For the second year in a row, the South Portland Energy and Recycling Committee (ERC) was the proud host of a Window Dressers Community Workshop. Over the course of a week in early January, Energy and Recycling Committee members, together with almost 100 customers and volunteers, produced approximately 260 Window Dressers insulating window inserts for residents of South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough.

Interior insulating window inserts are effective at reducing heat loss from windows because they are custom built to fit snugly inside your existing windows. You might think that this type of insert is necessary only if you have older, drafty, single paned windows or poorly insulated window frames, but believe it or not, you will see a benefit no matter what type of windows you have, because even newer windows can be the source of a significant amount of heat loss in your home.

The reason for this is that the glass in your windows, compared to most other materials in your home – walls, roof and foundation – has a relatively low R-value. The R-value of a material is a “measure of its resistance to heat flow,” so the higher the R-value, the lower the heat flow or heat loss through that material. Therefore, adding a snug fitting, insulating layer inside your window frame increases the R-value immediately, keeping more heat inside and reducing the amount of fuel needed to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. Depending on the efficiency of your windows and home, as well as the type of fuel you use, Window Dressers estimates that each insert will save you approximately $10 of fuel during the heating season.

The success of this and all Window Dressers Community Workshops depends almost entirely on the power of volunteer and community support. Every individual that participated deserves special thanks for showing up willing to work hard and, in many cases, learn something new. We were once again provided with an incredible space in which to work.

Southern Maine Community College again donated workshop space in the Construction Technology building where we had plenty of space to spread out, stay organized and be productive. An important part of bringing volunteers together to work on a project like this is to sit down and relax while sharing a lunch time meal.

In addition to providing volunteer support building inserts, volunteers from 350Maine provided a number of home cooked lunches during the week. Additional lunches were donated by South Portland local businesses – Amato’s, Domino’s, Elsmere BBQ, Pizza Joint, South Portland House of Pizza and Verbena. Aroma Joe’s donated enough coffee to keep everyone awake and in good humor for the entire Workshop week.


One of our workshop shifts was almost entirely staffed by a group of volunteers from Bangor Savings Bank. I met this group – employees from around the region – while helping out at the Portland Community Workshop in October. Chatting over lunch, I learned that this group makes an effort to volunteer their time quarterly and I mentioned South Portland was hosting a workshop in January. Low and behold, this fun and hardworking group showed up and got us on track to finish our workshop ahead of schedule.

An exciting element of this year’s workshop is that the ERC received grant funding from the New England Grass Roots Environment Fund to pay for a portion of the inserts that went to low income households. This funding helped us cover the cost of half the inserts built for low income households.

Since word of mouth is one of the most important ways that people learn about Window Dressers, we love to share what we’ve heard from satisfied customers and Workshop participants. And not only do customers love their inserts once they are installed, but they enjoy participating in the Community Workshop so much, they come back to volunteer even if they aren’t ordering more inserts. This year we had a number of last year’s customers return to help build inserts and new customers that want to volunteer again next year to support the work that takes place at the Workshop.

Here’s what some of our customers had to say after installing their new inserts:

“I love my inserts. The infrared thermometer is pretty impressive in looking at temperatures of windows with and without inserts. Being cozy warm is so nice.”

– Maya, a Cape Elizabeth


“Just want to say that I am thrilled w/ my window inserts – can’t believe they fit so well, especially the ones that were made for my funky misshapen basement windows. Everything fit just right, nice and snug. And they look great. Also want to say how impressed I was with your level of organization; everything was so well-planned and user-friendly.”

– Lisa, South Portland

“Window Dressers was great; it was so much fun to work with my hands for once, and I agree, a nice hot lunch really serves up a good time for everyone and brings people together. Thanks for all the hard work and coordination. I hope to be back next year.”

– Kate, 350Maine

“I am very pleased with my windows. They were easy to install and are making a difference. I certainly appreciate all the hard work you folks do.” – Carol, Scarborough

“I just installed my seven new window inserts. The upstairs rooms feel warmer already. The inserts are a good fit and I am pleased with them.”


– Lee, South Portland

“We are loving our inserts. The guest bed is no longer drafty in the least. Install was a bit snug but can’t beat a perfect seal. Way more see-through than we were expecting. Thank you for your great service to our community, and we were happy to help.”

– Cybele, South Portland

“I really can see how they make a difference. Last year I did five and this year five more. Love them. Hope to do a few more next year. It was a fun time and thanks to you all for making it work so well.”

– Paula, South Portland

“Window Dressers is a wonderful program. Very impressive.”


– Karen, South Portland

While the current Window Dressers “season” is winding down, you can sign up now to have inserts made for your home during the 2020 season. Simply visit and click on “inserts.” If you sign up now, you will be contacted in the spring when measuring starts up again.

Based in Rockland, Window Dressers is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to helping Mainers stay warm, save money, help the environment and build community. The organization’s small, dedicated staff works with local leaders in communities across the state who volunteer their time to coordinate, from start to finish, Window Dressers Community Workshops. This year there were 30 Community Workshops in Maine and for the first time, Window Dressers expanded across state lines, where volunteer groups in five Vermont towns hosted Community Workshops.

It is truly the through the collective effort of all parties involved, with the support of the incredible Window Dressers staff, that our workshop was a success. We are happy and proud of the work we did to help residents in South Portland and surrounding towns stay warmer and more comfortable, save a bit of money on their heating bill and reduce the use of fossil fuels.

By Jessica Williams is local coordinator for South Portland Window Dressers Community Workshop.

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