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BDN MAINE SPECIAL SECTION • BANGORDAILYNEWS.COM • September 12-13, 2013

ENERGY WISE 2013

‘Smart grid’ will revolutionize electricity generation and delivery in Maine and beyond By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN Special Sections

If you haven’t at least heard of smart meters, smart grids, clean and renewable energy, you might be liv-ing under a rock. All three of those are inherently connected. Among other things, you need smart meters to make a smart grid. And a smart grid is critical in delivery and distribution of renewable energy to consumers.

Component #1:

SMART METERS Smart meters are nothing new. Nearly decade ago, Bangor Hydro and Central Maine Power began in-stalling them on houses and businesses. This began a major change in meter reading. In the old days, the power companies sent us an estimated monthly bill, and then the meter reader came by occasionally to get an accurate reading. With wireless smart meters, power companies can check your usage remotely and automatically. But in the context of a smart grid, they do far more than that. Smart meters report not just your total usage but how much power you used at any given time. When all customers’ data is collated into one database, the power company can determine how much power is used in a given area on any day or time, from county to city to part of a city to a single street. This incredible nar-rowing of data, and the versatility it provides, allows the power company to better predict consumer usage, to fore-

cast power needs for any area, to provide faster service to areas that have suffered power outages, and to provide a more reliable grid. But there are some people who believe it violates their privacy, although it’s unclear how they would do that. Smart meters don’t report what electrical devices you use or how you use them, what you watch on television, what you do online, or anything else other than how much power you use and when you use it. It’s far less invasive than the detailed tracking creditcard companies have done for years, and less than the cable company, which knows what its digital subscribers watch, what they record, and when they watch it. But the biggest criticism stems from the belief that the microwaves that smart meters emit hazardous to our health — a myth that science has repeatedly debunked. Regardless, many people refuse to have smart meters, and are often paying to not have them; as of March, roughly 8,500 Central Maine Power customers who don’t want smart meters have paid a one-time $40 fee and $12 monthly charge to opt out. But they’re not happy about it, and if LD 826 passes in the Maine Legislature, the electrical utilities will be powerless (pun intended) to do anything about it. A Lewiston Sun Journal story from March 2013 reported about a woman suffering from migraines who, per a doctor’s advice to eliminate all microwave sources in her home, unsuccessfully sought a fee waiver from CMP. This was despite virtually every scientific review having found no justifiable connection be-tween low-power microwaves and

Bangor Daily News file photo by Bridget Brown

One of Bangor Hydro’s “smart” meters, which the company began using in 2004. They might look like the old meters, but these don’t need to be manually read; instead, they wirelessly transmit usage data that allows the power company to ascertain not just how much electricity a customer uses but when they use it.

any health issue. Even the World Health Organization, which reviewed the vast amount of scientific and medical evidence, concluded that such microwave devices weren’t danger-ous. According to Dr. Ali Abedi of the University of Maine, there has been plenty of research on radio fre-quency signals, most inconclusive. “The Federal Communications Commission has emission limits and, as long as those are met, we should be safe,” said Dr. Ali Abedi, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Direc-tor of Wireless Sensor Networks (WiSe-Net) Laboratory at the University of Maine. “As long as smart me-ters follow the same rules imposed by FCC, we should not treat them differently.” That’s good news. Otherwise, we’d “Microwave oven emissions are much higher than routers, have to purge our society of microwave ovens, wireless network routers, televiand those of routers are much higher than smart meters sion microwave towers, air-traffic-conradar, police radar. Even if you only — so the concern there is not based on facts. Wireless cell trol purged your own home, you’d still be phones and WiFi routers dominate our spectrum these days. surrounded by microwaves. It’s difficult to envision how a smart meter would So, a smart meter is just a small noise in the background.” make any difference. “This is the point that most people are —Ali Abedi, UMaine College of Engineering, on con- missing,” Abedi said. “Microwave oven cern over smart-meter emissions emissions are much higher than routers,

and those of routers are much higher than smart meters — so the concern there is not based on facts. Removing a smart meter does not change a thing. Wireless cell phones and WiFi routers dominate our spectrum these days. So, a smart meter is just a small noise in the background.” But regardless of the facts, many people won’t believe them, and those who opt out create a challenge to the power companies. Smart meters are a vital component of creating a widespread smart grid, and opt-outs create holes in the data, requiring power companies to install repeaters to account for the missing smart meters. That means they’ll still be able to ascertain power usage in your home, even if you don’t have a smart meter — it will just increase the cost. Without smart meters and a reduced cost, building a national smart grid won’t be easy.

Component #2:

A SMART GRID The idea of the smart grid is that it works in unison everywhere — even across state and international lines. See SMART GRID

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BDN MAINE SPECIAL SECTION • BANGORDAILYNEWS.COM • September 12-13, 2013

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ENERGY WISE 2013

Companies partner with Efficiency Maine for energy-saving project Will Fessenden Electricity Maine/Provider Power

Electricity Maine and Thayer Corporation are teaming up on a first-of-its-kind project that will offer, at no cost, an opportunity for small- to medium-size businesses to better manage their energy consumption. As part of an Efficiency Maine Innovation project, the two companies are working with ecobee Inc., the makers of Wi-Fi connected Energy Management System Si. Electricity Maine will select the Maine businesses to pilot the project and Thayer Corporation will install the devices in those local companies. The one-year pilot provides Maine businesses with Wi-Fi connected thermostats to better manage energy use. The thermostats will track real-time information related to occupancy schedules, building performance, HVAC system run times, and local weather conditions in order to optimize for energy efficiency. The companies

will also be able to view energy usage data and reports to better understand and manage their organization’s energy consumption. “We are pleased to partner with ecobee, Thayer, and Efficiency Maine to bring this technology to Maine businesses,” said Kevin Dean, co-owner of Electricity Maine, a Maine-owned electricity supply company serving residential as well as small and medium businesses in Bangor Hydro and Central Maine Power territories. “We have always offered Mainers a competitive rate on their power; however, we feel it is equally important to help bring energy saving resources and monitoring applications to the market.” Devices from ecobee provide advanced monitoring and reporting so companies will have remote visibility into their system’s performance, making the management of multiple locations easier and cost efficient. “Increased monitoring and the opportunity to troubleshoot and refine

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processes will undoubtedly result in a reduction in operating costs,” said Dean. If there is an HVAC problem, automatic alerts will be sent to a secure web portal or smartphone app so problems can be identified and resolved quickly. Businesses will also have the choice to add system automation which can, for example, control temperature settings when a door is left open or to receive alerts if an area of the property, like a freezer, isn’t at the correct temperature. “We are looking at installing the thermostats in a variety of businesses. Showing off their capabilities under various conditions is important,” said Dean. “Potential markets for this technology can be everything from office spaces, to convenience stores to light manufacturing. There is the potential for significant savings for a host Maine businesses.” Will Fessenden of Electricity Maine/ Provider Power has 10 years of experience writing about energy-conservation efforts for Maine residents and businesses.

DID YOU KNOW? YOUR THERMOSTAT can make a difference. Most homeowners and their families spend most of their day out of the house. You can save as much as 20 percent on hjeating costs by lowering the thermostat during the day by 10 degrees. If you think you’ll forget, a programmable thermostat will do the job on its own. ADDRESS ANY LEAKS. Weatherstripping all doors and windows will keep warm air in the house when it’s cold and prevent cold drafts entering through cracks and leaks. If you have an attic, be sure to seal pipes, chimneys or ductwork. Addressing leaks can save homeowners as much as 10 percent on their annual home energy costs. LOWER WATER TEMPERATURE. You can save as much as 5 percent on your water bill by lowering the temperature on your water heater by as little as 10 degrees. Touch the outside of the water heater; if the outside is cold, the water heater has sufficient insulation. If it’s hot to the touch, wrap a water heater jacket around it to increase efficiency. ALSO: Replace all light bulbs with CFLs and replace old appliances to energy-efficient models. -Metro Creative

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BDN MAINE SPECIAL SECTION • BANGORDAILYNEWS.COM • September 12-13, 2013

ENERGY WISE 2013 SMART GRID

FROM PAGE 2

Let’s say New York City suffers a major power outage during a sweltering heat wave, when everyone is cranking up their air conditioners. There isn’t enough power to supply that many customers using that much power. But in Boston, the temperatures are significantly cooler; the power supply isn’t being over-taxed, and in fact there an electricity surplus. With a national smart grid, New York City would be back in business, because the neighboring region on the grid — where Boston gets its power — can supply its ex-cess electricity. With a unified smart grid across the nation or even the continent, neighboring regions could back each other up and keep everyone supplied with the necessary power. Where smart meters are the first step to a smart grid on the consumer end, upgrading the power-grid infrastructure across the nation must happen to make the smart grid a reality. “The idea behind it is, of course, to use information technologies with our existing grid so that renewable energy can be integrated into the grid in a reliable and efficient manner,” said Mohamad Musavi, Ph.D., of the University of Maine’s College of Engineering. “That is the promise.” The smart grid goes beyond the smart meters. Sensors on transmission lines can tell power companies what the infrastructure’s capacity is, how much power the lines can carry without being damaged, and whether copper lines are suffering from things that make it less viable as a conductor, such as stretching or oxidization. “When we talk about the smart grid, it is multifaceted,” said Musavi. “It deals with storing energy, col-lecting information, processing information quickly and intelligently, and installing new equipment on the lines. And that’s what we call a smart grid. What the Internet and wireless technology has done in our life will now be used to control the energy crisis.” Currently, the existing infrastructure — the power lines, power substations, and power-generating facili-ties — need to be upgraded nationwide in order for everything to work in harmony. “The grid is already here,” Musavi said. “It’s a matter of making it smarter, it’s a matter of merging it with new information technologies to work the way we

want it to work… Once you have done this, we can say that we have a reliable pathway for carrying our renewable energy to market — so that not only our system is reliable, but also we can save money.” Following the first quarter of 2012, Theodore Hesser, an analyst for Bloomberg Energy Finance reported that investment by power utilities in the smart grid had already topped $15.4 billion, and would increase by another $13.4 billion through 2015. Yet even if we upgrade all that infrastructure, we need to go one step further — and establish clean, re-newable energy solutions.

Component #3:

RENEWABLE ENERGY No matter how smart the grid is, we need multiple renewable-energy resources to power it. It’s the same idea as having a diversified investment portfolio for your financial security. Renewable energy is intermittent and unpredictable; coal can run low, drought might hamper hydroe-lectric power, the wind might not blow so hard, and the

Bangor Daily News file photo by Mario Moretto

Habib Dagher, right, director of UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, speaks to a crowd of journalists aboard a Maine Maritime Academy research ship in Castine Harbor in June 2013. At left is Peter Vigue, CEO of Cianbro Corporation, which partnered with the university to create the one-eighth scale VolturnUS floating wind turbine, in background. Wind is a valuable renewable-energy re-source, and off the coast of Maine is believed to be one of the prime locations for offshore wind North America, and Dagher’s hope is to see many full-sized turbines producing power there.

“The grid is already here. It’s a matter of making it smarter. What the Internet and wireless technology has done in our life will now be used to control the energy crisis.” —Mohamad Musavi, UMaine College of Engineering

sun might not come out. That’s why we need mul-tiple power sources feeding the grid, no matter where it comes from. For Musavi, wind power is a key player in that list. “Wind energy — we are not going to use oil to create it,” Musavi said. “That is given to us. It’s the same wind that [enabled] people to come from Europe to the United States. [And] it’s free.” Wind may be to the future of power generation what water was a century ago. The Hoover Dam, which opened in 1936, was a monumental success in its time, and today provides electricity to California, Nevada, and Arizona. Wind power, Musavi says, is the next step — just as clean, just as limitless, and just as free. “We are doing the same thing with renewable energy,” Musavi said. “A hun-

dred years ago, they did it with the rivers; they built dams. Now we’re doing it with another source of energy, which is wind.” And, Musavi says, like UMaine College of Engineering graduate Francis Crowe, who led the construction of the Hoover Dam, Maine people are working to make it happen. Key to that is the development of off-shore wind turbines which will harness the abundant wind resources off the coast, turning it into electricity for Maine and beyond. “Maine scientists, students, and companies are leading the way to create a new and clean source of energy for the Northeast region of the country,” Musavi said. All of this isn’t happening overnight, and doesn’t have a completion date. There’s a lot to be done to outfit customers with smart meters, upgrade the power infrastructure in Maine and

beyond, and develop renewable-energy resources. It’s a lot of work, but work we must do. “The other option is to do nothing — and then we’d know where we’re going,” Musavi said. Strong minorities often loudly speak out against things that aren’t as understood, as comfortable, or as nostalgic as what they’re used to. Some people claim that wind turbines ruin their scenic views, yet they accept telephone poles and power lines in front of their homes. Some claim turbines are noisy, but they don’t notice the blaring trains going through town or the endless tractor trailers rumbling down their roads. And now that an ambitious project to float offshore wind turbines has proven its value and capabil-ity, many claim that it will cost too much, yet are content to heat their homes with oil. It will take time to get to where we’re going, Musavi says, but with many great scientific minds working on it, it will happen. “We’ve got to be patient, and we’ve got to trust the people who are doing it,” Musavi said.


BDN MAINE SPECIAL SECTION • BANGORDAILYNEWS.COM • September 12-13, 2013

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ENERGY WISE 2013

ROOM for conserving water, in a room FOR conserving water By Evan Kanarakis Five years ago here in the pages of Energy Wise I discussed one of the more obscure differences to be found between the United States and my native Australia since moving here in 2005. It involved, of all things, the toilet. In Australia, the driest inhabited continent in the world — with the lowest rainfall in the world except Antarctica — the importance of water conservation is always present. As a child in rural New South Wales I witnessed the devastating effects of drought firsthand, and there are few Australians who haven’t lived through drought-mandated water restrictions enforced by severe fines and over-usage penalties to place limits upon basic tasks like washing one’s car or watering the garden. Many local councils even offer incentives to households that switch to water-saving showerheads or garden hose rainwater tanks. And, for over 30 years, every new toilet in Australia has featured a two-button dual flush

system, first invented by Bruce Thompson of the Caroma company in 1980. There are two flush buttons: one atop the tank is for small-volume liquid flushes, while the other is for larger-volume, solid-waste flushes. The concept is simple enough — we simply don’t need a full cistern of water for every visit we make to the bathroom. True enough; for years prior to the innovation, it wasn’t uncommon to find water-conscious Australian homeowners with a brick or a bottle full of water placed at the bottom of their toilet tanks so as to displace and thus conserve water by allowing less volume released per flush. With the new Caroma toilets, this concept came into the modern era. They require no changes in existing plumbing to be installed (retrofitting kits generally cost less than $40) and look just like any other, save for two buttons at the top of the tank. The normal flush uses the standard 1.6 gallons (6 liters) of water, but the reduced flush uses half that — 0.8 gallons (3 liters).

Photo by Eugenio Hansen, OFS, via Wikipedia

One design for a two-button flush system.

As I was familiar with just how sensible and commonplace this technology has always been in Australia — and in Europe and Asia where they are now also widespread — I couldn’t be blamed for taking their existence in the United States for granted. Alas, for a country that has also experienced great suffering through drought, dual-flush technology is still, five years on since I first wrote on the subject, only slowly coming to the fore. There has been some headway made, however. Inconceivably, dual-flush toilets were once banned in New York City, but in 2010 the New York City Council

announced that all new buildings have to install them. This was a huge win for water conservation in such a major metropolitan center. Similarly, other local councils are now following the Australian model and introducing rebate programs to encourage homeowners to significantly decrease water demand in their community and, in turn, dramatically reduce their average water bill. American toilets today are more waterefficient than in the past, but dual-flush toilets are able to save a massive 67 percent of water compared to traditional models. They are also incredibly reliable, increasingly available, and only marginally more expensive than competing toilets. For the average American consumer looking to save money as well as maintain the future environmental sustainability of their country, there is only one clear choice. Many manufacturers now make dualflush toilets, with varying water usage. To learn more, you can visit the company that first invented them at CaromaUSA.com.


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BDN MAINE SPECIAL SECTION • BANGORDAILYNEWS.COM • September 12-13, 2013

ENERGY WISE 2013

Pellet boilers: affordable heating option with Maine resources Jacob A. Roberson Managing Partner, Interphase Energy

As summer fades and the cooler Canadian air reminds us that winter is on its way, our conversations naturally turn to the cost of home heating. In the line at the grocery store, at the local coffee shops, virtually anywhere you go, talk about the cost of home heating abounds. We all know the statistics: about 70 percent of Maine homes are heated with No. 2 heating oil, and an estimated 78 cents of every dollar we spend on oil leaves our state each year (FutureMetrics, 2011). Natural gas, piped to an increasing number of homes in Maine, at the moment seems like a panacea. Viewed from a historic perspective, however, the promise of cheap energy offered by natural gas appears markedly similar to the same promise once held by oil. Before World War II, more than half of all Maine homes were heated primarily with wood. Coal heated 29.1 percent and

oil just 16.5 percent. By 1950, oil use had climbed to 50 percent. By 1970, more than nine out of 10 Maine homes were heating with inexpensive, easy-to-use oil. Gone were the days of shoveling coal and heating with cordwood. Today, the reality of cheap oil is long gone as consumers face unstable, climbing prices. History has taught us that heat sources such as natural gas, sourced out of state and traded internationally as a commodity, have the potential to lure us in with low prices which we have no ability to control. What are viable options for Mainers? Much of Europe has solved this problem with pellet boilers. From 2002 to 2008, residential demand for pellet boilers in Europe grew at an annualized rate of 25.51 percent. These are not pellet stoves — a secondary heating source — but actual boilers, which fully replace existing domestic and commercial heating systems. And wood is something Maine has in abundance, giving us pricing control and keeping our energy See PELLET BOILERS, next page Photo courtesy of Vince Hamilton

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BDN MAINE SPECIAL SECTION • BANGORDAILYNEWS.COM • September 12-13, 2013

ENERGY WISE 2013

A Dirty Dozen? 12 interesting things that you might not know about plastic By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN Special Sections

Plastic is everywhere. It’s taking over the world and we’ll soon be swallowed up by it! Well, it might not be that bad, especially if we continue surging forward with recycling efforts — which is key to managing the world’s plastic problems. Here are a few things you might not know about plastic. 1. Plastics aren’t new. The first plastic, celluloid, was developed in 1855, and was later used as motion-picture film. And Hans von Pechmann accidentally created polyethylene in 1899, although it was 34 years before it came into use. We’ve made it into everything from plastic wrap to soda bottles ever since. 2. Plastic can be made from natural gas, but it’s often made from the byproducts of petroleum refining. That makes it another product supporting our oil dependency. 3. Plastic can be grown. Many plants, such as corn, potatoes, and sugar cane, produce dextrose, which can be used to make polylactic acid, which is formed into polymers. 4. It can take 1,000 years or more for plastic to degrade in a landfill. Plastic bags generally take 10 to 20 years if exposed to air and sun. Biodegradable bags are becoming more common, which quickly decompose with the help of microorganisms. 5. Not all plastics are recyclable. Check the plastic for the triangular resin identification code, which contains a number that identifies the type of plastic. Some communities with recycling programs limit which types of plastic they’ll take. 8. Plastic fibers are found in carpeting and clothing. Think “polyester,” which is a type of plastic. Plastic can also be found in the dyes used to color them. We don’t often think about recycling shirts and rugs, but we should be. 7. Bisphenol-A, an organic compound used in some plastics, won’t make women grow little beards, despite PELLET BOILERS

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FROM PREVIOUS PAGE

dollars local. Maine economist William Strauss estimates that Northeasterners could generate $4 billion per year over the next 15 years by moving towards replacing fossil-heating fuels for new wood technologies. Pellet boilers burn cleanly and are fully automated; advanced pellet-boiler technology requires little more from

Gov. Paul LePage’s woeful misunderstanding of the science. BPA simulates the female hormone estrogen, which we’ve known since the 1930s. It can leach out of plastics into food and drink. BPA’s dangerous side effects, and other potential side effects being studied, are especially harmful to developing humans — such as fetuses, infants, and young children. There’s no doubt by reputable scientists that BPA is bad news. Sorry, governor. 8. Speaking of LePage, the murals he had removed from the Department of Labor offices contain plastics. The medium-density fiberboard that artist Judy Taylor painted on contains resin as a binder. But I doubt recycling the murals is the answer. 9. Not all plastics leach toxic chemicals into your food and drink. Polyethylene products marked #2 or #4 are safe. But while polyethylene is recyclable, most of it ends up in landfills, where it takes several centuries to degrade. However, in 2008, Daniel Burd, the 16-year-old winner of the Canada-Wide Science Fair, discovered how two strains of bacteria working together can degrade over 40 percent of the weight of polyethylene bags in just three months. 10. Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. But a 2008 report showed that, worldwide, humans used 1 million plastic bags every minute. And each year, we manufacture about 60 million tons of polyethylene. Oh, and if you lined up all the polystyrene foam cups manufactured in just a day, they’d circle the Earth. Talk about the importance of recycling. 11. Speaking of polystyrene, commonly known by the brand name Styrofoam, it’s not biodegradable. But it is recyclable; unfortunately, recycling it isn’t cost-effective, so we recycle very little of it. That’s a lot of plastic to sit in the ground for a lot of years. 12. If you took all the plastic film and plastic wrap manufactured in one year, you could shrink wrap Texas. Or you could shrink-wrap Maine seven times, and use what’s left over to wrap the city of Bangor 602 layers deep.

the home owner than fossil-fuel-fired appliances. Bulk home delivery of wood pellets by reputable companies such as Daigle Oil Company, Heutz Premium Pellets, Maine Woods Pellets Company, and Maine Energy Systems make heating with pellets as simple as with other fuel sources. There are many pellet boilers available here, including Kedel, imported to Maine from Denmark. As demand for pellet boilers increases,

Dear Abby... How many trees have to die for no reason? Dear Abby offered some great advice to this distressed young lady in a 2009 column. Dear Abby: I am 8 years old, and I love science. I am writing you because when I go to the doughnut shop, they always give me paper bags when I order my doughnut to eat there. I also notice other people getting bags they don’t need because they are eating their doughnuts there, too. How many trees have to die for no reason? I care about recycling and how long it takes for things to breakdown in the earth. What can I do so the doughnut shop will stop wasting bags? — Mandi in Scarsdale, N.Y. Dear Mandi: I respect the fact that you are conscientious about how your actions — and the actions of the people around you — affect the environment. You are a sharp young lady. What you should do is speak to the manager of the doughnut shop. Tell him or her that these days a strong selling point in many businesses is that they are “going green.” In the case of the doughnut shop, it would cost them less and even gain them more customers if they would stop handing out bags to customers who are eating their doughnuts on the premises and tell them why. (A piece of waxed paper would suffice and create less waste.) Readers, if you are interested in how long it takes the items we toss into our landfills to decompose, I found the following illuminating. Read on: Paper: 2 to 5 mos. Orange peels: 6 mos. Milk cartons: 5 yrs. Filter-tip cigarettes: 10-12 yrs. Plastic bags: 10-20 yrs. Leather shoes: 20-40 yrs. Plastic containers: 50-80 yrs. Disposable diapers: 75 yrs. Tin cans: 100 yrs. Aluminum cans: 200-500 yrs. Styrofoam: Never

so does the manufacturing and distribution of locally sourced wood pellets. A dozen new wood-pellet-manufacturing plants have emerged in New England and New York since 2008, bringing $140 million in investment to the region, ensuring a stably priced supply of local wood pellets for years to come. For Mainers weighing their homeheating options in the face of rising oil prices and the too-good-to-be-true

promise of ubiquitous and cheap natural gas, its comforting to know there’s a viable option in the form of pellet boilers. The cost of some boilers is comparable to purchasing a new oil or propane boiler and homeowners can expect about a 50 percent cost savings. Perhaps most important, however, is the fact that the source of your heating fuel is local, renewable, and sustainable, assuring that costs will not skyrocket.


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BDN MAINE SPECIAL SECTION • BANGORDAILYNEWS.COM • September 12-13, 2013

ENERGY WISE 2013

Air-source heat pumps heat, cool, and save money By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN Special Sections

Approximately two years ago, John Kingsbury knew he needed to install air conditioning in the offices of Whitten’s 2-Way Service in Brewer. It was just too hot in there in the summertime. He went to a local electrician, who suggested a Fujitsu mini-split heat pump. The quote looked good, and then the

electrician told him the system would also would provide heating — and very inexpensively. “And I’m like, ‘Really?’” said Kingsbury. Heat was another problem; some of the rooms had no heat, and Kingsbury, the company’s owner, had to run a space heater in his own office. The offices were heated with oil-fired hot-water baseboard, and not very well, so Kingsbury had a seven-unit ductless system installed

to heat all the offices. The units run off copper pipe from the air-source heat pump installed outside at the rear of the building. Indoors, the units are super quiet. And while it cools beautifully during hot summers, the cold-season heating savings have been extraordinary. “We only run it during business hours… and it costs about $30 a month,” Kingsbury said. “When I went back and looked at the fuel-bill savings, at the minimum was a $100 per fill-up savings.” He’s so pleased he’s installing a twounit system two of these units at home this week. Kingsbury will finance his two-unit home system directly through Bangor Hydro Electric; the system will cost him about $5,000 installed, and the $94 monthly payment will just be added to his home electricity bill. To be clear, this isn’t electric heat. Electric heat is heating with a 1:1 ratio, meaning that for every unit of energy you put in, you get one out. But a heat pump only uses enough electricity to

power its air compressor, transferring heat just like a refrigerator or an air conditioner: transferring heat from one place to another. In your fridge, it moves the heat from inside the fridge to outside, and vents hot air out the back. Your air conditioner extracts heat from indoor air, returning it much colder; but go outside, and it vents hot air. The Fujitsu system Kingsbury had installed is reversible, cooling or heating depending on how it’s set. Even if the outside temperature is below zero, the pump can still extract heat. This may seem to make little sense, but absolute zero on the Kelvin scale, which is a complete lack of heat, is 459.67 degrees below zero on the Fahrenheit scale. There’s plenty of heat in below-zero air; it just feels cold to us. Mark Grant, co-owner of Johnstone Supply in Bangor, said his company has carried the Fujitsu heat pumps for more than 10 years, and has had similar pumps for even longer. But in the past several CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE


BDN MAINE SPECIAL SECTION • BANGORDAILYNEWS.COM • September 12-13, 2013

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ENERGY WISE 2013

BDN PHOTO BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK

John Kingsbury, owner of Whitten’s 2-Way Service in Brewer, shows off the Fujitsu heating and cooling unit in his office. Kingsbury installed seven units in his business two years ago; they run off an outdoor air-source heat pump, providing air conditioning during the warm months and heating during the cold months. Kingsbury says the system costs him about $30 per month on electricity and has reduced the cost of oil by $100 every time his oil tank is filled up. CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE

years, new technology has made them far more efficient. “Compared to other fuels, it wins hands down,” said Grant. “They’re

incredible. I’ve had one in [my home] since ‘08. My electric bill went up $12.57 per month, and yet my oil bill went down nearly 40 percent.” See HEAT PUMPS,

PAGE 12


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BDN MAINE SPECIAL SECTION • BANGORDAILYNEWS.COM • September 12-13, 2013

ENERGY WISE 2013

The free, renewable, ultimate nuclear-power source: the Sun By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN Special Sections

With the nuclear disasters in Japan still in our minds, more than ever people are asking if nuclear power is worth it. Proponents point to the fact that it took a 9.0 earthquake and a major tsunami just off the coast to lead to those failures and do the kind of damage it did, especially in a country that built its nuclear reactors with those sorts of disasters clearly in mind. Opponents argue that all the preparation in the world can’t outwit Mother Nature. Probably most reactors aren’t built as well as those that catastrophically failed in Japan, where they built them with earthquakes in mind. But even if they were, the potential for deadly problems is always there. So what alternatives are cost-effective and can provide the power we need? And how can we find any source capable of generating our entire global power requirements? The fact is, nuclear power is the answer, but not in power plants. Instead, we could access the biggest, most powerful nuclear reactor within about 25 trillion miles of us: the Sun.

The BIG Battery The Sun accounts for 99.86 percent of the mass of the entire solar system. It’s 109 Earths wide and has the volume of 1.3 million Earths. In its core, it fuses 620 million metric tons of hydrogen into helium every second. It’s been doing it for about 4.57 billion years, and will continue to do so for longer than that. It will be producing energy for a long time. That energy is in the form of light and

Photo by Johnson Space Center/NASA

The four solar arrays on the International Space Station feature double-sided photovoltaic panels that generate over 128 kW. The panels, each 63 yards long and 450 square yards, track the Sun for maximum power generation. Even though our atmosphere reflects some solar energy, we can install smaller systems here on Earth for our homes and businesses.

heat, and we can capture light using solar panels. Build large-enough solar collectors at the best hotpots around the world, and all our power needs are covered. Build satellite facilities as backups, and power will never be a problem again. As technology for more-efficient solar collectors develops, upgrades will be easy, and old collectors will work with new collectors in the meantime.

Seven Key Collection Arrays The idea isn’t science fiction, and the data-gathering portion of this experiment was done over 20 years ago. From 1991 through 1993, continuous data

from geostationary weather satellites around the world mapped the solar irradiance across the whole planet. Installing seven major solar-collection arrays around the world could supply the world’s current total primary energy demand. This assumes a conversion efficiency of 8 percent (the current maximum efficiency of a high-performance photovoltaic cell, according to a 2010 Caltech report, is 85 percent, but even their prototypes have hit nearly 100 percent). But these seven major arrays are absolutely huge. The one in the United States, which would be located in the American Southwest, would need to be

170,455 square kilometers, more than two-fifths the size of the Great Basin (which is mostly in Nevada). But if we could construct such systems with that 85-percent efficiency Caltech reported, instead of 8 percent, those systems could feasibly be less than 10 percent those projected sizes. These seven systems could provide all the energy we currently use in the form of electricity, nuclear power, fossil fuels, propane, and so on, in all homes, businesses, factories, cars, trains — anything that uses any kind of power. These systems would produce 18 terawatts per year, which is equivalent to an energy output of over 13.5 billion tons of oil. To put that in perspective, in 2003, the total primary energy supply worldwide was equivalent to burning about 10.5 billion tons of oil. (Note that not all energy output is achieved by burning oil; energy production on a worldwide scale is often described of in terms of how many “toe” — tons of oil equivalent — it would take to produce it.) There are further challenges, such as storing solar energy. Since the weather can make a major difference in how much solar energy can be collected at any given moment, it’s imperative to be able to store the solar energy for use later. But check out solutions like the one by Palo Altobased Ausra, where solar power is converted into steam and stored for later use. Sound ambitious? Certainly. But if you consider the replacement of oil refineries and coal mines with solar fields and refinery workers and miners with field tenders, and redirected manufacturing to capturing, storing, and using solar

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power, it wouldn’t be so outlandish. If it’s money the moneymakers want, there’s plenty of money to be made in this project — all while satisfying the need to protect the environPhoto via Wikipedia ment. Sounds like a A typical photovoltaic module with individual cells. This crystallinepretty easy choice. silicon module has an aluminium frame and glass on the front. And the best part? A limitless supply of energy from the most massive nuclear any savings. reactor around... with no worries of a There are also different types of meltdown. (Well... that’s not entirely solar-power systems, so it’s important to true. The Sun will last about 5.4 billion ensure that you get the right one for your years, but that seems like ample time to needs. make use of the sunlight we’ll have. If you’re considering solar-power solutions, but sure to consult trained A Smaller Scale professionals, or else your investment Of course, we don’t need major solar might not work for you. Be prepared to arrays to provide all our electricity. Any ask questions and check references. You’ll building can be outfitted with solar need to find professionals who have not panels and reap those benefits. But do-it- only installed such systems but who have yourselfers should be aware that there is a customers who can talk about how suclearning curve to planning and installing cessful their solar solutions have been in solar panels; it isn’t as easy as slapping the long term. them on the roof and having them work effectively. Proper placement, including an orientation that will ensure the panels get the most solar energy possible, is important. Understanding your electricity needs is also important. Many believe that solar panels on a house are a panacea that immediately takes you off the grid and removes any power bill. But with modern conveniences like clothes dryers, refrigerators, big televisions, and other high-draw electrical appliances, the cost of a solar system to handle your entire house load might be too high to realize


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BDN MAINE SPECIAL SECTION • BANGORDAILYNEWS.COM • September 12-13, 2013

ENERGY WISE 2013

It’s time! Get your fall heating-system maintenance done now By Kathleen Meil Evergreen Home Performance

Heating system maintenance belongs on your list of essential fall chores, and thinking beyond the typical tune-up can make that system work harder — and smarter — for you. Heating contractors recommend annual tune-ups to clear a year’s worth of gunk from your furnace or boiler. The service technician will replace air filters, oil filters, and nozzles; clean the heat exchanger; determine if the chimney needs to be professionally cleaned (or if any birds need to be evicted!); adjust the burner; and test combustion safety. This maintenance is a good investment that can shave 3 to 8 percent off your heating bill and help you avoid costly crises in the dead of winter. It takes more than just a boiler or a furnace to heat your home effectively, though. The whole system includes pipes or ducts that distribute heat throughout your home, thermostats that control when the burner fires, and whole-house insulation that provides the context and HEAT PUMPS

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keeps the heat where you want it. Fall is the perfect time to look at this bigger picture: • Make sure the pipes or ducts that deliver heat to your living space are well insulated. • Install programmable thermostats and schedule setbacks of 8 degrees at night and while you’re out of the house all day. • Ask your service provider about optimizing your boiler or furnace’s performance. The average system is oversized and inefficient, and a new one could cut your fuel bill dramatically. If you’re not ready for that, installing smaller nozzles that limit the amount of oil entering the burner and adjusting temperatures and flow from pumps or fans can make your current system more efficient and still provide enough heat for the coldest day of the year. • Seek a home performance evaluation from a qualified energy auditor (find a list online at EfficiencyMaine.com). A comprehensive home energy audit will identify where your house is wasting energy and help you plan improvements

Evergreen Home Performance Energy Advisor Brian Robinson points out uninsulated ductwork to Rockland homeowners. Sealing and insulating pipes and ducts isn’t glamorous, but it can reduce energy costs dramatically.

that help your whole house — not just your heating system — function at a higher level. Small, simple changes, such as like

As with any heating or cooling system, Grant said its efficiency depends on the how tight your house is. “I always recommend people make sure that their houses are properly insulated and their houses have been properly sealed,” Grant said. “It makes sense to spend those first dollars to save energy instead of losing it to the outdoors — and then buy the most efficient appliance to take care of the load as it is once those things have been taken care of.” As a wholesaler, Johnstone Supply works only with contractors, and the company is picky about what contractors they’ll let handle heat-pump installation. “It’s very important that it’s done by the right, qualified individuals,” he said. Incorrect installations can lead to poor efficiency, bad experiences and a bad reputation for otherwise excellent products. bdn photo by David M. Fitzpatrick “Joe Homeowner tries to do it himself, The heat pump is installed outside the building, meaning there isn’t a lot of noise inside. This he may be able to get it in, may be able to shot shows the Fujitsu units mounted out in back of Whitten’s 2-Way Service. The seven indoor throw power on, make it run, but it may units are super-quiet, whether they’re heating or cooling. not be running to its optimal efficiency,” And the cold air outdoors? “Out of 11 below [zero outside], I was

getting 103-degree air off my [system],” Grant said. “I can’t speak highly enough of it.”

photo by jim dugan, courtesy of evergreen home performance

installing and setting programmable thermostats for each of your heating zones, can add up to real differences. See MAINTENANCE,

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Grant said. “It’s going to be a problem child at some point.” Contractors need to be licensed electricians, and the EPA requires licensing in refrigeration. And the various brands Johnstone carries, such as Fujitsu and Dakin, have certifications they require for installers to be familiar with their products. Grant notes that there are many financial incentives to installing such a system, beyond the savings in your heating and cooling costs. “The Efficiency Maine rebate program is now under way again,” he said. “Bangor Hydro has done a rebate program in the past. The federal tax credit comes in to play, which is up to $300 on your federal taxes.” People love these heat pumps, Grant said. “In my 40 years of doing this. it’s bulletproof and it’s successful,” he said. “It has exceeded the expectations of people.” If you’re interested in finding a dealer for Fujitsu heat pumps, call Johnstone Supply at 207-942-0293.


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Windows make a major difference in reducing heating costs By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN Special Sections

While insulation and good construction are key to keeping heat inside in the winter and outside in the summer, there is perhaps no bigger heat-leaker than your windows. Replacing old windows could be the biggest key to saving money on heating costs — no matter how you heat your home. The first step in replacing a window is to determine the condition of the existing window. If the frame is rotting, you may have to use new-construction windows. This method requires tearing out the trim and frame of the existing window, and reframing the opening as necessary. The new window would be installed using the same methods as those used in new construction. If the existing windows are in relatively good shape, you will be able to use replacement windows. These are relatively easy for a handy homeowner to install, and usually leaving interior and exterior trim undisturbed. Often, you’ll have much less time with a big hole in your house.

Wood or Vinyl? The first big decision is whether to get windows made of wood or vinyl. It’s a matter of taste and what you’re willing to spend. There’s a popular phrase when it comes to deciding what type of windows you’ll buy: Wood is good, but vinyl is final. Wood windows are often considered more attractive and wood is a great natural insulator. They may feature a maintenance-free clad exterior and a wood interior that can match woodwork in your home. Wood windows tend to be more expensive, as the production is more complex. Custom sizes will take some time and cost more. “Wood is good,” but it requires more maintenance to prevent rotting, such as regular staining. Vinyl windows are quicker, easier and cheaper to produce than wood windows. Custom sizes are easy to manufacture, and so are not much more expensive. “Vinyl is final” because it requires virtually no maintenance. It will not rot, will last a long time and needs no staining.

The flip side: Color selection is limited, since you can’t paint them.

Glass Type After proper installation and sealing to prevent heat leakage, this is the most important factor to consider when you put in new windows. Windows bleed heat, but the type of glass you choose can greatly improve insulation and reduce energy loss. Clear insulated glass is the least expensive. It typically offers an insulating value of R-2. Low-E insulated glass is coated with a microscopically thin layer of metal that acts as a selective filter. In Maine’s climate, it helps keep heat in when it’s cold outside and helps keep heat out when it’s hot outside. It also reduces conductive heat loss, which is how heat naturally goes to colder areas. It typically offers an insulating value of R-3. Gas-filled low-E insulated glass has gas — usually argon — between double panes, further reducing the conductive heat process. There have been other with different gases, but in terms of cost benefit, argon low-E is the way to go. R-value is about R-3. Most windows sold in Maine use some type of low-E glass, as it is the best option for our climate. The inexpensive clear insulated glass might save you a few bucks, but you’ll quickly make the difference up in heat loss. Every little bit of energy savings counts.

Proper Installation Without proper installation, your energy savings might fly... out the window! Weather-stripping. Even with the best glass in the best windows, poor weather-stripping can make it just as bad as if you had a big hole in place of the window. Most manufacturers make windows very tight, so this shouldn’t be a problem. Beware cheap windows with cheap weather-stripping, which can completely undermine your efforts to conserve heat. Installation. A window should be caulked around the outside, and there should be some form of insulation around the inside of the window and the old frame. If that is done well, the installation should be as tight as a new

construction window. DIYers. While a replacement window is fairly easy to install, consider hiring a professional if you’ve never done it. Your dealer sales representative should be able to recommend several contractors with

whom they are familiar and who have proven track records. Trim. If you need to do any damage to the trim, inside or out, while installing a troublesome window, you may need replacement trim.


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A few tips and facts that apply to your home Reducing your electricity consumption ...is an easy way to reduce your environmental footprint. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 39 percent of the energy used in America is used to generate electricity. Most of it is generated from fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil, which can increase the emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases while contributing to climate change. But electricity can be generated from renewable resources that do not generally contribute to climate change or air pollution. These renewable resources, which include solar, geothermal and wind technologies, do not burn fuels. If such renewable resources are not accessible to you, then there are additional ways to reduce your electricity consumption. • Purchase energy-efficient appliances and electronics and operate them efficiently. • Energy-efficient windows can bring more natural light into your home, allowing you to rely more on natural light than electricity to brighten your home. • Energy-efficient, properly insulated windows help both your home’s heating and cooling systems to operate more efficiently by reducing the amount of air that escapes through the windows.

MAINTENANCE FROM PAGE 12

Bigger changes are more complicated, The use of renewable energy sources but home-performance upgrades ...is on the rise. According to the U.S. Energy Informa- based on an integrated analysis can tion Administration, the world consumed 504.7 quadril- yield huge results. In fact, it’s not unlion BTU of energy in 2008 (the most recent year for usual for whole-house air sealing and which statistics are available). Ten percent of insulation upgrades to cut heating that consumption was from renewable energy and cooling costs by 25 to 50 persources, including biofuels, biomass, wind, cent. Even better, the improvements and solar energy. that dramatically reduce energy costs By 2035, the EIA forecasts that consump- also make homes more comfortable tion of renewable energy will account for year-round, treat basement moisture roughly 14 percent of the total world enproblems, and reduce the likelihood ergy consumption. World electricity genof ice dams. eration from renewable fuels also figures to Efficiency Maine maintains a list of be on the rise. qualified energy advisors who can help In 2008, electricity generation from renew- you understand how your whole house able fuels accounted for nearly 19 percent works as a system and engineer improveof the world’s total electricity generation, ments that go beyond annual maintea figure the EIA estimates will be nearly 23 nance. Find it at EfficiencyMaine.com. percent by 2035. Kathleen Meil is the Marketing & Customer Relations Manager for EverPoorly sealed ductwork is responsible green Home Performance in Rockland. ...for an estimated 15 to 30 percent los of a home’s total Her building science expertise is rooted heating and cooling energ, according to Going Green in the homeowner perspective, and she Today. This costs consumers about $5 billion annually. A shares that background, as well as ficonsultation with a heating and cooling technician may nancing information, with customers in reveal where the drafts are located and what can be done their initial calls and throughout their to address the problem. projects.


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Sprayfoam insulation offers superior R-value, quick payback By Greg “Skip” Doodson Circle D Sprayfoam

With today’s rising cost of energy and increasing code requirements, it only makes “cents” to insulate with the best material available. Sprayfoam insulation is the highest R-value per inch of thickness of any insulating material available. It also provides an air and moisture barrier, as well as a Class II vapor retarder, in one step. All these elements are required per the new codes. Installing all these in one step ultimately saves money. Sprayfoams are non-toxic, sprayedin-place insulation solutions. They offer added value because they can act as an air and moisture barrier solution that windproofs and seals wall, floor, and ceiling cavities. They prevent air movement (including spaces around electrical outlets and light fixtures, at baseboards and where walls meet windows and doors). This means that unconditioned air cannot seep in from the outside — which can bring with it moisture, insects, mold spores, pollen, dust, or other environmental pollution. Sprayfoam, through its air-sealing ability, allows the homeowner, for the first time, to truly control his indoor air quality. Take into account the proven, increased performance of sprayfoam, and you save more money and energy. The majority of heat loss — 40 percent to 50 percent — is attributed to air infiltration. Stop this and you save 40 percent to 50

percent of your energy dollar. That is what sprayfoam can do for you. If new construction is your goal, plan your work and work your plan. If you plan your insulation system in advance, you may save on other construction costs such as dimensional framing, windows, doors, venting, and HVAC systems. Sprayfoam can make an old farmhouse perform like new again. It is the only way to get adequate R-value in the old-style two-by-four walls. The old framing was never perfectly spaced, but the sprayfoam will always fit — perfectly. I spray over 100 rock and concrete basements and crawlspaces every year. Seventy percent of my customers report payoff of one season with the energy savings; the other 30 percent report payoff in the second year. I have never had a customer say it took longer than two seasons to pay off their investment. Where else can you get that kind of return on investment? Lastly, but most importantly have your foam installed by a professional. They are experienced, have the proper equipment, training and safety gear to get the job done. Often times the pro is less expensive than the do it yourself kits as well. Feel free to call one. Those that will take the time to answer all your questions and concerns will also take the time to do the job properly. There have been plenty of independent sources of information about sprayfoam, including Building Science Digests and

the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratories. You can also find more valuable information about sprayfoam at Sprayfoam.com.

Greg “Skip” Doodson is the owner of Circle D Sprayfoam in Exeter, established in 2007. Visit CircleDSprayfoam.com or call 207-461-3686 to learn more.

Bangor Daily News photos by David M. Fitzpatrick

Top and left: Skip Doodson of Circle D Sprayfoam gets into some tight spaces to insulate an existing building with sprayfoam. Above, Circle D employee Scott Belanger mans the equipment in the truck that feeds the chemicals that make the sprayfoam, as well as feeds Doodson’s oxygen supply. Note the Pink Pather hanging by his neck in the background, an in-joke about Doodson’s thoughts on sprayfoam vs. rolled fiberglas insulation. The Pink Panter is the mascot for Owens-Corning, which manufactures rolled fiberglass insulation. Sprayfoam is more expensive than traditional forms of insulation, but Doodson says the R-value per inch is higher and the payback is very quick.


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ENERGY WISE 2013


Energy Wise 2013