Editorial: Saving money and the planet   

Federal dollars are appropriated every year to help low-income Mainers heat their homes, and a record amount will flow into Maine this year. While that might sound like good news on the surface, spending money to heat an energy-inefficient home is a waste of money. 

Filling an oil tank to have its contents flow out of drafty windows only helps in the moment, and the burning of fossil fuels is damaging to the environment. We must think long term and leverage the funds to our advantage. 

The American Rescue Plan will deliver more than $90 million to the state for energy assistance, which is more than double the annual funding. Yes, this winter has been cold, but when all the snow falls and it comes time to turn those furnaces off, we need to turn our attention to programs that will help people become more self sufficient and less dependent on fuel assistance each year.   

Maine’s housing stock is 42 years old on average, but many are much older. And many homes require a lot of work to get them buttoned up for winter. 

Last year, Governor Janet Mills allocated funds to help homeowners weatherize their homes. That is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.  

This is where the formation of a public/private partnerships would help tremendously. The state should make those resources available and partner with the people who can do the work. A sliding scale, based on income, can offset costs and encourage participation. Low-interest loans should also be made available to those looking to finance the work, regardless of income.   

While we can say that the best long-term solution is to replace windows with more energy-efficient models, there are costs. A window might run you $200, but installation costs more than double that. And finding a contractor is tricky right now.  

For these reasons, we look to groups like A Climate to Thrive and its Weatherize MDI 2.0 program. The nonprofit is working to pair homeowners with contractors and available rebates to bring down the cost of making one’s house more energy efficient. ACTT has taken almost all the legwork out of the process. They have vetted a contractor and have done their homework on available rebates.  

Efficiency Maine and the Maine Housing Authority also have a number of programs available to homeowners, but the organizations need to do better outreach.  

While a majority of programs target most of its dollars to low-income residents, there are certain rebates available to all those who make energy-efficient modifications.  

Regardless of income, we should all look to make our homes more energy efficient. Not only will this save us money, but it will also help to save our planet.  

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