October 29, 2012

Weatherization program results in hot savings

A sustainability conference will be held Saturday in Fairfield.

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Alice and David Anderman went from having a cold kitchen with no heat to enjoying a warm, cozy one.

click image to enlarge

Alice and David Anderman of Waterville participated in an energy-efficiency program. They took out a 15-year home equity loan to complete the project.

David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

They also were delighted to discover, after they weatherized their very large Victorian house this year, that their home is no longer drafty in other places.

"The house is more comfortable because there aren't any cold spots," Alice Anderman said. "That's the first thing I noticed. It has really made a big difference."

The Andermans also look forward to paying less for energy.

"We'll recoup our costs in seven to 10 years," David Anderman said. "We'll save on heating; we'll save on electric."

The couple are among 50 homeowners who took advantage of a special program launched by Sustain Mid-Maine Coalition and Waterville and Winslow officials to help residents reduce home energy use and encourage use of sustainable fuel sources.

The project was possible with a $170,000 state Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant and months of development by a Sustain Mid-Maine team led by John Joseph. Sustain Mid-Maine and the two communities collaborated with Kennebec Valley Community Action Program to do 350 consultations in people's homes to see whether they qualified for the program. Then, 150 home energy audits were performed and homeowners received rebates of up to $300 toward the audit cost.

Sustain Mid-Maine coordinator Linda Woods said overall, oil savings for the 50 homes that completed weatherization projects is estimated at 90,000 gallons. With today's estimated cost of fuel at $3.40 per gallon, the savings translate into about $342,000 a year.

"We took $170,000 and we basically converted it into $342,000, so we more than doubled the money we were given," Woods said. "As an environmentalist, my concern is that we do the best we can to conserve and reduce our oil consumption, and that's important."

Sustain Mid-Maine is a grass-roots initiative that seeks to conserve resources, sustain a healthy environment and promote economic prosperity in central Maine. Volunteers promote energy conservation and alternative energy use for businesses, residents and municipalities.

Woods said the organization is looking for funding to do more home weatherizations.


John Reuthe was hired as program manager for the project, which was completed in August. He spoke with homeowners to make sure they were not receiving low-income heating assistance and could afford to complete weatherization projects.

He also walked through their homes and made suggestions about weatherization projects they could do on their own.

Reuthe recommends that municipalities with code enforcement officers launch similar programs to help homeowners weatherize their houses, with the town or city maintaining records that can travel with the houses when they are sold. Waterville and Winslow have a lot of houses and apartment buildings that are older and would benefit from such programs, he said. Weatherizing a building also increases its value, he said.

Reuthe has personal experience of the savings one can realize. He weatherized his own home, which was built in 1797, and went from using 1,800 gallons of fuel a year to about 1,000 gallons of propane, even though he expanded the house by 600 square feet.

Waterville City Manager Michael Roy handled all the logistics and book work for the program and met extensively with Joseph and Reuthe.

Roy said Waterville and Winslow were extremely fortunate to have secured the Efficiency Maine grant.

"Everyone knows that conservation is a key component of becoming more energy-independent, and this grant led to significant residential weatherization improvements that will help people use less oil," Roy said. "In addition, the two communities are still examining the viability of creating a district energy project that would provide savings on a much larger scale."

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