To save money last year, Rob and Amy Dudley shut off a third of their home and kept the thermostat low. Despite that, the family stilled burned through more than 1,800 gallons of heating oil and their house was so cold that their new baby, Clara, lived in her snowsuit. One morning, they discovered the dog’s water dish had a layer of ice over it.
That’s when they knew something had to be done.
“When we were buying (the home,)” said Rob Dudley, “we knew there was no insulation, and we knew we would make it through the first winter and then insulate it over time.”
Initially, he said, he planned to insulate the home piecemeal; he thought that was all he was able to afford.
Then his contractor told him about Efficiency Maine’s PACE loan program.
The Dudleys were able to borrow the maximum loan offered of $15,000 at 4.99 percent interest, which can be paid back in five, 10 or 15 years. In addition, if the home is sold prior to the pay back, the loan can be transferred to the new owners at the time of the sale.
After the Dudley’s loan was approved, all the walls were filled with blown-in cellulose insulation and a 2-inch layer of spray-foam insulation was added to the foundation walls.
“We were able to get significant savings immediately,” said Dudley.
The family will save an estimated 30 percent in heating costs thanks to the improvements, they said.
Even though it’s been a relatively mild winter, Dudley said, “We can definitely feel the difference. The house feels so much warmer. It’s like night and day.”
The Dudleys are one of 600 families who have applied for PACE loans since the program launched in April, said Paul Badeau, a spokesman for Efficiency Maine.
So far, $1.4 million of the $20 million loan pool has been loaned out, he said. The pool is self-replenishing; money is added back once loans are repaid. The money was received as a grant to the state from the federal government through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The hope, said Badeau, is to weatherize as many Maine homes as possible.
Those seeking a PACE loan must first make sure their community has an ordinance that allows residents to take advantage of the program. Local ordinances have been passed in 106 communities, said Badeau, representing 60 percent of Maine’s population.
Then the steps of the process must be taken, such as: A participating energy advisor must conduct an energy audit of the home; a loan application must be filed with Efficiency Maine to prequalify for a loan; a qualified contractor must price out the work; and once the work is completed the work must be verified prior to receiving the final payment.
In addition to adding insulation, some of the other items PACE loans can be used for include: Air sealing (foam and caulk), heating system upgrades, efficient hot water heaters, and better controls and thermostats for furnaces and boilers.
“It’s a pretty convenient way to get the money to do a thorough insulation,” said Dudley. “I’m happy Saco adopted that ordinance so it was available to us.”
To learn more about the PACE loan program, visit the Efficiency Maine website at efficiencymaine.com/pace.
— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, Ext. 324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.