WindowDressers expands, needs more volunteers

May 19, 2011

What began as a project to reduce heating costs for the First Universalist Church in Rockland has mushroomed into a plan to help anyone on the Midcoast who wants to cut energy consumption.

Last year the church shaved 25 percent off its heating oil tab by installing polyolefin window inserts built by volunteers, who call themselves WindowDressers. (Wall insulation around window frames and ceiling fans were also installed). The church’s treasurer, Karl Kehler, said in a news release, “We’ll continue to save that much off our energy bills every year for probably the next 10 years. The inserts will be put in place each fall for the winter months, but they are crystal clear so you can hardly tell they are there.”

The success of the First Universalist project prompted several WindowDressers to take their efforts into the larger community. This past winter, they built 214 windows for 20 families in the Rockland and surrounding area. Current plans are to expand to 100 homes and 1,000 inserts next winter. “On the average, we expect homeowners to realize a 15 to 20 percent savings in home heating costs,” predicts Dick Cadwgan, WindowDressers’ founder, who learned of the polyolefin inserts at a Midcoast Green Collaborative training session held in Damariscotta. The inserts are the invention of Topher Belknap of Edgecomb.

There are no qualifying criteria to purchase the inserts. They will be available on a first-come-first-served basis to low income homeowners, low income renters, who pay their own heating bills, and other homeowners wanting to reduce the budgetary impact of high oil prices or the environmental impact of using fossil fuels. The big challenge for the WindowDressers is to muster volunteers to assemble inserts. As last winter, plans are to offer the polyolefin energy savers for just the cost of materials. And WindowDressers hopes to provide them free to those facing severe financial hardship.

“We’re looking for sponsors to assist in that effort,” Cadwgan said. “We’re helped considerably by Coastal Opportunities, which will contribute time and effort to the project.”

Frank Mundo, a co-leader at WindowDressers, said, “At this point, we need people-power (volunteers) to make up teams to assemble inserts and deliver them to homeowners. We have approached area churches to help but men or women of any community group can join to make a significant contribution, helping neighbors and environment at the same time. Since inserts last for more than 10 years, this project offers a really good return on investment.”

“Anyone concerned with conserving energy and reducing the use of fossil fuels can do something beyond writing letters or buying a hybrid car,” Mundo said. “WindowDressers offers a hands-on solution for those who want to take a different, unique approach to preserving the environment. To that end, Nancy Glassman of Green Sneakers has volunteered her group to spread the word as well as help identify homes that are good candidates for energy-saving inserts.”

To lend a hand on this project, call Dick Cadwgan at 594-4449, Frank Mundo at 356-2833 or Norma Athearn of the First Universalist Church’s Green Sanctuary Committee at 594-1478.

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