 households from Montpelier, Barre City, Barre Town, Worcester, Websterville, Graniteville, East Montpelier, and Berlin over the course of a week. 

WindowDressers started in 2010 in Rockland, Maine and has since expanded throughout Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Its mission is to bring community volunteers of all economic and social situations together to improve the warmth and comfort of interior spaces, lower heating costs, and reduce carbon dioxide pollution by producing low-cost insulating window inserts that function as custom, interior-mounted storm windows. Our local effort was spearheaded by Amy Gamble and Donald deVoil of Montpelier, both members of the Montpelier Energy Advisory Committee. 

WindowDressers insulating window inserts let in light while stopping drafts. Each insert is made of a custom-made pine frame wrapped on each side with tightly-sealed, clear polyolefin film, creating an airspace between the two layers for additional insulation. The insert is finished with a compressible foam gasket. The foam allows enough give for the inserts to be easily slid into place in the fall and removed in the spring, while holding firmly enough to provide a tight, friction-based seal. The inserts are installed inside an existing window frame with no fasteners required.

The window inserts help to stop cold air from leaking in and improve comfort as well as saving energy. Savings vary depending on many factors, including the quality of the existing windows. In a typical house, 10 inserts save an average of 105 gallons of heating fuel every year for an estimated savings of $270 per year. The inserts generally pay for themselves in less than two heating seasons.

Anyone in the community can sign up to purchase window inserts. Each year we can typically build about 250 windows. A team of two volunteers visits each home to accurately measure the window openings, then sends the measurements to the WindowDressers shop in Maine, where the wood frames are cut. Then a few months later, all the parts and pieces are delivered to the Community Build, a one-week volunteer effort to assemble the windows. Customers who request windows are expected to volunteer during the build week. This year more than 80 volunteers came to help out in the assembly of the window inserts.

The cost of the windows varies depending on size, but averages around $45 per window. This year the Central Vermont team was able to provide 10 low-income households with free windows thanks to a grant from the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund.

Overall, the Window Dressers organization is working in 45 different communities this year and will build over 9,000 window inserts. If you’re interested in getting on the waitlist for windows in 2023, visit windowdressers.org. Our local volunteers will reach out to you early next fall when the measuring visits start to schedule a time to measure the windows in your home. Typically, measurement visits happen in September and October and the community build will take place in November at the Barre Auditorium.

Kate Stephenson lives in Montpelier and is a member of the Montpelier Energy Advisory Committee.