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The Energy Wiz Answers Your Questions

Dear Energy Wiz:
What would it take to run a house of three with wind power or wind and solar?


Dear Reader:
The amount of energy you will need depends on how efficient the home is, and of course how big the home is. A small home with a lot of insulation, few windows and triple-paned for those, fluorescent and LED lighting, ENERGY STAR® appliances, and geothermal heating and cooling would require only a small fraction of the energy that a large uninsulated home with a large amount of single-paned windows and the least efficient appliances, heating and cooling would require.

Most folks install small wind or solar to replace only a part of their energy bill. If you are looking at being off the grid entirely, you will probably want to look at purchasing a battery backup system. The wind doesn't always blow, and the sun doesn't always shine! And of course this adds to the price.

You could start by getting a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rating on the home, from a Certified HERS Rater. From that, you can estimate how much energy you will need. You can also use this to look at possible upgrades to the home to make it more efficient. Anytime you can seal air leaks, and add insulation, you will be saving money on the size of system you need to buy. That's a start.

If this is a very small home, and is very efficient, then $23,000 might get you what you want, or near there, but that's a very conservative guess. If this is a large inefficient home, I'd hate to guess what you might pay? Maybe four or five times that.

Again, my recommendation would be to start with a Home Energy Rating, and again, from only a Certified HERS Rater (www.resnet.us). Using projections from that rating, you can start to get quotes on possible efficiency measures for the home, and then from wind and solar contractors. I would recommend a system that incorporates a little of both, wind and solar, leaning more toward the wind since we are more of a heating oriented climate, and wind peaks in the winter and at night. The solar will help in the summer when it's calm and sunny and you need some air conditioning.

Sincerely,
The Energy Wiz


Dear Energy Wiz:
We are completing repairs of storm damage on our facility in Nebraska. These repairs will include some walls and roofs on our facilities. Are there any energy codes I need to meet while completing these repairs, and if so what are they? Are there any incentives available to help with these costs?


Dear Reader:
The State Energy Code is the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code.

I am assuming this is a private building, and not a public building. If this is a State-Funded Building, one that had some state funds involved when built, or may have state funds being used for the renovation, and in that case, anything you repair must comply with the State Energy Code.

If this is a private building, then whether or not you need to comply with the requirements of the State Energy Code will depend on cost of the repairs. Renovations of buildings must comply with the State Energy Code, but only if the alterations on the existing building will cost more than fifty percent of the replacement cost of such building at the time work is commenced, or if the building was not previously heated or cooled, for which a heating or cooling system is now proposed.

If the renovations will not cost more than half of what it would cost you to put up a new building, and as long as the building was heated and cooled before, or as long as the building was not heated and cooled before and you don't intend to heat or cool it now, then the code does not apply.

On the other hand, if the renovations will cost more than half of what it would cost you to put up a new building, or if you plan to add heating and cooling where there was none before, then you must comply with the State Energy Code. If you do fall into the requirement of complying with the State Energy Code, it will only apply to those items of the building that are being renovated, as opposed to bringing the entire building up to code.

A bit of advice: When you are doing your renovations, it makes economic sense to meet the State Energy Code wherever possible. Meeting or exceeding the State Energy Code will save you money on your utility bills, and often, if not always, will show a favorable payback.

Sincerely,
The Energy Wiz

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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