KINGFIELD — Several townspeople will have warmer homes and lower fuel bills this winter, thanks to the efforts of their many Franklin County friends.

Webster Hall on Saturday was filled with Tri-County United Way volunteers, with several small groups bent over large wooden rectangles that resembled double picture frames. Bill Brown, who has had a long career of community service to the town, inspected the progress of the interior storm window construction and helped some of the newer craftsmen with the measuring and cutting of the plastic sheets that covered the frames.

“These will go on the inside of windows that lose a lot of heat,” he said. “They fit snugly and stop drafts and keep moisture from forming on the inside of the window.”

The volunteers receive grant money to make windows in Franklin County communities each year, and this year, Brown asked selectmen for approval to use the Town Office building for three Saturdays to finish the community project.

The American Legion hall and the Stanley Museum will receive several of the panels. Recipients also must help with the window construction, and many have enjoyed the projects so much, they have turned them into social events, including a potluck lunch.

Brown explained that each frame starts with a length of 1- by 4-inch pine, which he saws in half lengthwise. He then cuts a half-inch groove down the middle of each of the the strips. Using precise measurements of the existing interior window frames, he cuts and screws the lengths together to create a large rectangle. Volunteers place each frame on a table and cut a sheet of clear plastic to staple over the top of the frame. While one volunteer holds the plastic in place, the other uses a roller, similar to a pizza cutter, to press a long string of rubber material and the plastic under it into the groove on all four sides. The plastic-covered frame is flipped over, and the process is repeated. Any ragged edges are trimmed and taped securely. A volunteer uses a hair dryer to shrink the plastic to a clear tight film.

The final product has an inch of dead air between the plastic sheets, and the final product is installed inside the uninsulated window frame, with weather stripping filling any uneven spots between the old and the new construction.

Residents who have older homes in the community often can’t afford replacement windows, and they can’t afford fuel costs, either, said Lillian Nile of Wilton, who became involved when the group of volunteers helped her make panels for her home.

“I have an old house with a lot of windows,” she said. “I figured the storm windows saved me about $500 that I didn’t have to pay for fuel oil.”

Not only do the plastic windows keep moisture from forming on the interior glass pane, they reduce the draftiness and improve the overall comfort level of the home. The frames can be left in year-round or can be stored for seasonal use. With care, the plastic will last for many years, and the wooden frames will last for many more.

Lisa Laflin, executive director of the Tri-Valley United Way, said the cost to build a window averaged $1.50 per linear foot. Depending on the size and shape of the window, a typical finished window could cost $10-$12. The United Way buys the materials from Hammond Lumber, and Laflin said they will continue to make windows “until the money runs out.”

Although most of the windows are built for low-income households and nonprofit organizations, other homeowners can make windows at a minimal cost. With more volunteers and more money to buy materials, the United Way could install more windows

in more buildings, she said.

“Everyone enjoys participating and seeing something they built,” she said. “We all have a great time, and no one has to be a carpenter to do this.”

The payback in costs for materials and labor will be returned in savings within the first heating season. Volunteer Coordinator Nancy Teel said the United Way welcomes volunteers to continue to make windows during the winter at the former shoe shop beyond the Farmington Fairgrounds racetrack.

So far, 269 volunteers have built windows for 221 households, and 12 community buildings. Teel estimated a total of $45,000 in annual savings for those who burn fuel oil.

Municipalities could organize and fund their own storm window projects, which could save money. For more information about the project, call 778 -5048, or email [email protected], or Funding for projects comes through the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Maine Commission for Community Service, the Maine Community Foundation, the Town of Livermore and the United Methodist Economic Ministry.

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