AUGUSTA — The state will double the rebate it provides to homeowners who install certain kinds of heat pumps, Gov. Janet Mills announced Tuesday, as the state pushes toward its goal of having 100,000 of the energy-saving heating and cooling units installed in Maine homes by 2025.

Mills said the initiative, the result of a law she signed in June, does not use taxpayer funds. It will maintain Maine’s “trajectory as a national leader in beneficial electrification – replacing high-carbon fossil fuels with cleaner electricity – while lowering heating bills and creating quality jobs,” she said.

The rebates went into effect on Jan. 1.

The rebates from the Efficiency Maine trust will increase from $500 to $1,000 for the first heat pump installed in a home if it meets the highest-performing “Tier 2” criteria for performance and efficiency. The rebate for a second heat pump will also be doubled, from $250 per home to $500.

“These new rebates will help make high-performance heat pumps more attainable for more Maine people, and the effects of this initiative will ripple across Maine’s economy,” Mills, a Democrat, said in a prepared statement. “Not only will it help create good-paying jobs, boost small businesses, and promote workforce training at our community colleges, but it will also help Maine people save money on their heating bills and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, helping us protect our environment and fight climate change. I encourage Maine people to see what they are eligible for.”

Heat pumps meeting the so-called “Tier 1” rebate standards will continue to be eligible for a $500 rebate for the first indoor unit and $250 for a second indoor or outdoor unit, as in prior years. In addition, enhanced $2,000 rebates are now available to homeowners who receive heating assistance through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

“Seven years into our programs promoting this new generation of heat pumps, specially designed for cold winters, we continue to see growth in consumer demand, which tells us these new models really work well, even when it’s freezing outside,” Efficiency Maine Executive Director Michael Stoddard said.

Mills’ predecessor, Republican Gov. Paul LePage, was also bullish on heat pump technology and touted the energy saving devices as well – in 2014 LePage had 22 heat pumps installed at the Blaine House, the governor’s residence.

A high-performance heat pump can help an average Maine home reduce its oil consumption by 270 to 540 gallons per year. It can also reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 3,600 to 7,250 pounds per year per home for each high-performance heat pump.

If the state reaches it goal of 100,000 residential heat pumps statewide, Maine consumers would be expected to save save $30 million to $60 million annually, according to estimates made by the Efficiency Maine Trust.

The trust provided $6.57 million in rebates on 11,701 heat pumps in 2019, according to trust officials.

Some heat pumps, called “mini-splits,” are part indoors and part outdoors. They use refrigeration technology to extract heat from outdoor air. In the summer, they work in reverse to provide air conditioning.

The devices are popular because they cost about one-third as much as a central heating system. They come in various sizes; typical retail prices for single-zone models range from $3,000 to $5,000. Depending on how big a home is and how well it’s weatherized, a unit can satisfy 50 to 75 percent of year-round demand.

The news conference was held at the F.W. Webb Company in Augusta, and included a representative of Burnham-based Hometown Heat Pumps. They are two of the more than 400 businesses that form the supply chain serving heat pump customers in Maine, according to Mills.

“Customer service has been our top priority along with helping our customers save substantially on heating and cooling costs,” Hometown Heat Pump’s owner Christie Whitcomb said. “This has allowed us to grow quickly and become a leader in the heat pump industry.”

David Daigler, president of the Maine Community College System, promoted the system’s training programs for heat pump installers and technicians.

“This sort of initiative is why we remain focused on providing critical, relevant workforce training at the community colleges,” Daigler said at the event. “As industries and policies shift, we adjust our programs to make sure students and trainees are learning the latest techniques and technologies to keep up with industry needs.”

 

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