A CLOSER LOOK

For more information on getting an energy assessment, visit mainehomeperformance.org or call the hotline at 800-695-1484.

Sarah MacColl has always tried to save money on heating bills. She keeps her thermostat at 50 degrees during the day and turns it up to 60 degrees when she comes home at night.

“What you’re doing reflects what Mainers are struggling with,” Gov. John Baldacci told MacColl on Aug. 21, when he visited MacColl’s Cape Elizabeth home for an assessment of the house’s energy use. The demonstration was put on by Maine Home Performance, which is part of a national program dedicated to improving energy efficiency through home analyses and improvements.

“Today is the coming-out party,” Baldacci said of the program, which links homeowners to contractors who are licensed to analyze energy use and make the necessary changes to the house. Though the program has been under way for about a year, it now has enough certified contractors on board – about 20 – to really get going.

“There’s going to be a huge demand,” Baldacci said.

MacColl’s home on Avon Road was chosen because of its numerous problems, like air leaks and a lack of insulation on the second story. According to Tom Boothby, building performance consultant for Maine Home Performance, brown stains dripping down the walls of MacColl’s master bedroom tipped him off to the fact that her home was not energy efficient.

Though MacColl was set to get her roof repaired to stop the leaking, according to Boothby, the problem is not with the roof, but with heat loss. When snow is on the roof, and heat escapes from the home, the snow melts and slides down the roof. When the water reaches the edge of the roof, where it is colder, it freezes and creates an ice dam. Water then gets dammed behind the ice ledge and eventually finds its way into the walls of the home.

With evidence of the ice dams, Maine Home Performance conducted an assessment of the amount of air that leaks from MacColl’s home. A blower door, which is a powerful fan that is placed in the entranceway of the house, was used to determine how much air was getting out of MacColl’s home. An infrared camera showed where the leaks were. According to MacColl, the analysis showed that her house was twice as leaky as one that was properly built.

In order to determine the source of the problem, MacColl’s ceiling will have to be taken down to see the amount of insulation that is in her walls – if there is any at all.

Boothby said leaks caused by ice dams, high heating bills, mold or mildew problems and drafts are all indications that air leaks are present in a house.

According to Cheryl Shattenberg, one of the program’s certified contractors, “most homeowners don’t have a clue where to begin” when it comes to fixing energy problems in their homes. Maine Home Performance was formed to guide them through the process of evaluating and improving their homes – and, at the same time, ensure quality service.

“Not a lot of people know about this,” said Betsy Elder, contract manager for Maine Home Performance. “This program is going to help Maine become more energy independent.”

The assessments, which alone cost between $200 and $600, determine how homeowners can reduce energy costs, improve the health and safety of their homes and increase their personal comfort. Once improvements are made, not only will homeowners save money and be healthier, but also the value of their homes can increase.

Though MacColl can’t afford to make all the improvements suggested by Maine Home Performance, she will have the leaks fixed in her bedroom, which will allow her to sleep at a comfortable temperature without the cost.

“I want to be able to turn the heat up and not feel guilty about it,” she said.

Sarah MacColl and Gov. Baldacci listen as Tom Boothby, building performance consultant for Maine Home Performance, gives an assessment of MacColl’s Cape Elizabeth home.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.