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For the many Maine residents who are dependent on oil for heating their homes and are struggling to pay their bills as energy costs rise, Efficiency Maine announced its new “PowerSaver” loan program in April of 2012, a program offered in partnership with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In May of 2012, Efficiency Maine announced another new program called “Residential Direct Install”. Following is a description of the two programs.
PowerSaver loans will expand Efficiency Maine’s home energy financing program statewide, as compared with its PACE (Property-Assessed Clean Energy) loans, which are available only in those municipalities that have adopted local PACE ordinances. PowerSaver loans can help homeowners to complete smaller upgrades (of less than $6,500) or larger projects (of more than $25,000).
PowerSaver loans can be used for a wide variety of improvements including: home weatherization, replacement doors and windows, efficient heating systems and water heaters, insulation and air sealing, Energy Star metal or asphalt roofs, solar panels, and geothermal systems, among other measures.
PowerSaver loan terms are up to 15 years for energy efficiency projects, and up to 20 years for projects that include eligible renewable energy improvements. The interest rate is fixed at 4.99% APR, as is the case with Maine PACE Loans.
To qualify for PowerSaver loans, projects must meet a minimum energy saving threshold of 20 percent, and participants must meet other criteria, including having enough home equity to cover the loan amount.
RESIDENTIAL DIRECT INSTALL PROGRAM
The objective of this new program is to support the use of blower-door-driven air sealing in homes by BPI-trained energy advisors at the time energy audits are conducted, in order to ensure that baseline data is collected before weatherization work is begun. This allows Efficiency Maine to make a comparison of before and after data on home air flow and thus to determine the energy savings that can be expected from each weatherization project.
Auditors will be compensated up to $300 for conducting a minimum of 6 hours of air sealing and insulation work per residential unit after performing blower door tests on the units. This work is anticipated to include but is not limited to a combination of the following improvements, with the intention of addressing the areas of greatest energy loss in the home first:
Sealing of gaps and holes in and around basement sills, foundations, bulkheads, chimney and plumbing chases;
Insulation and air sealing of attic hatches, upper chimney chases and attic thermal boundary penetrations;
Weather-stripping of doors and windows, caulking and foaming of exterior penetrations.
Combustion safety testing as specified by BPI standards must be conducted to make sure that air sealing will not negatively impact proper drafting of combustion appliances such as oil burners and wood pellet boilers.
When a weatherization project is completed, energy advisors are eligible to receive an additional $100 incentive for conducting test-out on projects that exceed a 20% projected energy savings or are financed through Efficiency Maine loans.
If a blower door test shows that a home is already approaching tightness limits without the aid of mechanical ventilation (and therefore not a good candidate for targeted air sealing work), other insulation and energy efficiency work may be conducted toward earned compensation by the auditor.
COMPARISON OF THE TWO PROGRAMS
The PowerSaver program allows homeowners to choose EITHER: an independent auditor and a separate company as a weatherization contractor, OR a “one-stop shop” company that provides both services. The Residential Direct Install Program requires homeowners to choose Efficiency Maine Participating Energy Advisors who offer both auditing and contracting services.
For more information on either program, please visit the Efficiency Maine website.
Efficiency Maine is an independent trust dedicated to promoting the efficient and cost-effective use of energy in order to save money for Maine residents and businesses, grow the economy, and create jobs. Efficiency Maine’s energy-saving programs reduce the use of electricity and heating fuels through energy efficiency improvements and the use of cost-effective alternative energy. Efficiency Maine’s programs deliver Maine’s lowest-cost energy resource through a combination of technical assistance, cost-sharing, training, education and awareness programs.