Daniel DiDonato, a deliveryman for Heatable, brings heating oil to a home in Lewiston on Dec. 16, 2021. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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Maine residents kept their homes at unsafe temperatures more than those in any other U.S. state over the past year, according to a census survey.

Around 8.3 percent of Maine households responded to a recent survey by saying they had kept homes at a temperature that felt unsafe or unhealthy almost every month over the past year. That represents close to 100,000 people. Only Delaware and Idaho had similar rates.

The finding is in part due to Maine’s cold climate and encompasses a time of skyrocketing costs for heating oil and utilities. A 30 percent rise in electricity rates for most Mainers at the outset of the year was due to escalating global natural gas prices. The state has also long been the one most heavily reliant on heating oil, the price of which rose to $4.85 a gallon as of April.

The number of people not heating or cooling their homes properly is closely associated with poverty. Rates of those frequently keeping their homes at unsafe temperatures were higher for those in households where the income was $35,000 or lower, with the numbers declining in each additional income bracket on the national level. 

The nation-leading statistics are undoubtedly because of rising costs of gas and power, said Andrew Blunt, interim director of Portland-based Our Power Maine, a group that is advocating for replacing the state’s major utilities with a consumer-owned utility.

“Culturally, Maine is a place where people keep it frugal in terms of heating and cooling,” Blunt said. “But with the energy costs that we’re facing, it’s just getting worse and worse.” 

Multiple heating oil suppliers in the Portland metro area said they were unavailable or declined to comment on current demand.