$3,000 in energy-efficiency rebates for all Maine homeowners

By Ramona du Houx

March 20th, 2010 

Stuart Finkelstein and Jane Funk, from Warren who recently had their home weatherized received a check from the Maine Home Performance program for $3,000 from the Governor.
Stuart Finkelstein and Jane Funk, from Warren who recently had their home weatherized received a check from the Maine Home Performance program for $3,000 from the Governor.
All homeowners in Maine are eligible to receive rebates of $1,500 to $3,000 on weatherization projects that reduce energy usage under.

“The Maine Home Performance program is open for business and all homeowners are able to participate. This is an effective program to encourage more Mainers to make improvements to their homes so that their families can stay warm, more secure, safer and economically more secure,” said Governor John Baldacci. “This program is about saving Mainers money and about providing jobs to energy auditors, energy installers and retailers.”

Maine has one of the oldest housing stocks in the nation, and roughly 80 percent of homes in the state are heated with oil. Up to 4,000 homes will receive money from the Maine Home Performance program, administered by Efficiency Maine, at the Maine Public Utilities Commission. The program is funded with $9 million in federal stimulus dollars that the state received for energy initiatives.

“Since 2002, Efficiency Maine has generated $391,000,000 of energy savings working with businesses and individuals throughout the state,” said PUC Chair Sharon Reishus. “Many Maine homeowners would save significantly on their energy bill by implementing basic measures such as weather sealing, insulation, and basic steps to maximize the efficiency of the home’s heating system.”

Preapproved weatherization projects that reduce fuel usage for heat and hot water by 25 percent would be eligible for up to $1,500 in rebates while those that achieve energy savings of 50 percent or more would be eligible for up to $3,000. Federal tax incentives of up to $1,500 could also help offset the costs of weatherization.

To be eligible homeowners must have an energy audit performed by a certified auditor.

Eligible improvements include: insulation and air sealing, energy-efficient replacement windows, high-efficiency heating and hot water equipment, including solar water heaters, programmable thermostats and water-saving devices.

A couple taking advantage of the program to winterize their 1832 farmhouse in Warren attended the press conference which announced the program.

“We used to burn six or seven cords a year, in addition to three hundred gallons of heating oil. In the morning we would sit down at the kitchen table dressed up like cross-country skiers. After the weatherization renovations we are at home, in our home,” said Stuart Finkelstein.

His wife, Jane Funk, added, “Farmhouses are hard to heat. The improvements, offset by the $3,000 rebate, will reduce our energy usage by 50 percent. It’s a long term investment, which for us was well worth it.”

The process to secure the rebate is simple. First a certified energy audit must take place. Then the homeowner and a contractor submit an application to the Conservation Services Group, which has been hired by the state to manage the program.

When the project is done, the homeowner mails in a form to receive $3,000 for 50 percent efficiency improvements, or $1,500 for 25 percent energy improvements.

Evergreen Home Performance of Rockland, specializes in audits and weatherization renovations, was hired by Finkelstein for the weatherization improvements.

“We need all of the help we can get to grow these kinds of businesses, and homeowners need all of the help that they can get because you need skilled labor to do these things,” said Richard Burbank owner of Evergreen. Burbank took one of the state’s initial weatherization programs three years ago. Since then he started a company on his own and now has 14 employees.

Weatherization experts remain in high demand in Maine. The state has expanded training and certification programs for auditors and installation technicians, and the number of firms offering such services is growing.

“It’s a very rewarding business, helping people stay warm and secure during the winter,” said Burbank. “It’s a science. Heat loss can’t be seen so we use inferred. Most clients are amazed at home much heat seeps out of their homes.”

Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree said her mother, U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree hired Burbank to weatherize her home.

Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree said, ”Weatherization is the best way to save money in energy costs.”  {photo by du Houx}
Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree said, ”Weatherization is the best way to save money in energy costs.” {photo by du Houx}

“That house had so many leaks, we just could see, but felt,” said Pingree. “The investment will see returns every year as we won’t need to spend as much in heating. Weatherization is the best way to save money in energy costs.”

Last year the Legislature passed the Governor’s energy bill that set the goal to weatherize all Maine homes and half of Maine businesses by 2030.

Dale McCormick, director of the Maine State Housing Authority, said the average cost in Maine for an energy audit and weatherization work is about $8,000 and that the average energy savings is around 25 percent.

The average Maine household now spends $2,400 a year on heating costs. The average oil-heated home burns 800 gallons a year.

“Dependence on unstable foreign energy is dangerous for our economy, environment and national security,” said Baldacci. “There’s a better way. The resources that flow out of our State could sorely be used here at home. We now have programs in place for the people of Maine to take advantage of.”

A full list of eligible improvements and eligibility requirements are found on Efficiency Maine’s web site, http://www.efficiencymaine.com/mainehomeperformance.htm
In addition, a toll free number is available at 877-334-6583, and 2-1-1.