Ask the Energy Wiz
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Ask the Energy Wiz!

Q: Dear Wiz:

I am in the process of preparing to build a home and would like to make it as energy efficient as possible and might include the capability for future wind/solar production add-ons. I would like information on available loans and building materials.


A: Dear Reader:

If you visit the Energy Office website, www.neo.ne.gov, you will find a link on the left hand side of the page titled "Green Built Homes."  This page includes sets of house plans for homes that would be at or near 50 percent beyond code, very efficient and also use green building practices.  By including the requirements shown for these homes in your building plans, you should be well on your way to building an efficient and green home.

On the right side of the home page, you will see an icon with a stack of dollar bills titled "Dollar and Energy Saving Loans."  Near the bottom of the loan page, you will see a link to "Form M10", and to our "Energy Efficient Housing Application Guidelines."  Form M10 will have instructions on how to obtain a 2.5 percent construction loan.  The Energy Efficient Housing Application Guidelines are intended as an aid to your designer, HERS rater, and HVAC contractor, to ensure that all necessary information for a successful application is included on your house plans.

Long term permanent financing is available for single family, detached dwellings located in Nebraska which are built as ENERGY STAR®, Five Star Plus homes and received the Energy Office's written approval of the plan prior to the start of construction. Construction is considered to start when a permanent structure is placed on top of footings. The Energy Office must be provided with the associated completed checklists and final HERS Rating from the HERS Rater and determine the dwelling was completed in accordance with the approved plan and still complies with the requirements for an ENERGY STAR®, Five Star Plus home. Contact the Energy Office for the names of Nebraska lenders providing long term, permanent financing if the construction loan lender is not providing long term financing under the program. Long term rates for qualifying homes financed under the program are typically 1 percent below the equivalent secondary market rate for like products quoted by Nebraska lenders eligible to make Dollar and Energy Saving Loans and New Home Construction Loans for pre-sold homes.


Sincerely,
The Energy Wiz

 

Q: Dear Wiz:

As a designer of all types of homes I would like to know what guidelines to follow in designing a new home so it will qualify for the ENERGY STAR® rating.  Are you bascially following the REScheck program?  Will compliance with this program achieve the ENERGY STAR rating?


A: Dear Reader:

For a home to be ENERGY STAR rated, you will need to enlist the services of a Home Energy Rater. The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) is the only system that can certify a home as ENERGY STAR. The home itself must be built to 15 percent beyond energy code standards.

For more information on the HERS program you should view the information on the National Residential Energy Services (RESNET), www.natresnet.org. RESNET's website appears to be under construction currently, so you may find more information at the Kansas Building Science Institute (KBSI), www.kansasbuildingscience.org. KBSI offers classes on training for the HERS program.

You can also find information on ENERGY STAR homes on the ENERGY STAR website.
The Energy Wiz!
The Energy Wiz!
REScheck is a somewhat useful tool that can aid in home design, but for a home to be ENERGY STAR rated, it must be certified by a qualified HERS rater. You can still use ResCheck as a guide to check the measure of your home's code compliance, and to get an idea of the home's efficiency, but the HERS software REM/Rate is much more sophisticated, and will be required to perform efficiency checks for confirmation of performance which meets ENERGY STAR certification.


The ENERGY STAR mark is not difficult goal to reach. You can make this mark by simply using NFRC rated windows with a U-value of 0.26 or less, 2x6 construction (added wall insulation, R-23, 2x6 on 24 requires no more wood than 2x4 on 16), energy truss (roof trussing that allows full depth of insulation over the top of the wall), increased attic insulation and moderately efficient heating and cooling equipment. Most homes can make the ENERGY STAR mark simply by adding a geothermal heat pump.

The more difficult mark to make is ENERGY STAR, Five Star Plus (30 percent beyond code), or 50 percent beyond code. For information on innovative ways to surpass the energy code, visit www.buildingscience.com. This site has many examples of how to increase the insulation levels of a home, and that is a starting point. Increase the insulation, then consider more efficient heating and cooling equipment, and possibly geothermal. If you are looking at zero energy, or net zero, this approach still applies. Increased insulation, fluorescent lighting, efficient heating and cooling and ENERGY STAR products reduce your energy use, making your renewable energy requirement, and your resulting mortgage and energy bills much less.


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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