Stephanie Thibodeau was born in Fairfield, raised in Fairfield, and now serves as a town councilor in Fairfield.
All those facts make her uniquely qualified to say where the town has been, where it’s headed, and what the challenges are in between.
But the biggest factor in signing up for residential energy service from Summit Natural Gas didn’t have to do with any of those factors. It was the fact that Thibodeau is retired and on a fixed income that compelled her to make the move.
Financially, she says, natural gas is a winner.
“My husband and I made the decision,” she said while speaking in her kitchen on a cool late spring afternoon. “And we are very pleased with the results. Right now we’re averaging about a 60 percent savings in heating costs.”
Prior to the conversion in October 2014, Thibodeau said she used a combination of heating oil and wood pellets to keep her home comfortable.
But heating oil became unattractive after several winters of price spikes kept the heat on her family financially. Ordering, delivering, storing and burning wood pellets by the ton became impossible to maneuver. “Those wood pellet bags are very heavy,” Thibodeau said.
Both commodities arrived based on supply schedules, not demand, and came with costs that were volatile and hard to predict.
“The main reason we switched was, we didn’t want something that was as fluctuating in cost,” Thibodeau said. “We knew that we would be saving money in the long run, and that’s what we are looking for as we enter our senior years. Natural gas is regulated. We know what we’re going to be paying.”
Once word got around of the opportunity to convert, homeowners in her neighborhood signed up, and the main gas lines came to her area, she began interfacing with Summit’s sales and operations staff.
“The process of converting to natural gas was relatively easy process,” she said. “Once the pipes were hooked up to the house, all we had to do was call our furnace man. He came over, along with a representative from Summit Natural Gas, on the same day, and together they worked to turn us on.”
Since the conversion, Thibodeau has enjoyed big savings … and something else that can’t be quantified: peace of mind. “Summit Natural Gas is always there for you with a toll-free number,” she said. “So that helps, too. And you’re talking to real people. A timeline is very much in effect when you’re converting.”
With natural gas providing 24 percent of all energy needs in the United States, and rising, Thibodeau said she did her research on safety and availability before making the switch. “It’s a resource that’s readily available. It’s cleaner burning, it’s safer to use … and it’s less harsh on the environment.”
Thibodeau also said she feels a warmer quality of heat from natural gas. “My husband thinks I’m a little crazy, but I do. I feel like it heats the house more evenly. It doesn’t cool off as often.”
Crews are currently working on the South End in Fairfield — and in many other Maine communities from Falmouth to Madison — to connect people who have expressed interest in this new fuel source with the potential to deliver millions in energy and cost savings to Maine homes and businesses.
With plans to invest more than $460 million in local economies in the first five years, Summit is committed to a 10-year infrastructure build-out in Maine that will bring new, clean burning natural gas to nearly two dozen Maine communities like Fairfield, and to homes like Thibodeau’s.
As a town official, Thibodeau sees other benefits, as well: “We have an economic opportunity to increase our business in Fairfield, because people may want to come to us knowing that natural gas is an option for them.”
Visit http://summitnaturalgasmaine.com/service-areas/ to see if we’ll be in a neighborhood near you in 2015. We’re asking anyone living in the neighborhoods near our service expansion map to contact us at 621-8000 to discuss how converting to natural gas can save you time and money, burn cleaner for the environment, and always be there when you need it.
“I figure with the savings on our heating bills, in about a year in a half we’ll have the cost for the conversion has paid off, which is really nice,” Thibodeau said. “It’s been very much worth it. We’re looking forward to many years of working with Summit Natural Gas.”