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Cumberland Center, Foreside to get natural gas this year

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Cumberland Center, Foreside to get natural gas this year

CUMBERLAND — Installation of the main natural gas line into Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth is due to begin in May, and Blanchard, Tuttle and part of Foreside roads are among those to be brought online this year.

The Town Council heard a natural gas progress report Monday from Emily Fisher, a special projects coordinator for the town, who worked with fellow college student Eliza Porter on the project.

Summit Natural Gas is expected to hook up the Center and Foreside areas of Cumberland this year.

The Colorado-based company's project would include laying 1.2 million feet of pipe in the three towns, where leaders see natural gas as a less expensive heating fuel than oil, Town Manager Bill Shane has said.

A natural gas pipeline already runs through the western part of Cumberland. Summit will tap into that line near the Cumberland County Fairgrounds. The line will run down Blanchard Road to Main Street and Greely and Tuttle roads, and to Route 1 and Route 88, before branching south to Falmouth and north to Yarmouth.

Summit representatives will soon go door-to-door to sign up residents interested in converting to natural gas and to answer questions. Neighborhood meetings will also be held at Town Hall at the end of May, Fisher said.

The cost to convert can run from around $2,500 to more than $7,000, depending on whether an existing heating system has to be updated or replaced, she explained.

The least expensive end of the cost spectrum would involve replacing an existing burner and installing a new chimney lining, while the most expensive would include replacing an entire system, a new chimney lining and other code compliance work.

Possible additional costs include oil tank removal and a natural gas leak detector.

The average homeowner burns about 850 gallons of oil a year, equivalent to 120 decatherms of natural gas, and spends $3,230, Fisher explained. On the other hand, burning that same amount of natural gas would cost about $2,100, she said – a savings of $1,130 a year, or $94 a month, depending on how much fuel is used annually.

Those interested in running natural gas should first contact a licensed contractor for an estimate; that contractor will inspect the residents' homes to determine whether their current system needs to be updated or replaced, the cost to convert, and what code compliance fixes and other updates would need to be made.

Residents should ask contractors before scheduling how much a site inspection will cost. A list of contractors is available on the town website.

Should they decide to sign a contract with Summit, homeowners would then contact a company-approved contractor to do an energy audit of their home. That will determine the home's energy efficiency. Summit's rebate program covers up to $560, with the audit and air sealing included, or up to $375 for just the audit.

Summit offers customers rebates that cover up to $1,500 of conversion costs, depending on the system's efficiency. Loans for this expense are offered through Atlantic Regional Federal Credit Union in Cumberland and Efficiency Maine.

"Since it's a big decision to convert to natural gas or not, our top priority has been to make sure that the public has all of the information that they need," Fisher said.

A resident handout was issued last September to introduce the public to the project, and a second – showing which streets are to be connected this year – is to be sent the week of Feb. 1.

More information is available online at cumberlandmaine.com/natural-gas-maps-info, facebook.com/naturalgascumberlandmaine, and at @CumberlandNG on Twitter, or by emailing eporter@cumberlandmaine.com or efisher@cumberlandmaine.com.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.