PERU — Hometown Energy owner Ike Libby said Monday night that Americans have sent his company more than $100,000 since it was mentioned Saturday in a front-page article in the The New York Times on Mainers struggling to heat their homes this winter.
He said he was too busy answering the phone at his business at 90 Weld St. in Dixfield to tally the amount of donations given to pay for heating fuel deliveries to the needy, especially the elderly.
"I don't care for government," he said, because of recent cuts in heating assistance. "But I tell you, after this I'm proud to be an American."
The New York Times article featured Robert and Wilma Hartford of Peru, who are disabled, living on $1,200 a month and struggling to pay for oil to heat their home.
On Sunday, representatives from Upright Frameworks in Wilton, Energy Circle Pro in Freeport and Complete Home Evaluation Services of Brunswick visited the Hartfords' house to assess its energy efficiency.
Josh Wojcik, who runs Upright Frameworks, said he knew the core of the heating problem was heating efficiency so he and Kevin Casey, project manager, offered their services to fix the Hartfords' house.
Wojick, who said he is passionate about decreasing the nation's dependency on oil, said making homes in Maine efficient is an easy economic solution.
Maine has approximately half a million homes and with simple and inexpensive measures the state could cut its need for oil by 25 to 35 percent, he said.
He said if the state invested more into programs such as Efficiency Maine, not only would homeowners see more money in their pocketbooks, but the state's economy would also benefit.
"Dollars in equals dollars out," Wojick said.
He said the math made sense.
"With a 25 to 35 percent cut in home heating costs, the state would see approximately $300 million left in state instead of going out of state to oil companies," he said. "It also creates jobs."
Wojick and Peter Troast, CEO of Energy Circle Pro, said they have been frustrated with the lack of response when talking with state and federal representatives about the issue.
"The housing stock in Maine is in such poor condition," Wojick said. "We keep throwing Band-Aids on it instead of solving the root of the problem."
DeWitt Kimball of Complete Home Evaluation Services said the current administration is cutting key programs that help those most in need.
"The Maine State Housing Authority is under attack," Kimball said.
With recent cuts to programs such as Low Income Home Energy Assistance and MSHA many residents, including the elderly, are being left out in the cold.
Kimball believes Maine is behind other states in home efficiency and said the government needs to step up to the plate.
"The people that are struggling and trying their best are being forgotten," Kimball said.
Wojick agreed, saying it was time the state took a common sense approach to the problem.
"A lot of our state is elderly and they can't go out and cut wood or man the wood stove," he said. "Are we just going to let our aging population freeze?"
Libby agreed with the group.
"I think heating programs are just a way to subsidize high oil prices," he said.
Kimball said the donations to Hometown Energy to help pay for heating oil is an awe inspiring movement. He said by winterizing area homes that money could last a lot longer.
Air leakage is more than half the heat loss homeowners experience, he said.
The Hartfords' house is one of the worst cases Kimball said he has seen, with a loss of three and half of the home's air volume per hour.
"Normal and healthy air loss in a home should only be one third of its air volume per hour," he said. "I've done hundreds of these and this one is way above the normal."
All three men said simple steps could be taken by homeowners to fix the problem.
DeWitt suggested feeling for air loss around windows and doors and said spider webs and cobwebs are key indicators of air loss.
He also said 20 to 30 percent of heat loss can be found in attics and through wires.
DeWitt suggested using a can of spray foam to hit areas in the attic where wires are threaded through the walls and ceilings.
He also suggested using pieces of insulation and removable caulking to seal bulkhead doors during the winter.
"There are many things that can be done without calling a professional," he said.
Kimball said people can throw money into programs to buy oil for residents but that cost will never decrease without home efficiency measures.
"It's like a hole in the bucket," he said.