Nursing Home in Stromsburg Finds $7,000 in Yearly Savings

Stromsburg, nestled on the banks of the Big Blue River in the east central part of the state, made a commitment to its elderly residents decades ago.

In 1963, Midwest Covenant Home opened its doors and offered a place for aging local residents to live when staying in their own home became impractical. Nearly every decade since, additions to the original building have been added.

Today, more than 90 residents call Midwest Covenant home. The nursing facility was also one of the state's first Rebuild Nebraska partners.

In November, 1997, Pat McElhose, the administrator of Midwest Covenant, received a letter from the Nebraska Energy Office offering a number of services free of charge including finding ways to reduce operating costs.

"The adage 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help you' didn't deter me from contacting the Energy Office, said McElhose. "When a building is more than 30 years old, it's time to examine the facility. What the Energy Office was offering could easily cost $1,500 that we didn't have."

When the agency's Rebuild team evaluated Midwest Covenant in February, they first asked the staff about any problems with the building or the energy-using systems in it. Complaints about drafty rooms were common and some faucets had to run for 15 minutes before getting any hot water.

An evaluation of the facility indicated that if only cost-effective improvements were made, Midwest Covenant could expect to save about $7,000 yearly from reduced energy bills. Additional savings would come from reduced water use.

When the evaluation was completed, the results were shared with McElhose. One of the recommendations suggested operating only one of the facility's boilers at a time, not both. That simple action could save more than $1,000 a year.

The solution to getting hot water faster could cost about $2,000 and could be recovered in ten years or less if the savings in water are considered.

Another area of possible savings was the lighting system. While the yearly savings were smaller -- ranging from $55 to $1,300 per project -- they added up to $3,500, nearly half of the improvements recommended. "Some the lighting projects paid for themselves in a year," McElhose said.

"What I really liked about the analysis," McElhose said, "was that the Energy Office examined several options for the problems. Now I know that replacing the windows is the most expensive, and uneconomical, solution to the problem with drafty rooms. It would take 45 years to recover the cost of the project."

Return to the Summer 1997 Newsletter