BETHEL – Mark Bancroft has seen a huge difference in the amount of oil his office in Paris uses with the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system.

The owner and president of Bancroft Contracting Corp. had the system installed for his 3,000-square-foot office in 2006.

This year, he hasn’t used a drop of $100-a-barrel oil to heat the office. His father and an employee have or will install the new technology that gathers the Earth’s heat for their homes.

The clean, fuel-efficient energy is the reason Rep. Timothy Carter, D-Bethel, has sponsored a bill that would provide homeowners with low interest loans for geothermal installation.

“I think geothermal energy is a great idea. Oil is expensive. Geothermal energy is environmentally sound and doesn’t pollute the atmosphere,” he said.

Last week, Carter’s bill was approved by the Legislature’s Utilities and Energy Committee. Within the next few weeks, it will go before the full Legislature.

Carter originally submitted a bill that would have granted rebates to businesses and people who installed geothermal systems, but that bill was amended because state money wasn’t available.

That’s OK with Carter, though.

“This is a good way to get it started. If it’s successful, then maybe grants and rebates,” he said Tuesday afternoon.

Loans could range from 2 percent to 5 percent interest. Funds needed for the loans for small businesses, nonprofits and municipal buildings would come from the Finance Authority of Maine, and for homeowners, from the Maine State Housing Authority.

“The important thing is to get the program up and running, rather than let it die,” Carter said.

The idea for the geothermal bill came from the majority office of the Legislature as a way to save energy and reduce global warming, Carter said.

Bancroft said electricity use in his office has risen 10 to 15 percent as a result of operating the system, but that has been more than offset by not using $3.25 per gallon oil.

He said he expects to recoup his investment in about five years, depending on the cost of fuel oil.

He said the underground loop field, which is what gathers the Earth’s heat, averages around $10,000 to build. On top of that are costs to install heating and air conditioning systems.

Dan Everett of New England Geothermal installed the system.

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