People check out a T electric vehicle at the 2023 Green Home and Energy Show in South Portland on Saturday. Bonnie Washuk/Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — With the cost of energy on the rise and climate change looming, hundreds flocked to the 2023 Green Home and Energy Show in South Portland on Saturday to learn how to reduce their use of fossil fuels and save money in the process.

Holly Tracy of Warren wanted to learn about solar panels, heat pumps and other ways to reduce her fossil fuel consumption.

Rolling her eyes in disgust, Tracy said she heats her home with oil. She keeps the thermostat set at 60 degrees and uses a wood stove, but her oil budget plan still costs $500 a month for 11 months of the year.

“I’m definitely getting away from oil,” she said. “I decided to get off oil the day that Putin invaded Ukraine,” having become fed up with energy prices that fluctuate because of geopolitical conflict. “And all the pollution,” she added.

Tracy just bought a heat pump water heater so she can stop heating her water with her oil burner, and plans to install ground-mounted solar panels and heat pumps so she can stop relying on her furnace.

Ellen Gibson of West Paris, who already heats with heat pumps, came to learn how to keep the heat from leaking out of her home.


“I have an old house. I’m heating it with two heat pumps and a pellet stove,” Gibson said. “My electricity bill has gone through the roof. We need to insulate.”

The Green Home and Energy Show, held at The Point on Clarks Pond Parkway, was put on by SunriseGuide LLC of Westbrook, a media company specializing in sustainable living, according to Heather Chandler, president and founder. The company publishes “Green and Healthy Maine Homes,” and held its first green energy show in 2019. It resumed last year after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

More than 1,000 people attended in 2022, and the crowd was larger this year, Chandler said.

“We had a great turnout last year,” Chandler said. “We have a bigger turnout already this year. There was a line at the door when we opened. It’s been steady.”

A Nissan Ariya is on display at the 2023 Green Home and Energy Show on Saturday in South Portland. It’s the carmaker’s first all-electric SUV. Bonnie Washuk/Staff Writer

Two halls in the sprawling complex were devoted to exhibitors, and seminars were held in four conference rooms. Outside, an electric vehicle expo allowed consumers to talk to EV owners, and examine or drive an EV sedan, SUV or truck, as well as electric bicycles and snowmobiles. There was also a model of an energy-efficient prefab living pod.

Dewey Meteer of Nobleboro checked the storage in the back of an electric Nissan Ariya, and then test drove a Tesla.


“The Tesla felt great,” he said. “It was five years old. It was really solid.” He liked the acceleration, that it was quiet, had plenty of storage and a large screen on the dashboard that offers navigation and entertainment. “A woman told me she owns one. When she charges her car she watches video on the screen.”

Meteer attended a workshop about driving an EV, finding a charging station, home charging and “the nuts and bolts” of driving electric. He wants an EV, but “the price is a challenge.” Operating costs would be lower, but there is a big upfront cost, something he has to weigh. He’d like to find an EV for $30,000, but has had trouble finding a used one.

Molly Siegel of Efficiency Maine, who led a workshop on driving electric, said consumer interest is high, but supplies are limited.

“I started working at Efficiency Maine in 2020. Dealers had a hard time selling electric vehicles in 2020,” she said. “Now it’s a different situation.” Consumers often find they have to get on dealers’ waitlists “and they might have to drive further to a dealer to get on a list.”

EV buyers can qualify for a state rebate and a tax credit from the federal government, but these vary depending on the vehicle. Maine rebates depend on the buyer’s income and the price of the vehicle, and federal tax credits are based on where the vehicle and battery parts were assembled. Not only are EVs hard to find, it can be difficult to gauge the final cost.

People looking to make their homes more energy efficient should start with an energy audit, Chandler said.


“And you basically make a plan on … where to start,” she said. Many think the first improvement should be new windows, but often weatherizing the home offers more bang for the buck, Chandler said. She recommends people go to Efficiency Maine to see a list of auditors and available financial help.

Chip Stiles and Janice Hastings, a couple from Portland, said they used to heat only with natural gas, but now use gas and heat pumps.

“It’s time to get serious about solar,” Janice Hastings said. Two companies are scheduled to analyze whether their home is a good candidate, they said. They also want to learn about a heat pump water heater.

The couple test drove an EV and have already upgraded their home’s electrical system to support an EV charger, but Stiles said he’s not convinced the EV infrastructure in New England is at a point where they can buy an all-electric vehicle.

“We’re exploring, not urgently,” he said.

Hastings said they tried to buy a plug-in hybrid vehicle for the meantime, but “there was no inventory.”

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