An Elderly Couple in Maine Offers to Trade Their Car for Fuel Oil

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ice dams caused by heat loss through ceiling higher fuel oil use

On Friday, the New York Times published an article about the Hartfords, an elderly couple in Dixfield, Maine who couldn't afford to pay for fuel oil for their leaky, inefficient home. I heard about it through social media from a couple of my friends up in Maine. Peter Troast of Energy Circle is one of those, and he's written about the local response their plight.

The story in the Times is heart rending, not only because of the couple, who even offered the title of their car as payment because they still owed for their last two deliveries, but also because of the owner of the fuel oil company, who can't afford to give his product away and stay in business. The stress has really gotten to him.

Peter reported on his Facebook page that there's been a huge outpouring of support to help the couple. He's also written a great article about the deeper implications and how we must address the real issues. Just raising money to allow them to continue buying fuel oil for a grossly inefficient is not the answer. As Peter wrote, "Paying for people's oil, a commodity virtually guaranteed to continue its annual 18% per year price march, is utterly unsustainable."

Peter is putting his principles into action and has gone up to Dixfield today with Upright Frameworks, a weatherization company, and DeWitt Kimball of Complete Home Evaluation Services. They're going to do a complete home hartford fuel oil story dixieville maine blower door test energy circleenergy audit and come up with a plan to help them heat their home more affordably.

I love the response to this story and that this couple is getting a lot of help. The fuel oil company has had a lot of offers of money and gifts coming in, and Peter's group will help the couple improve the energy efficiency of their home. But let's also keep in mind that for each story that gets this kind of publicity and response, there are countless others out there who are still struggling. These are tough economic times, and this story reminds of the way people helped each other during the Great Depression and World War II.

You really should go read those two articles now:

In Fuel Oil Country, Cold that Cuts to the Heart by Dan Barry of the New York Times

Helping the Hartfords and Finding a Path to More Energy Efficient Homes by Peter Troast of Energy Circle. Peter has promised to update his story with their findings and what they do with them.



The photo at the top is one that I've taken and is not from the Hartford's home. The photo of the Blower Door test is from the energy audit of their home, taken by Peter Troast of Energy Circle.


Jamie Kaye

Awesome! Great job Peter and thanks for posting Allison!


Beautifully articulated as usual, Dr. Bailes.

Jon LaMonte

Stories like this really do break your heart and then warm them again by the tales of charity. It is always good to see people willing to help their fellow man. 
BUT, until people like Peter choose to step in, the focus always seems to be on the supply side. How can we raise money for, subsidize, give tax credits or breaks for...getting more resource. Rarely do any of these stories focus on how can we reduce how much resource is needed in the first place.  
You, I, and the rest of us in this industry understand this. Whats it going to take to get everyone else (congress, charities, whatever) to understand? Hopefully Peter is successful in helping make this families home more energy efficient so a few days worth of heating oil lasts a week or more. AND hopefully THAT story gets out with the same amount of attention as this story is now.

Peter Troast

Allison--thanks very much for the shout out. It was a very moving day yesterday meeting the Hartford's and Ike the Big Hearted Oil Man. As both you and Jon LaMonte point out, the real issue is how we shift from the bandaid of perpetually funding oil consumption to solving the real problem of residential energy efficiency. Hoping that our little involvement with this particular house and couple will shed some light. Thank you all for helping spread the word.


Once again, the failure in American political discourse (e.g. monied interests promoting energy consumption vs energy savings) has been trumped by the will and the caring of Americans themselves!

Dennis Brachfeld

Knowledge tempered by warm hearts, can rise above the cold facts! Great story thanks for sharing

Carol Markell

Allison, isn't it wonderful that we are all part of an exceptional community. My heart goes out to people like the Hartfords, and to folks like Peter and the Energy Efficient community that are offering helping hands. ps you've been tweeted

Not Me

i called them to get help must just be for there customers dont care you can freeze if not there customer if you live in east dixfield out of luck i pay my taxes to dixfield to must be a scam to get ike libbys past due acounts settled what a lie dont give to this scam if you want to donate give to comunity consepts

Not me

try to get help if you loose your job they told me to call the town they have funds for oil what a scamm

not me

hometown enery fund is a scam