Portland residents dressing windows for energy savings

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PORTLAND — Tricia Waldron has lived in her Spruce Street home for about 40 years, and is no stranger to heat loss.

“We have lots of old, leaky windows,” she said June 16 as Allen and Elissa Armstrong measured and recorded the dimensions of frames in her three-story house in the West End.

The Armstrongs are among volunteers looking to fill the gaps in older homes in the neighborhood and city with lightweight pine frames edged with soft foam and covered with two layers of plastic .

In a project sponsored jointly by the West End Neighborhood Association and the Portland Climate Action Team, the goal is to measure 500 frames, which will be assembled Oct. 15-26 in a “Community Build” sponsored by nonprofit Window Dressers at the Maine Irish Heritage Center, 34 Gray St.

Interested renters and homeowners are encouraged to contact Rockland-based Window Dressers by email or at 596-3073 to arrange measurements or volunteer during the community build. So far, more than 180 windows have been measured, Elissa Armstrong said.

The frames range in price from $15 to $34, depending on size and finish. Window Dressers also donates 22 percent of what it builds to low-income families who cannot not afford the frames. They are expected to last 10 years, and can be repaired if needed.

Waldron plans on getting 10 inserts.

“I want to try them out. If I like them, I will buy more next year,” she said. “I’m just trying to figure out how to store them.”

Community builds will occur throughout the state this fall, but WENA Treasurer Rosanne Graef said June 16 the effort is especially well suited for the West End.

“This is something WENA had interest in because there are so many old homes,” she said. The West End is a city historic district, but Graef said residents can add the frames without needing consent from the city’s Historic Preservation Board.

As they measure, the Armstrongs find odd assortments of sizes and angles to fill, but Elissa said the foam edge ensures a good fit even, if dimensions are odd.

“It has to be easier than trying to hang plastic every year,” Waldron said about sealing windows.

Graef and the Armstrongs said this effort dovetails with efforts by the City Council’s Sustainability & Transportation Committee to find ways to make municipal operations and buildings solely reliant on “clean” energy sources by 2040.  The frames can not only help reduce heating costs, they said, but the reduced demand for heating will help reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

The community build is also a way to bring people together, Graef said.

“It is really kind of a quilting bee or barn raising,” she said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Elissa Armstrong holds a lightweight frame used to seal a window in her West End home June 16. She is part of a drive to get 500 frames installed in Portland homes by fall.

Allen Armstrong records window frame measurements for inserts to stop heat loss in Tricia Waldron’s West End home June 16.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.