Ask the Energy Wiz
your questions
about energy.
Solar power options and quartz radiant electric heaters...
Ask the Energy Wiz!

Q: Dear Wiz:

What are all the solar options — passive, electrical, and water heating — that can be done to a home? How beneficial it would be to do something like this at this time? Are there incentives for returning power to the grid? Are there companies that can provide this kind of service in Nebraska?


Solar panel installation A: Dear Reader:

The benefit from solar is that it is a clean renewable source of energy. It is the right thing to do, but not the economical thing to do.

From an article in the New York Times, “Your Money/Personal Business,” April 14, 2007, “With a $2,000 federal tax credit and generous rebates from states like New Jersey and California, it has never cost less to install a solar power system. And it still makes no economic sense. You might want photovoltaic solar panels to generate your own electricity out of a belief that you will save the planet. But, as is the case with hybrid vehicles, you certainly should not do it to save money.”

That's about it in a nut shell. If you want solar because you think it's the right thing to do, you are correct. If you are simply wanting to save money on energy, then your best bet is to first insulate as much as you can, and then look at heating and cooling equipment for better efficiencies.

The number of solar businesses in Nebraska is limited. However, I did find three by simply doing an internet search using the words “Solar Nebraska.” The Energy Office does not make recommendations for businesses. We do recommend that you check the Better Business Bureau, and that you obtain multiple quotes and compare prices and features.


Sincerely,
The Energy Wiz


Q: Dear Wiz:

I’ve always believed that all forms of electric resistance heat contained 3,412 British thermal units per kilowatthour, no matter what type of delivery system was used. I recently saw an ad that claimed more than 3,413 British thermal units from heater that had a quartz radiant system, thermostats and filters. Can a quartz radiant heater exceed the 3,412 British thermal units per kilowatthour?


Radient Heater A: Dear Reader:

The quartz radiant heating units you described cannot possibly produce more than 3,412 British thermal units (Btu) when used. Other features such as thermostats and fans would tend to reduce, not increase, the Btu level.

The only electric heating units that currently provide more energy to the home than they use are air source and geothermal heat pumps. This is possible because heat pumps take existing heat from either the air (air source) or the ground (geothermal) and pump it into a home.

If you wish to file a complaint on the quartz radiant heater, please contact one or both of these agencies:


The Energy Wiz!
The Energy Wiz!

State of Nebraska
Leslie C. Levy, Director of Consumer Protection
Attorney General’s Office
State Capitol, Room 2115
P.O. Box 98920
Lincoln, NE 68509-8920
Phone: 402-471-2682
Web: http://www.ago.state.ne.us

Federal Government
Federal Trade Commission, Midwest Region
55 West Monroe Street, Suite 1825
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: toll free 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357)
Web: http://www.ftc.gov

Editor's Note:
The staff at the Energy Office respond to many inquiries on a variety of topics from Nebraskans. From time to time, the Quarterly will share some questions — and the answers — with readers.
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