MADISON — Maintaining a comfortable, affordable and healthy home can be a challenge for many Mainers trying to weather harsh winters in older buildings.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The average homeowner in Maine can improve the performance of their home heating and cooling systems in a number of ways without spending a fortune, according to Bo Jespersen, an expert in home heating and energy use.

Jespersen was one of eight presenters today at an informational fair on energy efficiency at Madison Memorial High School.

As the end of summer approaches, he said, many Mainers are thinking of how they will button up their homes for winter and now is a good time to evaluate what a home may need and to make those repairs.

“We get a lot of those simple questions. People say, ‘I’m uncomfortable, I’m cold and I’m spending too much money.’ Those are signs you may need to evaluate your home’s performance,” said Jespersen, a professional energy auditor and the owner of The Breathable Home, a home construction and restoration company based in Manchester.

An evaluation can be done by the homeowner or by a professional energy auditor, but either way there are benefits to evaluating home energy use and taking the needed steps, he said. They include improved comfort, a chance to enhance the value of a home, reduced carbon footprint and the potential to save money through tax credits after investing in efficient-energy options.

Jespersen said he encourages homeowners to conduct their own home evaluations but there are also reasons to hire an energy auditor. Auditors are equipped with tools the average homeowner does not have access to, such as an infrared camera to read temperature changes and detect drafts, said Jespersen.

For homeowners, he suggests evaluating what he calls the “thermal envelope” of the house first — how well the house maintains temperature overall. Then they can look at specific rooms, windows and doors, as well as the efficiency of their heating and cooling systems.

It’s also important for homeowners to remember that regulating heat and air flow is important for the health of the people who live there, said Jespersen. It’s important to maintain some circulation of air from outside, and to take that into consideration when evaluating a home for drafts, cracks and holes.

The energy audit can help homeowners decide what repairs they want or need to make to their home. Not everything has to be done at once, Jespersen said, but as repairs are completed there are benefits to come.

He also reminded people that there are tax incentives for investing in green energy and that the state’s Efficiency Maine program offers rebates for energy audits and improvements.

Rob Ellis, a representative for ReVision Energy, a solar panel company, said there are a lot of small changes people can make to improve their homes that don’t require large financial investments, such as sealing up windows and doors.

A home solar panel system can cost between $7,000 and $36,000, an expense that can be made up over time in electrical savings, though such an investment is not for everyone, Ellis said.

“Solar energy is great, but it is more of a long-term solution. Insulation, air sealing and weatherization are things everyone can do,” he said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
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