As we get closer to spring, this is the perfect time to evaluate how your home handled the cold of winter. Compare your consumption levels; this year did you use more natural gas, oil or electricity to stay warm? When the wind blows outside do your curtains move, or do you feel a draft?

Recent spikes in the cost of home heating oil, natural gas and electricity, coupled with the older age of Maine’s housing stock, leaves Mainers particularly vulnerable in our colder climate. To help Mainers, Maine Housing, the state of Maine and area community action agencies have embarked on an ambitious effort to weatherize all single and multifamily homes in Maine.

A necessary first step is to have a home energy audit conducted. Locally, HomeQuest, NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center, an affiliate of Community Concepts, has a staff of certified Energy Management Technicians available to work with homeowners on energy audits. They will inspect all portions of the home including attics, crawl spaces and basements.

Services may include the use of Infrared Camera Testing and a whole house energy efficiency test using a Blower Door Test. According to Dennis Lajoie of HomeQuest/Community Concepts, energy audits provide a great resource for homeowners. “Upon completion of the energy audit the customer will be provided a written energy inspection, and a list of items that could help save energy.” Services include helping to secure contractor bids and providing assistance to pay for the energy audit and recommended improvements with the assistance of the Home Energy Loan Program.

Recently HomeQuest was designated an ENERGYSTAR mortgage lender. ENERGY STAR mortgages are mortgages on homes that are ENERGY STAR qualified or that achieve total home energy savings of at least 20%. Borrowers can apply for a mortgage that exceeds the price of the home as long as additional money goes towards upgrades that increase the energy efficiency of the home by 20%.

HomeQuest offers ENERGY STAR mortgages through HELP, which provides loans at a low fixed interest rate of 3.95 % for home energy improvements. The loans are available to eligible low- and moderate-income homeowners. Loan amounts range from $2,800 to $30,000, with loan terms of up to 15 years.

Ron Knott, associate director of Homeownership & Lending Services at HomeQuest, says there are several benefits to ENERGY STAR Mortgages. “Homeowners see a reduction in energy consumption; utility bills are reduced while helping to protect the environment.”

According to Lajoie, homeowners can use HELP funds for energy improvements as long as the energy savings for the projects are more than the cost of the improvements. “Upgrades include such things as financing a new energy efficient heating system, including energy efficient wood stoves or wood pellet stoves, solar thermal hot water systems, geothermal systems, adding energy efficient doors and windows, and many others.”

Knott says HomeQuest is excited to offer such a revolutionary program. “Maine is the first state to offer ENERGY STAR mortgages. We know this will provide a great benefit to our consumers.”

For more information on obtaining a HomeQuest Home Energy Audit, visit www.community-concepts.org or call 1-800-866-5588.


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