As temperatures dip below freezing, Mainers are finding the cost of heating their homes and keeping the lights on has reached a new high. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to interrupt the supply of fuel and natural gas, and inflation is making it hard for many families to meet their basic needs.
Thankfully, Mainers have options available to address rising heating and electricity costs this winter.
How are Efficiency Maine and the U.S. Department of Energy helping Mainers lower energy costs and save money?
Efficiency Maine provides homeowners with rebates and incentives to retrofit homes with energy-efficient systems, including:
Up to $1,200 rebates for residential heat pumps. Heat pumps are one of the most energy-efficient heating and cooling systems available, and heat pump hot water heaters save most homes several hundred dollars a year when compared to electric resistance hot water heaters, natural gas tank heaters, propane tank heaters, and tankless propane heaters.
Rebates to install heat pumps and heat pump hot water heaters, regardless of income. Heat pump hot water heaters are available from select retailers for as low as $429 after Efficiency Maine rebates and Efficiency Maine will provide an $850 rebate on heat pump hot water heaters from non-participating retailers.
Up to $500 rebates for energy audits and air sealing, with higher rebates available for lower and moderate-income households. Air sealing is the most cost effective home improvement measure to reduce heating costs and also helps reduce the risk of damage from moisture, making homes more durable. Before spending money to add additional insulation to your home, first make sure you’ve addressed all the air leaks.
Up to $8,000 rebates for additional insulation for all incomes and increased rebates for lower-income households for existing construction.
$50 rebates for high efficiency (HE) washers, which use less water and energy while still deep-cleaning laundry.
Partnerships with hardware stores to offer substantially discounted LED lights across the state. LED lights are 75 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last about 25 times longer.
You can find more information about Efficiency Maine incentives at their website.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy has a number of rebates, credits, and incentives available for energy-efficient upgrades, including:
A $300 tax credit each on heat pumps and heat pump hot water heaters. This is in addition to Maine’s state rebate.
A tax credit for insulation on new and existing construction equal to 10% of the cost of insulation materials up to a total of $1,200. Insulation materials include air sealing products like spray foam, weather stripping, house wrap, and caulk. This can be combined with the state rebate mentioned above.
A Tax credit for Energy Star-rated windows, doors, and skylights equal to 10% of the cost of the products up to $600. These can be for new or existing construction.
A 22% tax credit on wood and pellet stoves that are at least 75% efficient.
A 30% tax credit for solar panels and installation.
You can find more information on these federal incentives here.
MaineHousing’s Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)
MaineHousing offers the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), which offsets a portion of heating costs for Maine homeowners and renters. Benefits include help paying for fuel and emergency fuel delivery, as well as energy-related repairs. Eligibility depends on household size, income, and energy costs.
Energy Office Programs and Guide
The Governor’s Energy Office has also compiled a list of programs and resources that homeowners and renters can use to reduce their heating costs and conserve energy:
MaineHousing programs include:
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP);
The Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides grants to reduce energy costs by improving home energy efficiency;
The Central Heating Improvement Program (CHIP), which provides grants to repair or replace central heating systems that serve low-income households; and
A heat pump program that will pay for the cost and installation of a heat pump for eligible Maine homeowners. Heat pumps are one of the most energy efficient, cost effective methods of home heating.
The Energy Office has also published a tips and resources guide designed to help Mainers ensure their heating system is efficient and get assistance if needed. Tips include scheduling annual system maintenance, asking your fuel provider about locking in a price for the winter, and scheduling automatic delivery to avoid emergency fueling. The guide, as well as additional winter energy resources information, can be found here. For those using alternative heat sources like space heaters, wood-burning stoves, and kerosene heaters, the Maine Emergency Management Agency provides a safety guide.
Using caulk, spray foam, and/or foam gaskets to fill cracks and gaps that let heat escape, including around door and window frames, electrical outlets, light receptacles, and baseboards. The most important places to air seal are where your walls intersect with your foundation, and where your ceiling intersects with the insulation in your attic or roof.
Installing door sweeps and weather stripping on doors and windows to avoid drafts.
Turning down your thermostat when you’re not at home and when you’re sleeping to conserve energy. However, if you use a heat pump, it’s most efficient to leave your thermostat at a consistent temperature, even if you’re not home during the day.
Keeping your fireplace damper closed when not in use.
Scheduling annual maintenance for furnaces and boilers so they run at peak efficiency.
A rise in heating and electricity costs does not mean anyone has to freeze. There are programs and funds available to ensure that every Mainer stays warm this winter.