Spring 2000

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A Newsletter of the Nebraska Energy Office

Low Interest Loans Make Historic School's New Windows a Reality

Some people won't stop until...

Hayward School has architectural significance...

One of the ways windows can...

State's Biomass Resources Some of the Best

Recent attention has focused on Nebraska's...

Scotts Bluff Monument Van Turns Soy-Green

Visitors to the Scotts Bluff National Monument...

Getting the Low Down on Air Flow

Sometimes, understanding the complexities of...

Income Limited Mortgages Altered

The Energy Office has altered...

Reducing Your House's Operating Costs

Many Cost effective ways to lower energy costs...

5% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans

Are these improvements eligible for...

Getting Paid for Not Doing Anything

Will farmers be paid for using no-till...

50,000th Home Weatherized

Whew! It's taken 22 years to weatherize...

State May Have To Match Federal Weatherization Dollars Next Year

The state's weatherization effort may...

Hands-On Experience for Children of all Ages

Now teachers can bring energy efficiency into...

Computer Disposal Solutions on May 24 in Lincoln

The old joke about a computer becoming...

Information Services and Resources

The EnergyEfficiency and The Renewable Energy Clearinghouse

Low Interest Loans Make Historic School's New Windows a Reality

Lincoln's oldest surviving school building
Lincoln's oldest surviving school building

Seventy-one windows in Lincoln's oldest surviving school building, now Hayward Place Condominiums, were recently replaced. Some people won't stop until they get what they want.

What Ed wanted was new, energy-saving windows that looked just like ones in the 1925 Lincoln Elementary School building, but solved the problems of the original single-paned windows. Problems like falling glass.

"The windows in that part of the school were 75 years old," Ed Caudill, one of Hayward Place Owners' Association officers, said. "These were the only windows not replaced when the school was converted to condos in 1985."

Shards in the Grass

"In many ways we were lucky, when the glass literally began falling out of the frames, replacing the windows had already been scheduled," Caudill said. Tenants also had other complaints: rattling panes, condensation and frost on the inside glass in the winter.

Hayward School, located in the Capitol City's North Bottoms neighborhood and only a few blocks from NU's Memorial Stadium, is the oldest surviving Lincoln public school building. Classes ceased in the building in 1968, but civic uses of the space continued until 1982. The building was sold and converted into 41 condominiums in 1985.

Because the building is also on the Register of National Historic Places, the condo owners also needed to match any replacement windows as closely as possible with the original ones. But that option was very expensive. After checking with several manufacturers of custom windows, the estimate for exact replacement of 71 windows - single paned, wood trimmed with muntin bars - was more than $120,000. The Association Board also checked with many manufacturers during the year-long search for a company that could replicate the originals.

The 1925 Addition
The 1925 Addition

The 1925 addition to the school, picured here, still had the original windows in the building.Even more importantly, the window manufacturers would not guarantee the new windows. All the manufacturers even recommended against putting in exact replacement windows. Things seemed to be at an impasse. Then, Caudill began working with the city's Preservation Officer, seeking a more affordable and practical solution.

At that point, two other factors came into play: spotting information on the Energy Office's low-interest loans and finding a window manufacturer experienced with historic renovations.

"The loan department at Cornhusker Bank has Dollar and Energy Saving Loan brochures all over the place. You can't miss them, they are everywhere you look," Caudill said. "It made sense to see if the replacement windows we wanted could qualify for a low-interest loan."

Nine Foot Eagles

According to Caudill, Eagle Window and Door, a manufacturer based in Lincoln, provided a long list of buildings where their products had been used to meet historic preservation guidelines. The firm also could produce the windows in the sizes - up to more than 9 feet tall - that were needed. Eagle recommended the single-paned all-wood windows be replaced with low-emissivity, argon-filled, double-paned, aluminum clad ones. The distinctive pattern of muntins that divided the windows into panes would be between the gas-filled glass. Not only would the Eagle windows provide better protection from the Plain's weather, the cost was nearly $40,000 cheaper.

"The window units had to fill existing openings in order to maintain the flavor of the old building. Eagle Window and Door Company is able to custom build windows to fit any opening," Dan Snyder of Eagle Window said. "This allowed the contractor to maintain the original look of the school. The Association wanted to feature as much glass as possible to give the units an open, airy feeling. At the same time, the warmth and beauty of the wood was needed."

One Hurdle Down

When the Association asked the city's Historic Preservation Commission for a hardship exemption, the Commission members were at first skeptical. Few were convinced new energy efficient windows could be made to match those in the 75-year-old addition. But the experience of the manufacturer, especially a photo presentation of similar window replacements on historic structures, convinced the Commission to grant the exemption.

Workers removing windows
Workers removing windows

This opening is where a bank of five windows was removed. Workers were able to remove old windows and install new ones in a single day.Next, would the windows meet the Energy Office's standards for obtaining a low-interest loan? The double-hung windows from Eagle had a U value of .36, .04 above the Energy Office's minimum rating, so the windows had no difficulty qualifying for a loan.

When the project first arrived in the Energy Office for the initial review, the Association only sought financing for $60,000, the maximum for a multi-family project. However, since the Association was in reality a small business with fewer than 25 employees and annual revenue below $2.5 million, the group could borrow up to $100,000. In February 1999, the Energy Office approved the project and the construction of the windows could begin.

There From The Start

According to Pauline Smith, a loan officer and Assistant Vice President with Cornhusker Bank in Lincoln, helping make the window replacement project a reality was a natural. "Cornhusker helped finance the purchase of many of the condos," Smith said. "We were glad Cornhusker could also be a part of the on-going preservation of the property. The building is the gem of the North Bottoms neighborhood." The Energy Office said Cornhusker Bank is one of Lincoln's larger providers of Dollar and Energy Saving Loans.

In May last year, the replacement got underway. Seventeen units would be affected during the removal and replacement of the 71 windows. "Despite all the planning, it still took about a month and a half to finish the project," Caudill said. "You can't plan the weather - it rained a lot last spring."

"Fortunately, the contractor was able to remove the old window and install the new window unit in the same day," Caudill said. "Tenants really had only a day's worth of inconvenience." The project was completed in June.

According the Caudill, everyone is pleased with the new windows. "Many of the tenants told me they were more than satisfied," Caudill said. "The windows were better than they thought they would be." One benefit couldn't have been predicted: noise reduction. "Once the original windows were removed, all you could see was hollow space around the opening, now that area has been insulated and enclosed," Caudill said. "Everyone is amazed - and pleased - at how much quieter it is."

"This building has been here for 100 years and will probably be here for another 100," Caudill said. "You don't replace windows very often. It just makes sense to get energy-efficient ones. Who knows? They will probably be in here for another 75 years."

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A Neighborhood Landmark for Nearly 100 Years

1925 Addition
The 1925 addition to the school,
picured here, still had the original
windows in the building.

Based on information provided by
Ed Zimmer, Historic Preservation Planner,
City of Lincoln

Hayward School has architectural significance, in part, from its status as the oldest surviving schoolhouse in the Lincoln Public School District.

The building was named for U.S. Senator Monroe L. Hayward, a lawyer, farmer and stockraiser who died in 1899. Hayward was used as school until 1968 and had other public uses until 1982. In 1985, the building was sold and converted to condominiums.

A Time Capsule of Details

Architecturally, the school embodies, in nearly unaltered form, three distinct styles of public school architecture built over a relatively short period of time. The ornate original building - located in the center of the block-long structure - was designed in 1904 and employs especially fine terra cotta decoration of unusual late Renaissance or Baroque derivation.

The 1913 addition at the south end eschews applied ornament for fine brickwork and restrained Classical and Romanesque motifs. Architecturally, it very consciously responds to the massing of the original building, developing a new and balanced composition with the tall auditorium pavilion as the new center.

The 1925-1926 addition at the north end is unresponsive to the existing building. The very long addition is notable for Georgian Revival detailing on the new north entrance.

A Unique Role: Educating Beet Field Children

In the 1900s, there were about 4,000 German Russians in Lincoln, half of whom lived in the North Bottoms neighborhood. Many of these immigrants - adults and children - derived a major portion of their income by working in the sugar beet fields of central and western Nebraska.

Hayward was the principal Lincoln school that served the needs of these immigrant children. According to an early Lincoln Public Schools' historian, “In November of each year the 'beet field children' as they are called, return to Lincoln for the winter months and to attend school. Six new school rooms are opened for them and special teachers are employed for them. Over 300 are in attendance during the winter months. They return to the beet fields the first of May.”

The educational progress of the children posed a substantial challenge, when the regular school term in 1907 was three months longer than their stay in Lincoln. In 1924, the Scottsbluff Star-Herald reported the school district in Scottsbluff organized a special summer school for "beet field children" to enable them to re-enter classes following harvest "without embarrassment to themselves and almost nervous prostration on the part of the teacher"

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What's a Window's U-Factor?

New Replacement Window
New replacement window

The new replacement windows varied in size from three to four feet wide to seven and nine feet tall.

One of the ways windows can be compared is by looking at the unit's measured energy performance. These measurements are expressed as the "R Factor" for "resistance" or "U-Factor" which is a measurement of "thermal transference."

The National Fenestration Rating Council, or NFRC, measures product energy performance and energy-related properties of doors and windows. Using these measurements, buyers can easily ascertain if the products meet local or state codes or other performance requirements such as those used by the Energy Office for Dollar and Energy Saving Loans.

The Council has established a rigorous process by which products are rated. By certifying and labeling their products, manufacturers are demonstrating their commitment to providing accurate energy and energy-related performance information which allows customers to make informed purchasing decisions.

The Council is a non-profit, public/private collaboration of manufacturers, builders, designers, specifiers, code officials, consumers utilities and regulators.

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State's Biomass Resources Some of the Best


Recent attention has focused on Nebraska's wind resources and the first steps by electric utilities to harness those resources.

Often overlooked are the abundant possibilities in using the state's fertile lands to grow bioenergy crops or use crop wastes, to produce electricity and other types of energy.

Bioenergy is the conversion of complex carbohydrates in organic matter - such as grasses, trees or garbage - into energy, either by using it directly as fuel or by processing it into liquids and gases that are more efficient.

In the Top Five

In 1993, the Union of Concerned Scientists conducted an extensive study of renewable resources in the Midwest. Nebraska's biomass resources were substantial:

  • The state ranked third in crop residues, after Iowa and Illinois
  • The state ranked fifth in deliverable crop residue, after subtracting the residue to be left in the field for economic or ecological reasons
  • If these resources were converted to electricity, nearly one-third of the state's needs could be met using crop waste.

The study also found Nebraska's energy crop potential was significant:

  • The state ranked third, after Kansas and South Dakota, in the amount of switchgrass which could be produced on idled acres without displacing any food crops
  • The heating value of the potential 33.9 million dry tons of switch grass would produce 576.3 trillion British thermal units - second in the region after Kansas - more than meeting the state's entire electricity needs.

Last fall, when the President signed an executive order aiming to triple the nation's use of biomass resources by 2010, a federal study pegged the possible growth in farm income at $15 to $20 billion annually.

The economic impact of increasing use of biomass resources was estimated at $2.5 billion annually in Nebraska, of which at least half would stay in rural areas of the state. According the state's Department of Agriculture, Nebraska earns $9 billion from all farm products annually. The economic impact to rural Nebraska would be equal to half the $5 billion yearly impact of agricultural exports.

The regional potential for use of switchgrass, alfalfa and fast-growing poplars was estimated at 310 billion kilowatthours, almost one-and-a-half times the electricity use in the seven state region that includes the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri as well as Nebraska. Another 86 billion kilowatthours could be derived from crop and municipal solid wastes.

Today, the Energy Information Administration estimates only three percent of the energy used in America comes from biomass resources. Wood and ethanol feedstocks, especially corn and grain sorghum, are the predominant resources used.

Energy and Beyond

Some biomass advocates are looking beyond producing energy. Soon they hope to substitute petroleum-based chemicals with organically-derived ones.

One such venture is breaking ground at the nearby Cargill corn complex in Blair, in eastern Nebraska. In January, Cargill and Dow Chemical announced a joint venture to commercialize "natural plastic." The companies will spend an estimated $300 million on the NatureWorks venture over the next two years.

The plant, which should be operational in late 2001, will produce 300 million pounds of the new plastic - called polyactide - a year from 14 million bushels of corn. This organic plastic can be used instead of polystyrene in insulated cups and polyethylene in soft drink bottles, for example. Other products could include garbage bags and clothing. Unlike petroleum-based plastics, organic plastics decompose readily.

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What Is

switchgrass \ n : [alternative of quitch grass] Latin name: (panicum virgatum) one of a variety of grasses and herbaceous and woody plants.

Commonly called "panic grass." Virgatum is native to the Americas, extending from Canada to South America. During a season, some varieties can grow to ten feet tall and develop stems much like hardwood pencils. Most of the growth occurs during the hottest and driest parts of the growing season.


Switchgrass is a perennial, requiring no irrigation and fertilization needs that are one-quarter to one half those of corn crops. The root system, which is as extensive as growth above-ground, is able to anchor the soil and slow and filter runoff. Pastures of switchgrass normally last more than 20 years. If the grass is used as a bioenegy resource, the pastures should be replanted every ten years to take advantage of genetic gains in yields.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an acre of switchgrass will produce 20.6 times the energy required to produce it if the grass is transported directly to an ethanol plant. Corn production typically is a ratio of 6.67.

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Iowa Leaps Ahead

Hundreds of farmers in southern Iowa are players in a test of biomass-to-electricity theories.

Last year more than 4,000 acres of switchgrass were planted in the Chariton Valley region in southern Iowa. In January, some of the grass was being harvested and baled for shipment to the Alliant Energy electric plant in Chillicothe. Switchgrass, a plant native to the Great Plains, is typically harvested between October and March.

Beginning in May and over the next three years, between five and ten percent of the coal used at the plant will be replaced with switchgrass. However, before the switchgrass can be used, stones and other debris must be removed and the grass must be ground into particle-sized bits. Next, the grass is transported to the boiler where it is co-fired with coal to produce heat which boils water. The resulting steam drives a turbine generating electricity.

The test this spring will displace 1,800 tons of coal and produce enough electricity to meet the need in 1,500 homes, according to the participants. A larger switchgrass co-firing test is scheduled for the spring of 2001.

If successful, switchgrass which is typically planted on conservation reserve acres could become an energy cash crop for farmers producing 4-6 tons of grass per acre, or about $200.

This project began in 1995 and now involves a host of participants: local farmers and landowners, five companies, five state agencies, five federal agencies as well as several local entities.

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12 Take a Look

In 1999, the Legislature created the Biopower Steering Committee to determine if there are usable biomass resources - agriculture or wood products or residues and farm-grown energy crops - in the state that can be converted to energy, especially electricity.

By 2003, the group is to conclude its study, but it reports to the Legislature on its progress every year until then.

The 12-person group plans to review previous research on biomass potential in the state, investigate proven and new biomass conversion technologies and analyze the economics of biomass conversion options.

The members of the group are: Lane Kugler of Eustis, Chairman; Roger Chesley of Callaway; Robert Coupland of Valentine; Chris Dibbern of Lincoln; Senator "Cap" Dierks of Ewing; Duane Kristensen of Minden; Patrick Langan of Lincoln; Lynda Marshal of Lincoln; Larry Pearce of Bellevue; Senator Ed Schrock of Elm Creek; Frank Thompson of Columbus and Scott Welk of Grand Island.

The Steering Committee meets frequently, usually in Lincoln. For more information about this group's work, contact:

Lane Kugler
75429 Road 424
Cozad 69130
phone 308-324-2834


Larry Pearce in the Energy Office, email at Larry Pearce.

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Stretching Your Gas Dollars Without Changing Vehicles

Driver worrying about fuel expenses
Are you worrying about
fuel expenses as you drive?

Did you know that merely using fuel efficient driving techniques can improve fuel economy in most vehicles by more than ten percent? That's the news at a new federal web site.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, www.fueleconomy.gov is a tool to help consumers make wise decisions about gas mileage, vehicle safety ratings and greenhouse gas emissions of different makes and models of vehicles produced in the last 15 years.

In Overdrive

Gas miles per gallon
based on your speed

Some of the fuel-saving tips at the site:

  • In highway driving, more than 50 percent of the energy required to move your car down the road goes to overcoming aerodynamic drag - pushing air out of the way. As you drive faster, aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance increases. As a result, at speeds above 55 miles per hour, fuel economy decreases rapidly.
  • For the average passenger car, by cruising at 65 instead of 70, or 70 instead of 75, you'll be paying yourself $5 per hour in saved fuel. Owners of larger light trucks can save as much as $10 an hour.
  • Overdrive gears improve the fuel economy of your car during highway driving. When you use overdrive gearing your car's engine speed decreases. This reduces both fuel consumption and engine wear.
  • Using cruise control on highway trips can help you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will reduce your fuel consumption.

At the web site, car shoppers can also locate information - gas mileage and safety ratings - on the latest cars, pickup trucks, minivans and sport utility vehicles.

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Scotts Bluff Monument Van Turns Soy-Green

Scotts Bluff Monument

Visitors to the Scotts Bluff National Monument will soon be smelling french fries - or think they are.

The passenger van that shuttles tourists from the visitor center to the summit will be running on a blend of 20 percent biodiesel produced from soybeans and 80 percent conventional diesel

Many who have used biodiesel before have said vehicle exhaust fumes remind them of french fries.

The $47,400 federal grant received by the park will be used, in part, to pay for the cost of 500 gallons of biodiesel. The fuel decreases air pollution by reducing hydrocarbon, sodium oxides and carbon monoxide pollutants. One of biodiesel's key advantages is that its use does not require any modifications to standard diesel engines.

The fuel is expected to be used during the spring and summer tourist season. The Nebraska landmark was one of 32 national parks to receive a federal grant from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior to utilize alternative fuels in park operations.

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Getting the Low Down on Air Flow

Ventilation brochure

Sometimes, understanding the complexities of ventilation in apartment buildings can be difficult. And finding solutions to problems can be even more vexing.

That's where Energy-Efficient Ventilation for Apartment Buildings may come in handy. This guide provides definitions, descriptions and approaches to diagnose ventilation needs and to design energy-efficient systems that will achieve short and long-term benefits.

Prepared by staff at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, the guide offers solutions to maximize performance, productivity, air quality and energy efficiency in apartment buildings.

To obtain a free copy of the ventilation guide, contact Jack Osterman in the Energy Office, email at Jack Osterman

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Limited Income Mortgages Altered

HERS logo
Home Energy Rating System logo

The Energy Office has altered its home mortgages for low-income Nebraskans. Families whose incomes do not exceed 150 percent of the federal poverty level can install energy saving improvements in homes they will be purchasing without markedly increasing monthly mortgage payments.

The key change is a requirement that each home receive a Home Energy Rating System, or HERS, audit.

A second change is the Energy Office will purchase 20 percent of the mortgage if:

  • The house has an 80 percent HERS rating, or
  • The house can achieve an 80 percent HERS rating by installing energy saving improvements recommended by the HERS audit, or
  • The house's HERS rating can be increased by 20 percent by installing energy saving improvements recommended by the HERS audit.
Household Size Maximum Income
1 $12,525
2 $16,875
3 $21,225
4 $25,575
5 $29,925
6 $34,275
7 $38,625
8 $42,975
Each Additional Member Add $4,350

The mortgage rate will be one percent less than the financial institution's internal rate for that type of mortgage and may include the cost of the energy conservation measures recommended by the HERS audit. The bank, savings and loan or credit union must be a participating lender in the Dollar and Energy Saving Loan Program.

Households containing a member receiving either Aid to Dependent Children or Supplemental Security Income are automatically eligible for Limited Income Mortgages.

Please contact Pete Davis in the Energy Office, email at Pete Davis, if you would like additional information on these types of mortgages.

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Reducing Your House's Operating Costs

Many cost effective ways to lower energy costs are very simple, inexpensive and can be done in a couple of minutes.

Here are just a few:

Use windows for ventilation.

Most houses have been designed to take advantage of natural cooling breezes when they are available. When the outside air temperature is comfortable, turn off the furnace and air conditioner (using the switch on the thermostat) and open windows on opposite sides of the house to allow cross-ventilation.

Make sure interior doors are also open. Wide eaves will even allow you to leave windows open when rain threatens, as long as it's not driven by a strong wind. During parts of the summer, it's better not to open the windows, even when it cools off at night, because of the high humidity in most parts of the state.

In general, when it's humid and you need to run the air conditioner all day, you should probably use the air conditioner at night as well.

Example window treatment
Example window treatment
Window treatments capture heat in winter and reflect heat in the summer.

Use window treatments to control solar heating. Some houses can maximize the opportunity to capture free heat from the sun. During winter, windows that are in direct sunlight should have their coverings (drapes, blinds or curtains) open and other windows should be covered unless you're admiring the view or need the natural light.

During the summer, reverse this pattern and close the coverings on windows that are in direct sunlight. East and west windows are often the most significant source of unwanted summer heat, north and south windows may be less important since they may be shaded by overhangs. During spring and fall, modify these rules of thumb as necessary to keep the house comfortable.

Allow free circulation of heating and cooling air.

Don't place furniture or other objects where they can block the air flow from registers. As much as practical, you should keep interior doors open, at least a couple of inches, to allow air to return to the central return register. If you hold an interior door open a 1/4" or so and feel a strong flow of air through the crack when the furnace fan is on, then closing the door will cause an imbalance in air distribution. If that door must normally be closed, the bottom should be trimmed to allow return air to flow under the door.

Set moderate indoor temperatures.

Dress for the season: cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Old federal guidelines recommended 68° for winter thermostat settings, but that's uncomfortable for many people. Try setting the thermostat at 70° in the winter and 77° in the summer. You can adjust up or down from these settings to keep comfortable, but remember every degree you increase the temperature setting in winter will add about three percent to your heating bill. And every degree cooler you set the thermostat in summer will increase your cooling bill about four percent.

Programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats make energy saving easy. Reset the thermostat when nobody's home.

If everybody leaves the house for work or school, set the thermostat back to 60-65° in winter or up to 80° or higher in summer. Return the thermostat to its proper setting when you return home. Most furnaces and air conditioners are strong enough to make the house comfortable in a few minutes. (There is no truth to the claim that "it takes more energy to warm the house back up than you saved by setting back the thermostat"). Even if you have small children at home and can't set back the thermostat back daily, remember this if you leave town for the weekend.

Use the thermostat correctly.

Set it at the temperature you want and let it do its job. If the house is uncomfortable, adjust the thermostat setting a degree or two. Don't turn it way up or way down - it won't warm or cool the house any faster, and setting the thermostat beyond the desired temperature will overheat or overcool the house. Then you'll be tempted to open windows to cool off or warm up areas.

Change the furnace filter regularly.

The normally-recommended interval is once per month, but in tight construction such as this it's probably okay to go a couple of months per filter. Replaceable filters cost less than a dollar and are usually available at the grocery store as well as hardware stores. Changing the filter before it gets filthy will reduce the work the furnace fan has to do and improve air circulation in the house. And don't run the furnace without a filter in place because this will reduce the efficiency of the furnace heat exchanger and the air conditioning coil.

Use bathroom fans to remove moisture.

This is particularly important in summer when the extra humidity adds to your air conditioning costs. During spring and fall, it may just make the house less comfortable. In winter, if the air is very dry, you can leave the fan off and open the bathroom door after a shower to disperse humidity into the house. However, any significant condensation on windows or walls indicates that humidity is too high. Always remember to turn off the fan after the humid air has been exhausted.

Minimize humidity from cooking.

In houses without range hoods or exhaust fans, it's important to use lids on pans, especially when simmering or boiling items for a long time. Because most newly-constructed houses are designed to have minimal air leakage, the air inside will tend to be more humid than normal. Watch out for condensation on windows and walls - that's a sign that humidity is too high for your health and the health of the house.

Insulate exposed hot water pipes.

If this was not done during construction, do it now. This simple, do-it-yourself project will take less than an hour and use less than $20 worth of the split black foam pipe insulation usually available in hardware stores. Insulate all the accessible hot water pipes and the first 24" of cold water pipe where it connects to the water heater.

Reduce hot water temperature.

After insulating the pipes, you should be able to reduce the thermostat setting on your water heater. Many gas water heater thermostats are not marked in degrees but as settings from "warm" to "hot." Turn the dial to the next lower temperature and see if you run out of hot water. Continue reducing the temperature every few days until you find the lowest setting that will provide sufficient hot water on a normal day. You may need to increase the temperature occasionally when you expect overnight guests, and then return it to the lower temperature after the company leaves.

Turn off unneeded lights.

It does not use more electricity to switch on a light than to leave it on. Whenever you're leaving a room empty, you should switch off the light, especially if it is a standard, incandescent light.

Install high-efficiency lights.

Standard, incandescent light bulbs are very inefficient because most of the energy they consume is emitted as heat, not light. They're cheap, but have a rated life of only 750-1000 hours. Screw-in compact fluorescent lights, available in hardware stores, may cost $10-15, but last for 10,000 hours and produce the same amount of light for only about 1/4th as much electricity. They are a wise investment for lights that are used a lot, such as hallways, kitchens and other lights that are normally used three or more hours a day.

Energy Savers Tips
Energy Savers Tips

These and other tips can be found in the booklet, Tips for Energy Savers, that is available from the Energy Office or at Energy Savers Tips.

Another source for asking energy saving questions is "Ask an Energy Expert" at the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network. To contact the Energy Expert, call 1-800-363-3732, fax 1-703-893-0400, write EREC, P.O. Box 3048, Merrifield, Virginia 22116 or at The Energy Expert.

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The Nebraska Energy Quarterly features questions asked about 6% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans.

Loan forms may be obtained from participating lenders or the Energy Office.

Questions and Answers...
Ben Franklin on a $100 bill

5% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans

Are these improvements eligible for a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan: repairing or replacing a roof, adding siding, or replacing exterior doors and windows on an eligible building?

The replacement of doors and windows with the same sized or smaller units is an eligible, pre-qualified project if the replacement units meet minimum energy efficiency standards, or if the project is supported by an energy audit, accepted by the Energy Office, which shows costs would be recovered by savings within 15 years.

Roofing and siding projects are not pre-qualified projects by themselves, but may be included as a part of a pre-qualified project for ceiling, attic or wall insulation.

If at least R-30 of insulation is being added to a ceiling or attic of a home or building and if the roof needs to be repaired or replaced to make sure the newly added insulation is not damaged by the elements, the roofing cost may be included.

If R-10 insulation is being added to frame wall or R-5 to a masonry wall, and new siding is being installed to protect the insulation from the elements, the siding cost may be included.

A project involving adding insulation in conjunction with roofing or siding and supported by an energy audit, accepted by the Energy Office, showing the cost of the project will be recovered by energy dollar savings in 15 years or less, would also be eligible for a loan.

Which application forms are needed to replace doors and windows or for projects in conjunction with adding insulation as pre-qualified projects?

All these projects require a completed Form 2, plus one other form:

  • an application for an insulation project involving roofing must include a completed Form 2 Roofing.
  • an application to do an insulation project with siding, Form 2 Siding must be completed.
  • when replacing doors or windows, the application must include both Form 2 and Form 2 Window/Door.
Since the contractor signs the supplemental forms on roofing and siding with insulation and window and door projects, can the form serve as the contractor's bid?

Form 2 Roofing, Form 2 Siding, and Form 2 Window/Door supplement the information required on Form 2 and provide additional information about the project so the Energy Office can determine the eligibility of the project. Borrowers still must obtain a bid from the contractor for the work to be done to submit with the loan forms.

Recently, A borrower was told by a contractor that if windows were to be replaced in a home or building and financed with a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan, all the windows had to be replaced. Is that true?

No. There is no requirement that you replace all your windows at one time. Home or building owners may undertake any of a variety of energy efficiency improvements at any time they choose, provided they qualify for a loan to do the work through a participating lender.

There are borrower maximums in the loan program - for instance, $25,000 on a single family dwelling - but the borrower has the option to seek financing for the cost of whatever project, simple or very complex, he or she wants to do at one time.

If a cooling system breaks down during warm weather, can emergency approval be obtained to install a new system before the loan process has been completed?

If the cooling system breaks down any time during April through October, you can request emergency approval from the Energy Office through your lender to install qualifying equipment prior to the loan process being completed and the Energy Office committing funds to the project. However, your lender must provide the Energy Office with a written statement from your doctor verifying there is a medical reason the cooling system must be installed immediately and information on the system being installed.

In these situations, the Energy Office will review the request and notify the lender whether or not emergency approval has been granted, usually the same day. After Energy Office approval, the project may be undertaken and the loan paperwork submitted as soon as the system is installed.

If emergency approval to replace my cooling system has been received, may heating and water heating systems be replaced at the same time?

The Energy Office allows this, if all units meet the minimum standards and have been approved at the same time as the cooling system. It is usually easier and less expensive to install all of the systems at the same time, which saves borrowers' added expenses.

What types of buildings are eligible for energy efficiency improvements with a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan?

Any home or building constructed before 1995 and located in Nebraska would be eligible. This includes single family homes, multi-family and commercial buildings, and buildings used in an agricultural operation.

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Rural New Housing Opportunity

Nearly $400,000 is being made available by the Energy Office to finance new home construction in rural, non-metropolitan Nebraska until June next year.

If single family or multiple family homes are being constructed that are 30 percent above the 1995 Model Energy Code, borrowers may get a one percent reduction in the mortgage interest rate and a below market rate on a construction loan. The new housing can be built in any of 88 counties except Lancaster, Cass, Sarpy, Douglas, and Washington.

Construction of the homes must begin by June 30, 2001. Building plans and specifications must be reviewed by the Energy Office for code compliance. Before construction can begin, the agency must have signed a commitment with the lender financing the mortgage.

Under these mortgages, the Energy Office is supplying 20 percent of the principal at no interest which allows the primary mortgage lender to reduce the interest rate to the borrower by one percent.

To find out more about the reduced rate rural housing mortgages, contact Jack Osterman in the Energy Office, email at Jack Osterman.

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Getting Paid for Not Doing Anything

Bucks for Not Plowing

Will farmers be paid for using no-till, reduced-till or other soil conservation practices?

That option may become part of Nebraska farmers' revenue stream in the future according to some in the agriculture and utility industries.

In fact, several Canadian energy companies have already agreed to purchase nearly 2.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emission reduction credits. Presently, only farmers in Iowa are participating in the Canadian purchasing experiment. The Canadian experiment is similar to carbon trading systems that may become common if industrial countries reach agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Capturing Carbon

In April, the World Bank announced its Prototype Carbon Fund had attracted 15 companies and six nations - Canada, Finland, Japan, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands - and $135 million in pledges. This fledgling carbon emissions trading program will use proceeds from the experimental effort to subsidize the cost of renewable energy.

The practice of using minimal soil disruption methods is also called carbon sequestration because carbon dioxide is released from the soil each time it is tilled. Sequestering more carbon in the soil could offset carbon dioxide produced by utilities using coal to produce electricity.

A brochure that deals with carbon sequestration in a broad and general way, Growing Carbon: A New Crop That Helps Agricultural Producers and Climate, Too, is now available at state USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offices, or by phone at 1-888-LANDCARE, or at the Soil and Water Conservation Society web site, Soil and Water Conservation Society.

Because of a new law, LB 957, the Department of Natural Resources will begin to assess past and future carbon sequestration potential of agricultural lands. This assessment will establish a baseline for the carbon content in the soil and attempt to quantify the amount of carbon sequestered associated with each type of tilling and other practices, management systems and land uses.

Advisory Group Picked

The legislation also created a 14-member Carbon Sequestration Advisory Committee, including a representative from the Nebraska Energy Office. The Committee will advise the Natural Resources director, make recommendations to enhance the ability of agricultural landowners to participate in systems of carbon trading, encourage the production of educational materials regarding carbon sequestration on agricultural lands and identify areas for research.

For detailed information on the new law, LB957 can be found on the Unicameral's web site at FINAL LB957.

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50,000th Home Weatherized

Whew! It's taken 22 years to weatherize 50,000 homes of low-income Nebraskans. That's about the five times the number of homes in Fremont.

The state's weatherization program reached this milestone last December: a home in Trenton became the 50,000th home weatherized in Nebraska since the first home received free weatherization services in 1978.

Typically the types of weatherization improvements made in the homes include wall and attic insulation and checking the energy efficiency and safety of furnaces, stoves and water heaters.

Eligibility for the free home improvements is limited to households with incomes at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level. Households containing a member receiving either Aid to Dependent Children or Supplemental Security Income are automatically eligible.

Household Size Maximum Income
1 $10,438
2 $14,063
3 $17,688
4 $21,313
5 $24,938
6 $28,563
7 $32,188
8 $35,813
Each Additional Member Add $ 3,625

The Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program was created by Congress in response to the energy crises of the 1970s to help needy Americans reduce energy use. In the first few years, about $400 were spent on each home. Back then, temporary improvements such as plastic storm windows, weather-stripping and caulking were installed by volunteer labor.

Today's professional staff use sophisticated energy audit tools and diagnostic equipment to determine which cost-effective improvements should be installed to achieve the greatest energy savings and cost payback. The cost of improving each home has also increased. Now, about $2,000 is spent on each home, including the cost of the labor.

According to the Energy Office, energy use after home weatherization typically declines by 20 percent. And the savings accrue for 15 to 20 years or more. "The $3.42 million spent in 1986 to improve energy use in 2,122 homes have resulted in an estimated $4.51 million in savings so far," Pete Davis of the Energy Office said.

Back to Trenton

Trenton's location in southwest Nebraska

The home in Trenton in southwestern Nebraska was typical of weatherization projects. This elderly-occupied, site-built home received R-38 attic ceiling insulation, R-11 wall insulation, R-19 box sill/band joist insulation, blower door guided air sealing and a safety inspection on all combustion appliances. Work on the home was done by Mid Nebraska Community Services headquartered in Kearney.

Weatherization services are offered in all 93 counties. The Energy Office contracts with nine, non-profit community-based organizations, primarily community action agencies, to provide these services across the state.

The federal Departments of Energy and Health and Human Services, through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, provide most of the funding. The Energy Office expects to have $2.745 million for improving more than 1,300 homes in 2000,

For more information about free home weatherization, contact your local community action agency, or contact Pete Davis in the Energy Office, email at Pete Davis.

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State May Have To Match Federal Weatherization Dollars Next Year

sketch of weatherized houses
Sketch of
weatherized houses

The state's weatherization effort may undergo significant, yet unknown, changes as early as next July.

Last year, Congress said the states must begin contributing financially to the federal Weatherization Assistance Program. Congress believed all 50 states had budget surpluses and could now afford to pick up one-third of the cost.

Based on the proposed 2001 federal budget, Nebraska would have to provide $563,417 to receive $1,690,252 in Department of Energy funds.

The President has asked Congress to repeal the state match requirement. Governor Johanns has also asked the state's Congressional delegation to eliminate the requirement during this year's budget deliberations. "...states are being asked to provide more service and dollars for federal initiatives while at the same time trying to provide sufficient funds for competing state needs. This latest cost share requirement will likely result in a loss of weatherization services to the state's poorest and most vulnerable residents," Governor Johanns wrote in a March letter.

More on these potential changes will be decided when Congress completes its budget for 2001, probably sometime around October.

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Hands-On Experiences for Children of All Ages

Now teachers can bring energy efficiency into the classroom experience with the aid of free multidisciplinary lessons plans provided by the Alliance to Save Energy.

The plans are available on line at Alliance to Save Energy.

Complete plans can be viewed on line or downloaded as a PDF file and printed out.

Elementary School Level

  • Energy Introduction to Lesson Plans
  • Energy Sources
  • Energy Activities
  • Yesterday and Today
  • How Much Energy Do You Use?
  • Wasting Energy at Home?
  • The Pay Me Game
  • Conserving Energy at School
  • Be Sun-sible About Heating Water
  • Meter Reading

Middle School Level

  • Acid Rain
  • Cost Effective Buying
  • Converting Fuels to Obtain Energy
  • A Home Energy Audit
  • The Formation of Fossil Fuels
  • The Electric Hookup
  • Insulation: Keeping Heat In or Out
  • Window Treatments for Energy Savings
  • The Appliance Explosion
  • Energy Transformations

High School Level

  • Air Pollution: The Issue of Global Warming
  • Air Pollution: Lesson Plans
  • Energy: The Issue of Renewable Energy
  • Energy Efficient Homes
  • Generate Your Own Hydropower
  • Measuring the Number of Calories in Sunlight
  • To Conserve or Not to Conserve

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Computer Disposal Solutions on May 24 in Lincoln

Old computer ready for disposal
Old computer ready for disposal

The old joke about a computer becoming "last year's model" before you get it out of the store is rapidly becoming reality.

As computer hardware becomes dated faster and faster - and new computers replace old ones - the problem of what to do with old computers mounts.

For those facing this dilemma, WasteCap of Lincoln will host a half-day session on computer disposal options on May 24 at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 11th and "P" Streets in Lincoln. WasteCap is a voluntary business organization committed to finding low cost ways to reduce waste.

There are several alternatives to keeping old computer equipment - which may contain hazardous waste - out of landfills in the state: recycling, remanufacturing and donation of the equipment. State and local landfill officials will address hazardous waste issues, while individuals with recyclers, remanufacturing companies, schools and non-profits will provide concrete illustrations of alternatives.

According to the National Safety Council, only 11 percent of the 21 million personal computers that became obsolete in 1998 were recycled. The council expects 61.1 million more computers to be obsolete by 2004, when an estimated 6.7 percent will be recycled.

While a state Environmental Trust grant will offset part of the cost of the workshop, attendees who are not members of INFORM, a Lincoln business group, will be charged $10 a person.

For more information, or to register - early sign up is suggested - contact, Carrie Hakenkamp, WasteCap of Lincoln, phone 402-472-0888, fax 402-472-2246, or email at Waste Cap

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Information Services and Resources

telephone icon computer icon letter icon

The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse provides fact sheets, brochures, videos and publications on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

letter icon

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse,
P.O. Box 3048,
Merrifield, VA 22116

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Phone between 7am-4pm CT,
Monday-Friday. 1-800-363-3732
or for the hearing impaired call
1-800-273-2957 8am-6pm.
Fax 1-703-893-0400

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Internet: Office of EERE

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“The mission of the Nebraska Energy Office is to promote the efficient, economic and environmentally responsible use of energy.”

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Americans with Disabilities Act

In accordance with the American Disabilities Act, the state will provide reasonable accommodation to persons with disabilities. If you need reasonable accommodation to participate in any program or activity listed in this publication, please contact the Energy Office at 402-471-2186 to coordinate arrangements. Upon request, this publication may be available in alternative formats.

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U.S. DOE Grant

This material was prepared with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Grant No. DE-FG47-92CE60410. However, any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of DOE.

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