Heating Fuel Information
On this page:
- Electric Heating, Heat Pumps and Thermal Energy Storage
- Energy Efficiencey & Conservation
- Heating Oil
- Natural Gas
- Wood and Wood Pellets
Biofuels are any commercially produced liquid or gas used to fire a heating device and derived from renewable biomass, including agricultural crops and residues, forest products and by-products, and separated food waste. Biofuels are commonly blended with diesel or other distillate fuels such as number 2 heating oil. While the Maine biofuels industry is still small, it has potential to grow with increased awareness and support. Biofuels for heating oil have energy, economic and environmental benefits. Cleaner heat exchangers promote better energy efficiency and reduce fuel burn of boilers and furnaces.
Electric Heating, Heat Pumps and Thermal Energy Storage
Electric heating converts energy in the electricity to heat. Electric resistance heat can be supplied by centralized forced-air electric furnaces or by heaters in each room. Room heaters can consist of electric baseboard heaters, electric wall heaters, electric radiant heat, or electric space heaters. Some residential and commercial energy consumers may be able to benefit from a heating system that stores electric heat during nighttime hours when rates are lower. This is called an electric thermal storage heater. Heat pumps work by using refrigerant to absorb heat from the outside air. Electricity is used to move the refrigerant and transfer heat from one space from another. Depending on the type of heat pump, they may pull heat from the air or the ground. The technology works the same way air conditioners work and can be used to cool your home very efficiently in the summer. These systems are designed to supplement your primary heat source.
Check with your Maine utility, or Efficiency Maine, for programs for customers to install a heat pump, thermal energy storage or other electric heating and/or storage system.
Energy Efficiency & Conservation
Energy efficiency and conservation measures are among the most cost-effective means for reducing energy costs in residential, commercial and industrial facilities. Below are some links to organizations that promote energy efficiency and/or conduct energy efficiency programs.
- Alliance to Save Energy
- Efficiency Maine Trust
- Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP)
- U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Savers
Geothermal heat pumps utilize a renewable resource. In Maine, geothermal heat pumps use underground heat relatively close to the surface, rather than deep underground reservoirs. They provide space heating and domestic hot water and cooling to buildings, transferring warmth from underground to houses in the winter and warmth from the house to the underground in the summer. The cooling applications is compared to that of a refrigerator, which keeps food cool by drawing heat from the interior and expelling it outside.
Maine has a highly skilled core of geothermal energy professionals and homes, schools and commercial buildings throughout Maine are using this technology for their space heating needs.
Maine is the most heating oil dependent state in the country; just under 70% of Maine homeowners rely on oil for their heating needs. Hundreds of heating oil dealers in Maine provide easy access to their fuel. The Northeast gets almost half its fuel oil supply as a refined product from the Gulf Coast and waterborne deliveries are made to Maine harbors via coastal terminals, including those in Portland, South Portland, Searsport, Bucksport, Yarmouth and Bangor. Maine terminals also receive roughly 50 percent of its products by truck and marine transportation from Canada.
There are two grades of kerosene: K-1 and K-2. K-2 is the most common and is used for space heating, domestic hot water and wick-fed lamps. K-1 is a very low sulfur grade that is typically used in un-vented portable space heaters. Kerosene is often the fuel of choice for mobile homes because kerosene, unlike heating oil, does not congeal when stored outdoors at temperatures below freezing. In the commercial sector, kerosene is added to diesel fuel to keep it flowing at low winter temperatures.
Natural gas is used in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. As of 2012, a little over 5 percent of Maine's population heats primarily with natural gas (the national average is over 20 percent). Residential consumption includes space heating, water heating, cooking, and clothes drying. Natural gas is also used in the state for generating electricity at several natural gas-fired power plants; as of 2012, approximately half of all electricity in New England was generated using natural gas. Commercial applications include space and water heating, cooking, food processing, air conditioning, refrigeration, and incineration. Industry uses natural gas for boiler fuel, space heating, and incineration, as well as in numerous industrial processing applications such as food preparation, ceramic and cement kilns, metal melting, heat treating, and glass manufacturing.
The Governor's Energy Office is working with the Governor, the Department of Economic and Community Development, the State Treasurer and private natural gas stakeholders to promote expansion of service to residential, commercial and industrial customers in Maine. The goal is to eliminate barriers to successfully and cost-effectively upgrade natural gas services, transmission systems and infrastructures. We continue to work toward clearing the regulatory, financial and other barriers to ensure that residents and businesses have as many options available as possible to heat their homes and buildings.
There are four natural gas local distribution companies (LDCs) operating in the state. All offer both gas supply and gas delivery services for residential customers.
Bangor Natural Gas serves customers in Bangor, Brewer, Veazie, Orono, and Old Town. Bangor Gas is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Energy West. Bangor Gas obtains its gas supply via the Maritimes and Northeast interstate pipeline. Bangor Gas offers sales service to all classes of customers and transportation-only service to all Commercial and Industrial customers. Bangor Gas has a monthly (variable) cost of gas rate and a budget payment plan. Bangor Gas's rates can be found on its web page at www.bangorgas.com/rates.
Maine Natural Gas currently serves customers in Windham, Gorham, Bowdoin, Topsham and Brunswick. Maine Natural Gas is a subsidiary of Energy East, an energy company headquartered in New York State. Maine Natural Gas offers transportation-only service to all commercial and industrial customers and sales service to all classes of customers. For residential customers, Maine Natural Gas offers both a monthly (variable) cost of gas rate, and a fixed price option.
Summit Natural Gas is the newest natural gas distribution company to enter the Maine market. In just two years, Summit has provided access to natural gas for many large industrial customers, and is currently building out its distribution network to serve customers in the Kennebec Valley (Augusta, Fairfield, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Madison & Waterville), as well as the towns of Cumberland, Yarmouth, and Falmouth. Summit offers transportation-only service to industrial customers, and offers a fixed price option for gas supply for residential and commercial customers.
Unitil provides natural gas service to approximately 25,000 customers in Greater Portland, Lewiston/Auburn and Kittery. Unitil's rates for each customer class may be found at http://services.unitil.com/maine/gas_rates.asp. Unitil's rates are composed of two components - its delivery (or transportation) rates, its gas supply rates. For residential customers, Unitil offers fixed price option for gas supply.
Propane (also called LPG—liquefied petroleum gas—or LP gas) is a widely used fuel. The liquid propane is turned into a gas inside a tank or a cylinder. In its natural form, propane is colorless and odorless. It is commonly used as a fuel for engines, barbecues, portable stoves and residential central heating.
Renewable sources account for almost half of Maine's net electricity generation, but it also has applications for heating purposes. For example, for some sites in Maine, solar energy heats water, heats a home or business, and generates electricity. Solar energy encompasses a range of technologies, but there are two basic types: 1) Solar Thermal Systems, which collect the sun's heat and use it for domestic hot water or space heating, and 2) Photovoltaic (PV) Electrical Systems, which are comprised of panels containing semiconductor materials to convert sunlight directly to electricity. Biomass resources are also available in the form of wood pellets and cord wood.
Wood and Wood Pellets
Before the 20th century, 90% of Americans burned wood to heat their homes. As fossil fuel use rose, the percentage of Americans using wood for fuel dropped, falling as low a one percent by 1970. Then during the energy crises of the 1970s, interest in wood heating resurfaced as a renewable energy alternative. Newer on the scene are pellet fuel appliances, which burn small pellets that look like rabbit feed, and measure 3/8 to 1 inch in length. Pellets are made from compacted sawdust, wood chips, bark, agricultural crop waste, waste paper, and other organic materials. Some pellet fuel appliances can burn a wide variety of biomass fuels, including nutshells, corn kernels, small wood chips, barley, beet pulp, sunflowers, dried cherry pits, and soybeans. Today you can choose from a new generation of wood- and pellet-burning appliances that are cleaner burning, more efficient, and powerful enough to heat many average-sized, modern homes.