AUGUSTA — Spring might be in the air, but a Maine energy agency warned Wednesday that the next winter heating season starts in just 253 days – or eight months.

Efficiency Maine Executive Director Michael Stoddard said this past winter may have been mild, helping homeowners to hold down their fuel costs. But with the cost of heating fuel up 300 percent in the past decade, “mild weather doesn’t help much,” said Stoddard. “The total cost to heat our homes is still too high.”

Joined by a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development official, Stoddard announced a new program, called PowerSaver, that will provide loans to homeowners at 4.99 percent interest for energy conservation projects that meet a minimum energy-saving threshold of 20 percent. Terms are up to 20 years, depending on the project, and borrowers must have enough home equity to cover the loan amount.

Standing behind Stoddard and HUD energy efficiency official Michael Freedberg were several weatherization contractors, illustrating that energy-saving improvements – from replacement of doors and windows to the installation of efficient heating systems, insulation and air sealing – has a side benefit of creating jobs in the state. Maine is among the first states to launch a HUD-supported PowerSaver program, said Freedberg.

PowerSaver will complement the Maine PACE home weatherization loan program, which is also run by the independent trust Efficiency Maine.

While the changing seasons tend to lighten worries about high energy prices, officials and contractors said oil prices are likely to stay at record highs or continue to rise in the months ahead. The majority of Maine homes heat by oil.

“Mainers should not wait until next winter to fix their homes,” said Richard Burbank, owner of Evergreen Home Performance in Rockland. “High heating oil process and a cold winter next heating season could devastate homeowners in Maine. Now is the time to weatherize.”



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