Efficiency Maine’s PowerSaver loans, up to $25 thousand, offer a 4.99 percent interest rate for weatherization for homeowners

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

April 18th, 2012 

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Taking an energy assessment of heat loss

“Mainers should not wait until next winter to fix their homes,” said Richard Burbank, owner of Evergreen Home Performance in Rockland. “High heating oil process and a cold winter next heating season could devastate homeowners in Maine. Now is the time to weatherize.”

Burbank was taking part in a press conference that highlighted Efficiency Maine’s new loan program, PowerSaver, which offers a 4.99 percent rate for weatherization projects that meet energy efficiency standards.

“Now is the time to plan ahead,” said Efficiency Maine’s Executive Director Michael Stoddard. “Just within this past decade the cost of heating fuel has gone up by 300 percent.”

Stoddard and other weatherization contractors joined federal Department of Housing and Urban Development official Michael Freedberg to announce PowerSaver. In the program weatherization projects must meet a minimum energy-saving threshold of 20 percent. Borrowers must have enough home equity to cover the loan amount and terms are up to 20 years.

“Maine has been a leader in weatherization efforts,” said Freedberg.

That’s why the state was chosen as one of the first states to launch PowerSaver. It is also why Maine was chosen to help launch the federal backed PACE weatherization loan program in 2010.

PowerSaver is a spin off of the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan program, which is also run by the independent trust Efficiency Maine, set up during the Baldacci administration. The American Recovery Act invested $20 million in Maine’s PACE program in 2010. PACE loans are taken out by homeowners working with their town. They are known as the “revolving loan” and can be transferred to new owners if the property is sold. Power Saver loans will use some of the ARA funds and be available to many more people.

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The Dudley's weatherized their home with a PACE loan and expect to save thirty percent in their heating bills

The Power Saver program provides loans of up to 25-thousand dollars, and it’s available to all homeowners in Maine who meet their credit requirements.

Figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show Maine residents slashed their heating oil use by 45 percent between 2004 and 2009. However Maine remains more dependent on heating oil than any other state in the nation, causing a drain on the economy and on household and business budgets. According to the latest U.S. Census data, about 70 percent of households still heat by oil — that figure is down from 80 percent in 2000.

Power Saver will pay for insulating, tightening up homes, upgrades to heating systems and other steps to make houses warmer and more energy efficient.

The loan programs are mostly available for whole-house weatherization that includes air sealing and heavy insulation which can cut heat use by 40 to 50 percent.

Homeowners Rob and Amy Dudley weatherized their home in 2011 with Evergreen. Before they took out a PACE loan their baby Clara had to wear a snowsuit inside. One morning they noticed their dog’s water dish had ice on top. That’s when the Dudley’s decided to weatherize.

“We wanted to make sure we brought in professionals who could do it right and to preserve the house for future owners,” said Rob.

The home was fully insulated. Dense-packed cellulose was blown into the wall cavities, and the foundation wall was covered with spray-foam insulation. With a projected annual savings of more than $1,700, it should take less than ten years for the Dudleys to recoup their investment.

More about other Efficiency Maine energy programs for the home:

PACE: Under the Property Assessed Clean Energy Program, homeowners pursuing eligible energy improvements can borrow up to $15,000 at 4.99 percent with no closing costs. The loans have a term of up to 15 years and are transferable upon the sale of a property. The PACE program must be authorized in each municipality before homeowners can apply for a loan. More than 100 Maine municipalities have already adopted the program.

Solar Thermal Program: Efficiency Maine’s Solar Thermal Energy Incentive Program offers 25 percent of the cost of installing a residential or commercial solar air and water heating system, up to a maximum of $1,000. Participants can earn an additional $500 rebate if they spend at least $2,000 on additional energy-efficiency upgrades

For more about Efficiency Maine go to: http://www.efficiencymaine.com.