Partnership offers Houlton area residents deal on home heating costs

11 years ago

By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer
    HOULTON — Under a new partnership announced last week, Houlton residents now have another option when it comes to heating their homes or businesses.
    The Saco-based Thermal Energy Storage of Maine, LLC has entered into an agreement with Houlton Water Company to offer an alternative heating option known as Electric Thermal Storage at a price equivalent to about $2.25 per gallon of home heating oil — and locking in the savings for five years through Dec. 31, 2018.

    Under the agreement, which is also being implemented in other communities in Maine, Thermal Energy Storage of Maine, LLC is providing the electric thermal storage (ETS) heating units; Houlton Water Company is offering a special, off-peak delivery rate for electricity; many local financial institutions are offering simplified energy improvement-type loan programs to help families make the switch to ETS as well as to make other energy-related improvements; and Dead River Company will sell and install ETS units for residents and businesses in Houlton.
    “This new program will allow Houlton Water Company customers to save on their home heating costs.” said TESM co-founder Sam Zaitlin. “Inexpensive, off-peak electricity – from any source – stored as heat and released as needed via well established technology.  It is a win-win-win for consumers, utilities and the environment.”
    John Clark, Houlton Water Company, said “Here in northern Maine, we have some of the highest heating costs in the state. I’m proud that we can provide our customers with an opportunity to lock in these low rates for five years. This will be an incredible savings to home and business owners.”
    Similar in appearance to a “Rinnai” propane heater, the ETS heaters come in a number of varieties. There are single-sized units designed to provide supplemental heat to a home, while there are also units the size of furnaces which can be hooked up to existing hot air vents or forced hot water systems.
What is ETS?
    According to the Electric Thermal Storage of Maine website, the company was established in 2008 to bring the alternative heating source to the state.
    ETS heating technology has been around for decades. The systems are popular in some of the coldest parts of the U.S., Canada and Europe because they are cost effective, convenient and require virtually no maintenance over their 20-plus year life.
    These 100 percent efficient units contain electric heating elements (just like electric ovens) that are surrounded by super insulated, high-density ceramic bricks that store heat. The unit automatically heats the bricks during off-peak hours (weekdays between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. and all weekend long) and releases the heat as needed on a 24-hour basis to maintain a comfort level. Once installed, all the homeowner needs to do is adjust the thermostat to the desired temperature. There is no maintenance, ordering or filling fuel tanks or wood or wood pellets to handle.
    The Houlton program is modeled after one in Madison and one now being established in Kennebunk. In 2011, Madison Electric Works pioneered this off-peak heating program by adopting a rate essentially equivalent to what is now available in Houlton. 
    In addition to Houlton Water Company, these ETS systems are now being offered and supported by well known, trusted companies in the state, including Dead River Company and Central Maine Power. 
    The supplemental room heating ETS units being offered in Houlton can provide 50 percent or more of a home’s heat. Whole house units, either hot water or forced hot air, can provide 100 percent of a home’s heat and be combined with an off-peak hot water tank to reduce hot water costs as well.
    A licensed professional must install the units, which in the Houlton area would be Dead River Company. Units start at about $3,000, but rebates are available through Efficiency Maine. A separate electricity meter must also be installed on the home.
    For more information on Houlton Water Company’s ETS offer, go to, or call Greg Sherman at 532-1211.