Low-cost insulating window inserts available

Before temperatures warm and the pain of winter fuel costs is forgotten, local Window Dressers volunteers want to measure your windows for warmer, less expensive winters to come.

Window Dressers is a statewide, nonprofit, volunteer program that builds interior, insulating window inserts to help cut drafts and fuel costs. Windows are available for purchase by anyone, and at no cost or a reduced cost for those facing financial challenges. 

The local group, under the leadership of The Commons at Central Hall, is eager to get measurements done and orders taken for as many people as possible so that materials can be ordered well in advance of the Community Build events, scheduled for Oct. 15-25 this year. 

Contributed photo
WINDOW INSERT MAKING — Dr. Lesley Fernow not only heads up the local Window Dressers effort, but enjoys the hands-on activities during the annual Community Build events.

“We have a sample window which we take into homes and take a lot of measurements and tell homeowners if they will benefit from the inserts or not,” explained Dr. Lesley Fernow, organizer and volunteer for the local Window Dressers effort. “Many local churches, libraries and public buildings have saved lots of money for heating their buildings with these inserts. They can also be used in apartments, and in some trailers.” 

The program was suspended last year due to COVID-19 concerns. “The statewide board didn’t meet until last week to make a final decision to have a workshop season this year,” said Dr. Fernow. “They felt we could go ahead safely, with more people vaccinated and by using COVID precautions when we are measuring in people’s homes. In June and July, we will be able to keep doors and windows open when we are in homes for an evaluation. 

“The construction phase will be different,” she continued. “We will still be masked, and will make other necessary adjustments in our process. Dexter Town Manager Trampas King has again generously offered the Dexter Town Hall, which is a large, well-ventilated space.” 

Volunteers are also being sought. The barn-raising-style work sessions are a great way to build community, as well as window inserts, Dr. Fernow said. “What we hear from people is it’s a great way to get to meet people. If you feel like helping your community, your neighbors, it’s very rewarding, and four hours goes by in a flash!”

People with some carpentry experience would be helpful during the first three days of the Community Build, when the wooden frames are being assembled. The group is also seeking someone to train under Steve Jackson, its construction manager, so that he can take a step back over time. 

Once the frames are constructed, they are shrink-wrapped with plastic, which doesn’t require construction skills. There are also non-build jobs for anyone who would like to help, including coordinating volunteers, hanging up posters and bringing food for the work crews. 

“We are hoping to engage more youth this year,” added Dr. Fernow. 

Because many window inserts are custom sizes, prices vary and are calculated at the time of measure. In general, a 20-inch by 36-inch unfinished pine insert costs about $30, while a 44-inch by 68-inch insert costs about $55. “We don’t require proof of low-income,” said Dr. Fernow, adding that for those paying full price, the inserts are still a bargain. Replacement windows can cost hundreds of dollars, plus the labor charges, she said.  

“In a practical sense, these inserts reduce heat loss, reduce fuel costs, decrease the feeling of a draft through windows, and they reduce [street] sounds,” she said. Clients on busy streets have reported a marked decrease in traffic noise after having inserts installed. “Because most people use fossil fuels or wood for heating, the other benefit is reduced CO2 emissions, which is a climate benefit,” said Fernow. 

For more information about volunteering or having your home windows evaluated, call Window Dressers at 207-596-3073 or Dr. Lesley Fernow at 207-992-6822. For more information about the statewide Window Dressers program, visit

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