The Camden Public Library will host a talk on Efficiency Maine on Thursday, March 25 at 6:30 p.m. Efficiency Maine is the state’s subsidy program for installing weatherization and other energy-saving hardware. It is an effort to promote more efficient use of electricity, help Maine residents and businesses reduce energy costs, and improve Maine’s environment. Efficiency Maine is funded by electricity consumers and administered by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Richard Burbank, president of Evergreen Home Performance, will present Efficiency Maine’s Weatherization Program, a $9 million incentive program to promote middle-income home weatherization. During the next two years, the goal is to enable 4,000 Maine homeowners to make reductions of 25 to 50 percent or more in energy costs by offering rebates of up to $3,000 on completed work. Efficiency Maine representatives will also be on hand to describe the details of how homes can qualify for the program.

New advances in building science allow auditors to measure the energy losses in a home. Specialized contractors, called home performance contractors (mainehomeperformance.com), use this information to install customized home retrofits, including air sealing, attic, sidewall and basement insulation, and high efficiency appliance, heating and ventilation systems. Once the work is completed, the auditors return to verify that the savings have indeed been achieved.

In his presentation, Burbank will give case studies of the types of projects that would qualify, illustrated by pictures from local projects, including the first project in the state to complete the program on Washington Street in Camden. Pre-approved weatherization projects that reduce fuel usage for heat and hot water by 25 percent would be eligible for up to $1,500 in rebates while those that achieve energy savings of 50 percent or more would be eligible for up to $3,000. Federal tax incentives of up to $1,500 also could help offset the costs of weatherization.

“This will be an effective program to encourage more Mainers to make improvements to their homes so that their families can stay warm, more secure, safer and economically more secure,” said Gov. John Baldacci during a press event at the Statehouse. “This program is about saving Mainers money and about providing jobs to energy auditors, energy installers and retailers.”

Maine has one of the oldest housing stocks in the nation, and roughly 80 percent of homes in the state are heated with oil. The average heating oil price in the state in January was $2.67 a gallon. While that is significantly below the price at the height of the oil crisis roughly two years ago, oil prices have been rising in recent weeks. The administration has set an ambitious goal of weatherizing all Maine homes by 2020 as part of its efforts to move the state away from its dependence on foreign oil, something that Baldacci insists is necessary both for economic and national security reasons.

Six Knox County homeowners have already contracted with Evergreen to take advantage of the program, making them the first households to benefit from the incentives. The Finkelstein-Funk family in Warren had a major retrofit of their home. Before, the husband and wife team, both schoolteachers, rushed home from work to feed their woodstove.

“We would use over seven cords of wood and 300 gallons of heating oil in a winter, and we were still cold,” Stuart Finkelstein said.

The retrofit, which is complete, included sealing the 1820s cape-style house from air leaks, which will make the house much less drafty. The cellulose insulation densely packed into the walls and roof slopes and loose blown into the attic will dramatically improve heat retention. The work in the basement to seal off moisture and improve drainage, eliminate drafts and insulate the space will not only make the building more energy efficient, but it will help improve the air quality in the house and increase the building’s durability with the elimination of moisture issues.

Evergreen has guaranteed to cut their energy use by a minimum of 25 percent and calculated a projected savings of 50 percent.

“Typically, we end up saving homeowners even more — as much as 35 to 50 percent — with this kind of retrofit,” Burbank said. “And often, an unexpected benefit of these efficiency measures is a dramatic improvement in homeowner comfort. The drafts are gone, the heat is much more evenly distributed in the house, and the air quality is better.”