Volunteers with Sustainable Charlotte and WindowDressers

Volunteers with Sustainable Charlotte and WindowDressers create energy-saving window inserts for homeowners.

In the months preceding COVID-19, the Charlotte Energy Committee and Sustainable Charlotte joined forces with a Maine nonprofit called WindowDressers to make and install inexpensive energy-saving window inserts in 10 Charlotte homes and the Charlotte Grange.

The common theme of these structures is they all had drafty or single-pane windows. The window inserts, consisting of custom-made wooden frames covered by two layers of clear shrink-fit film glazing, are far less expensive to make and easier to install and remove than conventional storm sashes.

They fit on the insides of existing windows, adding two insulating spaces. Foam gaskets around the frame perimeters provide tight seals against drafts and hold the inserts in place without fasteners. Although the program was grounded this last winter by the pandemic, the project is gearing up in August for next winter.

This green energy idea germinated in Maine eight years ago, when a church group made and installed simple interior storm sashes in their building’s old windows. They were so impressed by the resulting energy savings and improved comfort of the meeting space that they eventually formed a non-profit organization called WindowDressers to share this amazing low-cost solution with other residents.

Over the past eight years, WindowDressers has produced over 34,000 window inserts and saved Maine residents an estimated 1.2 million gallons of heating fuel. A window insert can save as much as one gallon of heating fuel per square foot of window per heating season.

Pricing depends on the window size, with a 30-inch by 60-inch insert costing about $42.

Two years ago, the group wanted to see how well their technical assistance might work in six Vermont towns. In January 2020, a Charlotte chapter was created and successfully produced inserts. This year the Charlotte chapter hopes to expand to at least 30 homes.

With a recent grant from the Charlotte Energy Committee, the organization will provide deep discounts for low-income Vermont residents. To further reduce costs, all recipients are asked to join other volunteers to help with the final assembly of the inserts at a community build, scheduled for Oct. 29-Nov. 3 at the Charlotte Grange.

At the last community build, the sense of community and camaraderie was reminiscent of an old-fashioned quilting bee. The room was laid out with stations for each stage of the assembly. Coffee, tea and treats were available throughout the morning, and lunch was provided by a local caterer for the noon break.

The team of Charlotte volunteers is accepting orders now for the fall build season. The group of fully vaccinated volunteers will begin measuring windows in August. The number of homes taken on by the local community build is limited to about 30, so interested households should sign up right away at windowdressers.org or call (207) 596-3073.


Ruah Swennerfelt, Louis Cox and Jamey Gerlaugh are members of Sustainable Charlotte.

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