September 12, 2008

Energy Forum Generates Ideas for Warming Up

By Eileen M. Adams

MEXICO - Tightening up a house will save on heating bills, a state energy official told those attending an energy forum Thursday night.

"The biggest bang for your buck is to use caulking, plastic, foam insulation," said Ian Burnes, a spokesman from the governor's Energy Office.

If money is limited, put insulation where there isn't any, rather than adding it to spots where it might be thin. That will save more fuel, he said.

"There's a lot more information out there that will go to towns, representatives, others during the next few weeks," Burnes said.

He was one of more than a dozen representatives from agencies and municipalities who served as panelists for the forum sponsored by the local Democratic delegation and held at the Mexico Town Hall.

Anyone with questions about where to go for help may call 211.

"The line is open 24 hours a day and can refer people to the right program," Burnes said.

Community Concepts head technician Cheryl Shattenburg suggested an energy audit that could discover heating leaks in a home. The organization would also make recommendations that would provide the most savings for the money.

Jo-Ann Choate of the Maine State Housing Authority said her organization is setting up educational programs for people to become certified in energy audits and weatherization techniques. She also spoke of low-interest loans for the purchase of alternative heating sources, such as solar and geothermal energy, as well as the availability of funding to help pay for fuel oil.

Mexico and Rumford fire Chief Gary Wentzell geared his remarks toward safety: Install furnaces properly and replace old smoke detectors, he said.

He also said people should keep an eye out for their neighbors.

"If there's no smoke coming from their chimney for a day or two, check on them or have a welfare check done," he said.

Marylena McDermett, crisis response team leader for Oxford County Mental Health, said a stressful season could be made even more stressful for people who are having a difficult time paying their bills. She, too, advised people to watch out for their neighbors.

Gary Haines of the local Rotary Club said a Rumford area group is getting ready to weatherize the homes of about 60 people as a community service project. Anyone wishing to help should contact him at 357-9687 prior to Oct. 4.

The forum was one of several the Democratic delegation has hosted. A similar event was held last week in Jay, and another will be scheduled in Bethel.

"We want to get information out to people about the opportunities to protect themselves this winter," said Sen. Bruce Bryant, D- Dixfield.

Originally published by Staff Writer.

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