Open house features energy options

Posted July 30, 2009, at 8:34 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Heat pumps, maximum R-value wall insulation, replacement windows with a high solar heat-gain coefficient — what most Mainers don’t know about heating, cooling and energy conservation filled a warehouse at Hallowell International on Thursday, drawing curious householders and professionals alike.

“Heat pumps are the most dominant source of heating and cooling south of the Mason-Dixon line, but we don’t even know what they are up here,” said Duane Hallowell, president and CEO of the corporation that bears his name.

At Hallowell International, the technology has been refined to suit Maine’s long, cold winter. The result is a line of heat pumps designed to harvest heat from the outside air even when it’s bitterly cold, and deliver hot air inside to warm homes, and businesses. In the summer, the process reverses, sucking heat and humidity from the inside air and blowing it outside, like a refrigerator or an air conditioner.

The heat pump uses no fuel — no oil, no gas, no wood pellets or recycled french fry grease. It does use electricity, which Hallowell said must increasingly be produced through sustainable means such as wind towers and tide-driven generators.

Hallowell International sells and installs home heat pumps at an average cost of $10,000 to $14,000 — a sizable investment but one that pays back many times over by eliminating fuel costs, Hallowell said.

In addition to the company’s heat pumps, the open house featured a range of high- and low-tech products designed to save money, energy and the health of the planet.

“The whole point of this event is to be a place to help educate consumers,” Hallowell said. “People need to know what’s out there.”

What’s out there — in addition to weather-stripping, low-flow shower heads, ultra-insulated water heaters and window glass designed to hold heat inside — is services.

Services and businesses represented at Thursday’s event included Penquis Home Improvement, a for-profit branch of the Penquis social services agency. For $285, staff will conduct an attic-to-cellar home audit for heat loss, air exchange, carbon monoxide levels, gas leaks and other elements that affect the comfort, safety and energy outlay associated with living in the home.

Bangor Savings Bank, also exhibiting, offers low-interest home improvement loans for projects that enhance energy efficiency, and Thomas Tax will help homeowners recoup as much as 30 percent of the cost of these projects through tax credits enacted as part of the federal economic stimulus package.

At noontime, attendance was sparse at the open house. Hallowell said homeowners and professionals alike had dropped by to check out the products and services on display.

More educational open houses will be offered in the near future, Hallowell said, reflecting the growing public interest in energy conservation.

Alan Cyr, a facilities manager for University of Maine campuses in Fort Kent, Machias, Presque Isle and Augusta, was pleased with the information available on the new heat pumps.

“The University of Maine System is looking at ways to reduce fuel consumption and be more carbon-neutral,” he said. “This is exactly the way we want to go.”

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