Cumberland church goes greener with window inserts, solar panels

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CUMBERLAND — From window insulation to solar panels, members of the Cumberland Congregational Church are looking to button their building up and educate the community about how to do it, too.

The 282 Main St. church has an active “green team,” group coordinator Cumberland resident Lalla Carothers said in an interview Oct. 27.

Carothers said she was impressed enough with what she saw last fall in a window insert preparation session at the Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland, to bring the program to her own church.

Around the same time, the church tackled another major energy efficiency project: installing 57 solar panels, geared toward covering 85-90 percent of the church’s electricity needs, and dropping its annual carbon footprint by 40,000 to 50,000 pounds.

Seven members of the church formed CCC Solar, a company which paid about $35,000 to have the panel array installed on the sanctuary roof, according to Carothers. Seventeen people from the congregation and community spent a day on the installation in September, a month after volunteers finished the wiring and framing.

Once it recovers its investment, the company is selling the array to the church “at a nominal cost,” Carothers explained.

The window insert project with Window Dressers – a Rockland-based organization that leads sessions around the state – was also a volunteer-driven process that helps keep costs down. The Cumberland church worked with the town to donate about 25 percent of the window inserts to those in need, Carothers said.

The rest were purchased – either delivered to homes or picked up – at Window Dressers’ prices, which range from about $15 to $18 each for smaller frames, and $28 to $34 each for larger ones.

“When you think about buying new windows, (the inserts are) really affordable,” Carothers said.

Nearly 300 inserts for 35 families, most from the Cumberland area, were made during the week-long build, Carothers said. Homeowners order them ahead of time, and two measurers visit the homes, using laser devices to determine the exact size of the windows. The data goes to Window Dressers’ office, where the inserts are made of pine.

Volunteers then gather at locations around the state, in this case the Cumberland church, to wrap the frames on both sides with clear polyolefin. The frames then fit into windows snugly with a foam weatherstripping, which reduces heat loss and prevents air leaks.

The frames can be removed when temperatures begin to climb, and re-used the following year.

“It’s a nice community service project, and it’s a nice way for people to meet who might not otherwise meet,” Carothers said, referring to members of the Lions Club and Scouts, as well as the community at large. “… For me, one of the most exciting pieces is getting people engaged in doing something that’s good for the community.”

People who order windows are asked to help prepare them for home installation. Those who could not volunteer might donate food instead to those working the two, four-hour shifts, she explained.

Although there wasn’t time this year, a potluck dinner could be arranged to wrap up next year’s project in Cumberland.

“It’s a nice celebration for folks,” Carothers said.

Call 596-3073, email info@windowdressers.org, or log onto windowdressers.org for more information about pricing and community builds.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Dan Marion of Cape Elizabeth, left, and Gene Weir of Cumberland apply polyolefin layers to window inserts at the Cumberland Congregational Church Oct. 21. The inserts, which are made by Window Dressers, are used to help insulate homes around the state for the winter.

Sam Saltonstall, a board member with the group Window Dressers, applies heat to a prepared window insert during a community build in Cumberland Oct. 21.

Lalla Carothers, who coordinates the green team at the Cumberland Congregational Church, shows an insert used to block the cold and reduce heating costs during the winter. The church hosted a week-long session to prepare the window inserts late last month.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.