Hometown in the news
Two Free Heat Pumps Installed for Local Veterans
Hometown Heat Pumps has been working with the Maine Veterans Project to give our Veterans a gift that keeps giving
BENTON, Maine (WABI) – The folks at Hometown Heat Pumps in Burnham are spreading some extra warmth this holiday season. Crews installed two brand new heat pumps for veterans in Benton Tuesday. Owner Josh Whitcomb says these pumps are more energy efficient and provide heating and cooling throughout the year. Michael and Carol Monegan say this is the gift that will keep on giving.
”This is the nicest act of kindness we’ve ever had, its a Christmas miracle and we’re just so excited and happy we couldn’t sleep last night, and we are just so thankful. It’s been a really bad year and to have an act of kindness like this for us, I’ll start crying, thank you so so much,” said the Monegans.
Whitcomb says he knew he wanted to give back the week of Christmas because it’s been such a hard year for everyone.
Hometown Heat Pumps is working on an ongoing project with the Maine Veterans Project to provide more opportunities like this.
Governor Mills Announces Doubling of Heat Pump Rebates in Support of the Clean Energy Initiative
New rebate initiatives are expected to make highly efficient heat pumps more accessible to the people and businesses of Maine
Joined by leaders from Efficiency Maine Trust, Hometown Heat Pumps, and the Maine Community College System at F.W. Webb Company in Augusta, Governor Janet Mills today announced that Maine was doubling its rebates to help Maine people purchase high-performance heat pumps.
The new, aggressive incentives are the next step in advancing the Governor’s 100,000 heat pump initiative, which the Governor proposed and signed into law last year, and which establishes the goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps in Maine homes and businesses by 2025. The initiative, which does not use state taxpayer funds, will maintain the state’s trajectory as a national leader in beneficial electrification – replacing high-carbon fossil fuels with cleaner electricity – while lowering heating bills and creating quality jobs.
“These new rebates will help make high-performance heat pumps more attainable for more Maine people, and the effects of this initiative will ripple across Maine’s economy,” said Governor Mills. “Not only will it help create good-paying jobs, boost small businesses, and promote workforce training at our community colleges, but it will also help Maine people save money on their heating bills and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, helping us protect our environment and fight climate change. I encourage Maine people to see what they are eligible for.”
The new suite of rebates, which took effect on January 1, 2020, is aimed at helping Maine people and businesses install high-performance heat pumps. The so-called Tier 2 rebate, which applies to the most advanced high-performance heat pump installations meeting new Efficiency Maine requirements, is doubling from $500 to $1,000 for the first indoor unit installed and from $250 to $500 for the second unit. Heat pumps meeting the so-called Tier 1 rebate standards will continue to be eligible for a $500 rebate for the first indoor unit and $250 for a second indoor or outdoor unit, as in prior years. Additionally, enhanced $2,000 rebates are also now available to homeowners who receive heating assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
“Seven years into our programs promoting this new generation of heat pumps, specially designed for cold winters, we continue to see growth in consumer demand which tells us these new models really work well, even when it’s freezing outside,” said Michael Stoddard, Efficiency Maine’s Executive Director. “With these new rebates, Maine now has the opportunity to accelerate demand for heat pumps, maintaining its trajectory as a national leader in displacing high-carbon fossil fuels with cleaner electricity while lowering heating bills at the same time.”
According to Efficiency Maine Trust, a high-performance heat pump can help an average Maine home reduce its oil consumption by 270-540 gallons per year; reduce its carbon emissions by an estimated 3,600-7,250 pounds per year per home per high-performance heat pump; and, when the initiative is fully realized, can save Maine people between a total of $30-$60 million annually, providing an important boost to the local economy.
Hometown Heat Pumps – a family-owned business in Burnham – and one of its several suppliers, F.W. Webb, are two of the more than 400 businesses that form the supply chain serving heat pump customers in Maine. Across the state, these businesses have begun increasing capacity to serve their customers and meet the growing demand from the new rebates, which means more quality jobs and a growing demand for training programs like those offered by the Maine Community College System, supply houses, manufacturers, and trade associations such as the Maine Energy Marketers Association.
“Customer service has been our top priority along with helping our customers save substantially on heating and cooling costs,” said Christie Whitcomb, Owner of Hometown Heat Pumps. “This has allowed us to grow quickly and become a leader in the heat pump industry.”
“This sort of initiative is why we remain focused on providing critical, relevant workforce training at the community colleges,” said David Daigler, President of the Maine Community College System. “As industries and policies shift, we adjust our programs to make sure students and trainees are learning the latest techniques and technologies to keep up with industry needs.”
Governor Mills signed into law LD 1766, sponsored by Senator Mark Lawrence, last June.
Governor Mills Signs Bill Promoting Energy Efficient Heat Pumps in Maine
“Adding 100,000 new heat pumps in Maine in 5 years is forecasted to reduce heating bills between $300 and $600 a year per home”
Joined by clean energy advocates, educators, and workers, Governor Janet Mills today signed LD 1766 “An Act To Transform Maine’s Heat Pump Market To Advance Economic Security and Climate Objectives” at Kennebec Valley Community College. The bill, offered by Governor Mills and presented by Senator Mark Lawrence of York, establishes the goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps in Maine by 2025.
“Heat pumps reduce Maine’s dependency on fossil fuels, stabilize energy costs, and support energy efficiency jobs which will attract young families and skilled workers to our state,” said Governor Mills. “By signing this legislation, we are taking another step forward in combating climate change, embracing a clean energy future, and diversifying Maine’s economy. I thank Senator Lawrence for presenting this bill to the Legislature and lawmakers for giving it their unanimous, bipartisan support.”
“I want to congratulate Gov. Mills for her strong leadership on this issue. Gov. Mills’ initiative reduces carbon emissions, promotes good-paying energy jobs, and helps low-income and elderly Mainers stay warm in their homes. I was glad to sponsor this bill, and I’m glad to see this bill signed into law,” said Sen. Mark Lawrence, chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.
Maine uses more home heating oil per capita than any other state in the nation. High-performance heat pumps are an affordable, efficient and accessible heating and cooling appliance and an important component of reducing carbon emissions.
LD 1766 establishes a goal of installing 100,000 new high-performance heat pumps in Maine over the next five years. This will be achieved through additional Efficiency Maine Trust (EMT) incentives, funded through Forward Capacity Market revenues, and coordinated programming with Maine State Housing Authority, funded by a portion of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Adding 100,000 new heat pumps in Maine in 5 years is forecasted to reduce heating bills between $300 and $600 a year per home. These savings are more likely to be spent on local goods and services, creating a multiplier effect on the local economy. One Maine utility provider estimates that for every 1,000 high-performance heat pumps added in their territory, it will have the effect of suppressing electricity rates by $300,000 a year.
“Maine has hit the trifecta with high-performance heat pumps because they will lower the cost of heating, build a burgeoning new jobs market for young workers, and help us meet climate goals,” said Michael Stoddard, Executive Director of Efficiency Maine. “It’s part of our mission at Efficiency Maine to accelerate market adoption when new technology like this comes along, so we feel very fortunate to be partnering with more than 450 small businesses in Maine that will sell and install the heat pumps to make the Governor’s goal a reality.”
“This is an excellent opportunity to help low-income Mainers be warm and comfortable in their homes and save their scarce personal resources at the same time. MaineHousing is delighted to participate in Governor Mills’ 100,000 heat pump initiative,” said Dan Brennan, Director, MaineHousing.
Many heat pump installers are being trained through programs such as the Energy Services and Technology degree program and non-degree heat pump training program offered through the Workforce Training and Professional Development Department at Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC). Graduates of the Energy Services and Technology program at KVCC are skilled in the installation and design of high-efficiency and renewable plumbing, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems.
“KVCC is delighted to work with the public agencies and private energy firms to ensure the necessary training to help the State of Maine to meet its ambitious goal. Our lab and training capacity are ideal for this task. KVCC is located right on the I-95 corridor in mid-Maine, making this a convenient location for participants from north to south,” said Richard Hopper, President of Kennebec Valley Community College.
The law will take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the Legislature.
How Hometown Heat Pumps is Succeeding by Putting Organization First
“(It) lets our customers know we’re a good business, and we know what we’re doing.”
Hometown Heat Pumps, based in Burnham, Maine, offers heat pump installations, cleanings, repair and services, and air sealing and energy assessments. Their story is unique from most of the field service companies we work with. They knew they wanted to look for a program to keep them organized as soon as they started their business, instead of waiting until they grew.
Now it’s been a year and a half since they’ve been opened shop, and they’re already within the top 3 in their industry in their area. They shared with us the pivotal role mHelpDesk has played in their growth.
Investing in a system from the start
“My husband and I are very organized and we planned ahead.” shares Christie Whitcomb, Business Owner of Hometown Heat Pumps.
“We knew going into it we had to be organized. Even though we were really small, we knew we would grow and at some point, it would be too hard to handle.”
Christie and her husband recognized the value of getting the right system to schedule jobs, invoice and manage customers from the get-go. In Christie’s words, it was a necessity, in order to operate efficiently and smartly. To them, it also seemed much easier to put a program in place right away instead of trying to do it later.
They trialed several programs, including having their technicians try it out in the field, but they found major problems. The first was the programs didn’t have an offline mode for their mobile apps.
“That is a huge deal for us because what happens is I’ll send our tech out to visit a customer to give them an estimate, but we’re in rural Maine. There are a lot of places here that don’t have good service. If my tech gets to a customer’s house and he can’t pull up their information, put in job notes or have the information he needs to build an estimate, he can’t even do his job.”
Christie and her team needed a mobile app that could be used even with minimal cell service and one that would sync well once they got service. It’s one of the features they love about mHelpDesk.
As they tested other programs, they realized other programs also didn’t have good systems for estimates and invoices, and their workflows were disjointed and not intuitive.
“When we tried mHelpDesk, everything seemed to flow seamlessly. Scheduling the job, building the estimate, converting that to a job and invoice–mHelpDesk made these processes quick and smooth. We were really impressed.”
A program for every moment of the day
“It’s very important to have mHelpDesk to run our business seamlessly. We use it constantly throughout the day. We have it up on multiple computers and screens [to handle multiple customers at a time]!” continues Christie.
When asked about the team’s favorite mHelpDesk features, Christie led with estimates and being able to provide on-the-spot estimates to their clients, which they’ve actually started advertising as a benefit to choosing them Hometown Heat Pumps in their marketing.
“The estimate is a really big factor.” she shared, noting the difference it makes for customers to receive an estimate right away and how most of the other companies in their area still take a couple of days to send out estimates, and have techs going back to the office.
“Estimates in mHelpDesk also keeps us honest. Everything is in our price list. My tech can go right on his phone, add this size unit, supplies, rebate and done. He can show the prices and estimate on this phone [to customers]. There’s no fudging it.”
Christie also shared the advantage of being able to create custom forms for their customer files in mHelpDesk to capture the information they always need to know for every customer. For them, it’s things like the homeowner’s primary heat sources, size and unit of the pump and its location.
“I have all these questions that need to be asked and our techs can simply check yes or no or type in specific information.”
Having all this data captured under customer notes means Christie or anyone on the team can go into mHelpDesk and have the most up-to-date information on a customer, like what supplies they need for their heat pump and if they qualify for a rebate, because it’s contained under the customer’s file.
“If I didn’t have a system, I might have to search through a spreadsheet to find that customer–if I could even find it and then I’d have to sound like I knew what I was doing. The last thing your customer wants to hear is that you have to find their information and get back to them. mHelpDesk lets our customers know we’re good business and we know what we’re doing.”
Having the power to grow and scale
What word did Christie use to describe the company’s growth? Phenomenal!
She shared that in just a little over a year, the company exceeded all their annual goals. Their distributors have been shocked at their progresss and now they’re among the top 3 in their area for their industry.
“We couldn’t have had that growth without a program that works so well as mHelpDesk. We wouldn’t have been organized and our customers would’ve seen that and called someone else.”
Christie continued, “mHelpDesk does a lot for us. I really like that our techs can take pictures in the field, and attach that to the job or customer, so when I turn an estimate into an installation, whoever goes to do the install will have the pictures and know exactly where it’s going.”
Another feature that’s really helpful for their team is the “On the Way” button, which a tech can use to send a quick text message and time estimate to customers.
“Our customers love it and so do our techs because they don’t have to show up at the door if the customer is not actually going to be home. It’s a great way to know if a customer has to actually reschedule.”