Questions and Answers...
5% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans

The Nebraska Energy Quarterly features questions asked about 5% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans.
Loan forms may be obtained from participating lenders, the Nebraska Energy Office, or the agency's web site by clicking on the “Loan Forms” button above.
Q:
Would a wind turbine erected on pastureland qualify for a loan?
A:
Usually, wind turbines will not qualify for a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan. Wind turbines need to be less expensive before they will be able to qualify for a loan. The best test is to complete Form 32 which will give you an idea of the payback period. Then you can decide if you want to pursue a project such as this.

A publication that might be helpful, “Small Wind Electricity Systems” is available at the Energy Office’s web site. Additional wind assessment tools and studies are also located at the web site.
Q:
I am interested in using solar energy in an older farm house in rural Nebraska. I hope to install photovoltaic panels for lights and to heat water. Are there any grants or incentives to install these panels in a home?
A:

At present, there are not any grants or incentives available for this type of project.

Installing solar panels on roof
However, in some instances rural public power districts may offer incentives for very specific purposes in lieu of installing power lines to remote areas. Contact your local utility for information about incentives they may offer.

In general, solar projects have not shown a sufficient payback for a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan. However, if the project could be shown to be cost-effective within 15 years, it could be financed with a loan available from any participating Nebraska lender. To assess the cost effectiveness of such a project, use the following at the Energy Office’s web site: Form 32, Form 33, and
Steps to Obtain a Loan Using an Energy Audit.

Q:
Can combined heat and power – also known as CHP – projects be financed with a Dollar an Energy and Savings Loan?
A:

A combined heat and power project would be an eligible improvement type for a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan.

A combined heat and power system (CHP)
However, the improvement would need to show a simple payback (payback excluding interest) of 15 years or less. If the system were specific to a single building it would need to show the 15-year payback, and if the system incorporated more than one building, or a group of buildings, then it would need to show a 10-year payback.

More specific information is at the agency’s web site. The pages that would apply to this type of project are:

For the Energy Office to evaluate the proposed project, an energy audit, showing the current energy use (from actual energy bills) — that’s Form 33, Billing History — would need to be completed. An explanation on Form 32, Energy Saving Improvement Analysis, of how the current energy bills were generated and the effect on energy use once the combined heat and power project was installed would also need to be completed. Supporting documentation — such as manufacturer's data on the equipment efficiencies and energy saving calculations that were used to calculate the amount of energy to be saved — would also need to be provided.

Q:
I noticed there are Dollar & Energy Saving Loans for window and door replacements, for heating and cooling projects and even appliances. We’ve decided to upgrade our windows and heating and cooling systems that meet loan standards for a house we are building. Our house plans should be finalized soon. Are there low cost loans for new construction, too?
A:
The Energy Office does not offer any loans for new construction. However, here are a few pointers you might consider as you finalize the plans for your new home:

Cut-away of a double-pane
energy efficient window
  • If you’re making upgrades on new construction, you are doing the right thing! The items you noted that are “pre-qualified” for a loan have been selected because they are energy efficiency improvements that will most likely show an energy payback over the life of the item. When you look at an upgrade for new equipment, the payback is much faster than for a replacement. On new construction, you are paying to put in a window anyway, so the upgrade is merely a cost difference.
  • If you upgrade from a $500 window with low-e and argon, to a triple pane window with two coats of softcoat low-e and Krypton for $650. The first window includes installation with an R-value of 2.86 for $500, or $175 per R-value unit.
    If you upgrade to triple pane Krypton, the window’s R-value might be as high as R-5.5, or $118 per R-value unit. Another way to look at these two windows is that for the extra $150 the window area will loose 37 percent less heat, or the extra R-value will cost $57 more per R-value unit.

    Cut-away of a triple-pane
    energy efficient window
    Please note the 37 percent heat loss savings is for the window area only. You should be suspicious of claims that certain windows can save you as much as 40 percent on your heating bill. “As much as” can be as little as 1 percent.
  • Prices vary from vendor to vendor, so the savings will also vary. The fact remains: you will be paying for a new window no matter which one you put in the house. If you put in an efficient window, you will save that money back in lower energy bills.
  • A source of information on window efficiencies is the National Fenestration Rating Council. Window ratings for thermal heat loss will be noted as U-value. To get the R-value, just divide the number 1 by the U-value (R = 1/U). Some companies list center of glass, or COG, U-values in there literature. However, what is most important is the total window U-value. The total unit U-value is the value listed on the National Fenestration Rating Council’s web site.
  • Lastly, air conditioners use SEER rating for efficiency comparisons. The Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute web site, allows visitors to search according to SEER ratings. A few words of caution: a high SEER does not equal quality. Quality can also be enhanced or depreciated depending on the ability of the installation contractor.
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