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Winter window dressing: small fixes to save energy, money

WASHBURN, Maine — While the record heat of summer 2018 may still be fresh in mind, it will soon be time to start thinking about winter heating needs.

Heating costs can be a major challenge for Maine homeowners, but there is a longtime tool to keep down winter energy costs: winter window dressing. By seasonally insulating windows to prevent the loss of warm air, homeowners in colder climates can save energy and money.

This year, the Washburn Rotary Club is helping promote winter window insulation by working with the Rockland-based nonprofit WindowDressers. Founded in 2010 out of an effort to lower heating costs in an old church, the WindowDressers group now hosts dozens of workshops around the state to make custom window inserts that people can easily slide in before winter and remove in spring.

“The benefits of this are very well documented. It’ll pay for itself in a year or two in terms of how much savings you’ll get from fuel,” said Bill Nader of Washburn, who is spearheading the project with his wife, Gilda, a member of the Washburn Rotary Club.

Since 2010, WindowDressers has built more than 27,000 window inserts that have saved homeowners an estimated $2.2 million in heating costs, according to the group.

This will be the first WindowDressers workshop held in Aroostook County, and Nader said he thinks it will be a good community-building event for the Washburn area.

Residents of Washburn, Perham and Wade may choose from the first slots, with availability for residents from other towns as space allows, according to Hollie Umphrey of the Washburn Rotary Club.

The workshop, when the inserts will be assembled and distributed by a team of volunteers, will be held Dec. 11 to 15 at the Washburn Recreation Center.

The window inserts are made of pine frames wrapped in two layers of sealed, clear plastic and finished with compressible foam that helps them slide in and out but fit snuggly, according to the WindowDressers website. The inserts are installed on the inside of the window and add to the overall insulation with air space between the home and window. The inserts should last for five to 10 years, according to the group.

The inserts come at a cost of $19.44 per 20 inch by 36 inch window and more for larger sizes. Lower-income households qualifying for public assistance can get up to 10 inserts each year for free.

Nader said he thought the WindowDressers would be a good project for the Washburn Rotary Club after learning about it from his advisor at the University of Maine Orono, where he is earning a doctorate in economics and environmental sustainability.

“These window inserts can be purchased anywhere. But what’s interesting about this program is it’s a community activity,” said Nader, who also works as an electrical engineer. “The whole community comes together, measures the windows in the homes and puts them together in a workshop.”

People interested in the inserts, or in volunteering for the consultations and workshops, can contact the Washburn Rotary Club or the WindowDressers group.

“We’ll call them back, come and measure their windows and then they are good to go,” Nader said.

Laura Seaton, WindowDresser’s director of Community Workshops, said the organization is interested in expanding its work to reach more towns.

For more information, call Bill or Gilda Nader at 455-2025, or visit WindowDressers.org.

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