Posts Tagged ‘Govenor Paul LePage’

Home energy audit….Ponzi scheme?

December 13, 2011

“Conservation is just another word for a Ponzi scheme in many respects. What I mean by that, is it is not that conservation is bad, conservation is very, very good if you do it properly.”  This is a quote from Maine Governor Paul LePage from the Bangor daily News last week.  

The Governor, in the article, is critical of the home energy audits process required by Efficiency Maine since, as he suggests, “If they are recommending $15,000 in improvements and a person can’t make that much of an investment, it is all a waste,” he said. “That’s where the policy is not working and we are going to work on that.”

I think it is throwing out the baby with the bath water to say that a homeowner can’t afford to fix everything in a home all at once then the audit was a waste.   In Maine as everywhere else, a good audit maps out short and long term solutions to save homeowners money, increase their comfort at home, and reduce our dependence on heating oil with increased efficiency.  The audit should be your roadmap to a safer, more comfortable, and more energy-efficient home.   

Of course, the right audit needs to be accurate and actionable.  The audit needs to look at the whole house to determine the specific energy upgrades that make the most sense for your particular house.  And it needs to be specific enough so that you can get the work done, but it is the work that improves your house, not the assessment.  We can agree with the governor on that point.

Certified, established contractors, performing energy audits and even more important, performing the work needed to fix the problems, are what we need in every state.  We ask doctors to be certified, drivers to be licensed; it is for the public good and our safety.   Homes are often the most significant investment people have, and issues left unchecked affect the occupant’s health and safety, heating systems and indoor air quality issues, all part of an energy audit…and we haven’t talked about air sealing and insulation yet!  

Shortcuts don’t work well, and can create their own problems.  Wrapping the “state in pink” suggesting insulation for everyone is in the right spirit, but the wrong approach in most homes, unless we find and seal air-leaks first, for example.   Air sealing without insulation is not only a waste of insulation, all that good “pink” will only act as a filter as all the heating dollars pass through it.  The slogan for fixing homes should not be get r’ done, but do it right the first time.  The right audit points the way.

Homes are complex and often times so are the solutions.  Ponzi scheme?  I think not.  Investing in energy efficiency is no simple task and any good investor begins with informing themselves of the risks and benefits or else looses their shirt rather quickly.  The right audit makes sense.



Breaking the dependence on oil

November 15, 2011

Maine Governor Paul LePage has recently called for a 50% reduction in the use of oil for heating in the state.   Maine is a heavy user when it comes to heating oil.  80% of our homes here are oil heated.  To cut that useage in half by 2014 is an ambitious goal, for sure.  LePage suggests doing this by switching to natural gas and wood pellets. 

There are efforts to move towards natural gas in the state, and I encourage it.  It won’t be fast, however.  While the distribution system is slowly growing, it is not there now.  As for pellets, they are readily available, but if demand for them increases so might cost.   Furthermore, most residential wood burning systems require the user to be hands on.  The pellets don’t fill the stove themselves, and the ashes don’t empty themselves.   This is the same reason why 80% heat with oil instead of wood, also abundant in the Pine Tree state.

What is missing in this discussion is our dependence on BTU’s.  In other words, the focus should be on energy use, first, not fuel source.   Switching fuels doesn’t solve the problem of inefficient leaky homes heating the great outdoors.  It’s like an addict going from one fix to another because it’s cheaper, and they can get more for less.   Fuel switching is treating the symptom and not the problem. 

Weatherization efforts, increased efficiencies of heating equipment, and fuel switching when it makes sense, can have a much greater impact, and a much lower long term cost, than fuel switching alone. Efficiency Maine and the many contractors who have worked with these programs have been chipping away at this.  Tux Turkel from the Maine Sunday telegram reported recently, “Maine residents slashed their heating oil use by 45% between 2004 and 2009.”  We routinely save people that much off of their oil bills.  Governor, we can do this, but let’s treat the real problem and break our dependence on wasteful heating.   

Photo by David L Ryan

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