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Dear Energy Wiz:
I have six rental units which have individual room electric baseboard heating sources. One way to improve efficiency would be to replace the existing thermostats. Each unit has 5 thermostats which are each more than 30 years old. Would this upgrade to these units be covered under any of the energy programs available from the Energy Office?

Dear Reader:
The purchase of thermostats could be financed using a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan, provided they were replaced with programmable ones. Use Form 3, Heating, Cooling and Water Heating Projects Application, which you can print out or complete online after you have a bid for the equipment, or for the equipment and the installation. The four pages of Form 3 may look a bit formidable at first. However, as you read the form you find that you will only need to complete Page 1 and Line 12 on page 3. You would then take the completed Form 3 and a copy of your bid to a local participating lender. Eligible lenders

You can use the Lender Search tool to locate participating lenders near you. Your lender would then submit your completed Form 3 and bid document to the Energy Office, along with paperwork the lender completes, for our review. It is important to note that you may not start the work or contract to do the work until after our office has approved the project. The lender would notify you when to proceed.

In the situation you have, separate rooms with separate thermostats, is not a bad one, energy wise, provided the occupants remember to physically turn down the thermostats when the rooms are not in use, and provided that this is the only heat source. On the other hand, if the home is heated using a heat pump, with the baseboard heat acting as backup heat, then it would be much better to have the baseboards controlled by the same thermostat that controls the heat pump.

With the type of system you have, separate thermostats themselves use no more electricity than if the baseboards were all connected to one thermostat. Thermostats are simply a mercury switch that is activated by a spring which moves with temperature changes. The same amount of electricity would be used by one or many thermostats of this type, and would only be the amount needed to activate a relay on each of the baseboards. The relays themselves actually use very little electricity.

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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