HERMON, Maine — A group of about 25 turned out Thursday at Hermon High School for a forum on energy efficiency, and the message was clear: It’s not too early to start thinking about winter.
Bangor state Sen. Joseph Perry hosted the second forum this week in Greater Bangor, inviting experts from a number of different agencies to educate homeowners about conservation measures. Among those represented were: the Maine State Housing Authority, Efficiency Maine, and Maher Heating, a local heating service company.
“We really want to let people know that there are some good programs out there, but it’s hard sometimes to educate people,” Perry said. “We don’t want people waiting until winter to find out they’re in trouble.”
Among the programs advocated by Lucy Van Hook with MaineHousing were: the Low Income Heating Assistance Program, the Weatherization Program, the Central Heating Improvement program and the Home Energy Loan Program.
All of MaineHousing’s programs are income-specific, but Van Hook said most Mainers who fall below 170 percent of the federal poverty rate are eligible.
Still, she said, “Sometimes the cheapest way to save oil is simply to tighten your home.”
Dick Bacon from Efficiency Maine, a service of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, agreed and said the best thing homeowners can do is invest in a home energy audit.
“I know it’s sunny now, but winter comes fast,” he said. “If you want to make improvements, you need to start now.”
Efficiency Maine works with local community action programs to subsidize audits in some cases. One audience member said he understood the value of an audit but asked, “What do people do going forward? Someone still has to do the work?”
Van Hook said low-interest loans through MaineHousing are available to make those improvements but she also said her agency is in the process of offering training courses for homeowners to make their own improvements.
Hermon Fire Chief Larry Willis, who also sat on the panel, warned homeowners that in the haste of tightening their homes or cutting corners, safety can be compromised. Wood stove fires, for instance, are still common.
“It will be front-page news if people die of hypothermia, but it will be just as bad if people die in a fire,” he said, especially if it can be prevented.
Perry said he was pleased with the turnout and encouraged those who did attend to keep asking questions about what is available to them.
“Let’s all be good neighbors and we’ll get through this winter together,” he said.