United Way of the Tri-Valley Area plans to offer the Community Energy Challenge, a Franklin and Northern Androscoggin county volunteer-led winterization initiative designed to help families save money on heating costs.

A simple, low-cost strategy of interior window panels keeps heat inside homes during the harsh winter months and encourages homeowners to make positive changes in their energy consumption.

The challenge encourages the homeowners or renters to participate in workshops when possible and become more proactive in their homes and lives. United Way will follow CDC guidelines for its volunteers who visit homes to measure or install as well as at the workshops. The traditional potluck lunch will be a takeout lunch option again this year to minimize risk.

Any interested volunteers can attend a Community Energy Challenge window panel workshop this year at Henderson Memorial Baptist Church, Academy Street in Farmington, on Saturdays, Sept. 25 to Dec. 11, from 9 a.m. to noon. No previous experience is required, and all are welcome.

Families who receive fuel assistance qualify for up to six free interior window panels that are measured and built especially for their windows. To sign up or get additional information, call the United Way office at 207-778-5048.

For those who do not qualify for heating assistance, panels are affordable at $1.50 linear/foot. These panels will pay for themselves in energy saved within the first heating season. Interior window panels are available to householders living in Franklin County, Livermore and Livermore Falls.

Since the program’s inception, more than 1,225 volunteers have served more than 18,900 hours building and installing 2,851 interior storm window panels for 500 households and 25 community buildings for an estimated energy savings now of more than $82,000 annually. This number continues to grow each season as panels are used repeatedly.

The Community Energy Challenge is made possible by the support of United Way volunteers and the Susan and Fritz Onion Component Fund of the Maine Community Foundation. For additional information about United Way of the Tri-Valley Area, visit uwtva.org or call 207-778-5048. Follow United Way on Facebook to be kept up to speed on upcoming programs and initiatives.