February 2002

Nebraska Energy Quarterly logo

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A Newsletter of the Nebraska Energy Office


Weatherization Improvements Reach a Milestone

An elderly, disabled man living in southwest Nebraska became the 50,000th Nebraska resident in December 1999 to have his home weatherized...

Weatherization Technician, Duane Ellis
Weatherization Technician,
Duane Ellis, measures the
square footage of a house

What is weatherization? Weatherization is making homes more energy efficient...


Lincoln Postal Center In Geothermal Test

Call it the Geothermal Pipe and Pump Bowl. Over the next four years, two federal postal carrier centers in Lincoln...

Saving Energy and Historic Courthouses...

Courthouse Trails

More than 15 years ago, a pioneering effort to demonstrate how energy efficiency could be achieved in very old, but historically significant...

Questions and Answers

5% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans

What must be done to qualify when furnaces fail in winter?...

Alternative Fuels...

National Alternative Fuels Day Odyssey

National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium logo
National Alternative
Fuels Training

Central Community College-Columbus
4500 63rd Street
Columbus, Nebraska
April 11th, 2002...

U.S. DOE Energy Grants...

$131,000 in Energy Grants for Utility Projects

The Energy Office recently received two competitively-awarded grants from the U.S. Department of Energy...

Online information & updates...

Information Services and Resources

New, updated and long-time Internet site favorites...

25 Years, 52,200 homes and more than $81 Million Later

Weatherization Improvements Reach a Milestone

Weatherization Program logo
Program logo

An elderly, disabled man living in southwest Nebraska became the 50,000th Nebraska resident in December 1999 to have his home weatherized through a decades-long, federally-funded program called the Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program.

If his home had been weatherized in 1979, when the weatherization effort got underway in Nebraska, the types of improvements made would have been substantially different than what was done two years ago.

Weatherization Technician, Duane Ellis
Weatherization Technician,
Duane Ellis, measures the
square footage of a house
as part of an audit before
weatherization improvements
are identified

Tubes and Sheets

In those early days, emergency and temporary improvements such as caulking, weather-stripping doors and windows and covering windows with plastic sheets were typical. One program veteran remembers a typical home received only a storm door and two tubes of caulk. The weatherization improvements on a home generally could not exceed $400, and in many cases, volunteers or people in federal job training programs provided the labor.

The federal weatherization effort had its origins in the oil shocks of the 1970s. Over the ensuing decades, Congressional monetary support for weatherization closely paralleled energy prices and supplies, rising and falling proportionately.

By the 1980s, longer-lasting and more cost effective home improvements such as storm windows, storm doors and attic insulation replaced the caulk and and plastic film. Nebraskans responsible for making the improvements continually sought ways to achieve better energy savings for the recipients. That's how Nebraska became one of the first states to regularly install insulation in the sidewalls of homes.

The state's weatherization professionals also confronted the issue of non-functioning or life-threatening furnaces. Under certain conditions, these health hazards can be replaced. Local service providers also began using blower doors, or very large fans, to depressurize homes so hard to find air leaks could be located and plugged.

In the last decade, weatherization technicians began using a sophisticated energy auditing tool that allows specific information about each home to be analyzed to identify the most cost-effective improvements to make in each home.

Weatherization insulator, Terry Thomas, fills attic cavities with insulation
Weatherization insulator,
Terry Thomas, fills attic
cavities with insulation
to help keep residents
warm in winter and cool
during the summer

A Quarter Cut

Studies performed after a home was weatherized indicated costs associated with space heating declined by 25 percent or more, or about $152 a year. Since the improvements made typically last 15-20 years, savings continue to accrue.

In the past several years, more than 1,100 homes have been weatherized each year. A recent analysis indicated more than half the homes receiving weatherization services are in rural areas of the state. Elderly Nebraskans live in about a third of the homes weatherized.

People must have limited incomes to receive weatherization assistance services. See page 2 for income guidelines. The guidelines are adjusted yearly. The next income revision is expected in March.

By mid-2001, a total of 52,272 homes have been weatherized at a cost of about $81,00,000. An estimated 58,000 Nebraskans remain eligible for these free weatherization services.

Funds came from a variety of sources: the U.S. Department of Energy, Petroleum Violation Escrow funds and the Nebraska Health and Human Services System through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

During the past 25 years, Nebraska's local service delivery system has remained remarkably consistent. Eight community action agencies and one non-profit corporation provide weatherization services across the state. The Energy Office administers the program at the state level.

For more info

For more information about weatherization services in Nebraska contact the regional providers listed on this page or Pete Davis in the Energy Office at 402.471.3347, or by email at Pete Davis

More specific information about national and state weatherization can be found at the following web sites:

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Frequently Asked Weatherization Questions

What is weatherization?

Weatherization Service Areas in Nebraska

map of weatherization service areas in Nebraska
Weatherization service areas in Nebraska

Weatherization is making homes more energy efficient. Weatherization of a home typically involves the installation of attic, wall and floor insulation and sealing holes and cracks with caulking, weather-stripping and other types of materials. In addition, all furnaces, cooking stoves and water heaters receive a safety inspection.

Weatherization services do not include roof replacement, siding repairs or replacement windows.

Weatherization Program
Income Levels
Household Income Size Limits
1 person $11,167
2 people $15,093
3 people $19,019
4 people $22,945
5 people $26,871
6 people $30,797
7 people $34,723
8 people $38,649
For Each Additional
Family Member
Add $3,926
Who is eligible to receive weatherization services?

Eligibility is limited to households with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level. Eligibility begins at $11,167, and rises based on the number of family members living in the home (See table). Households containing a member who is receiving either Aid to Dependent Children or Supplemental Security Income are automatically eligible to receive services.

How can weatherization services be obtained?

Nine, non-profit organizations provide local weatherization services. They are responsible for establishing eligibility, performing an energy audit on the residence and scheduling the weatherization work. The map on this page details the weatherization service areas for each organization. Additional contact information for the specific agencies can be obtained from the Energy Office's web site at Wx Assistance Program Contacts or in local telephone books.

Are renters eligible for weatherization services?

Yes, both homeowners and renters are eligible. However, renters must receive written permission from their landlords.

Is there a charge for weatherization services?

All weatherization services are provided at no cost. However, if a furnace or water heater in a rental home is found to be unsafe, it is the responsibility of the owner to replace or repair the appliance before weatherization of the home can begin.

Can mobile homes be weatherized?

Yes, typical improvements to mobile homes include underbelly insulation, storm windows and sealing air leaks.

Does weatherization reduce heating bills?

After a home has been weatherized, energy used for heating is often reduced by 25-30 percent. The amount of energy use reduction depends on the types of weatherization improvements made.

Can a home receive weatherization services every year?

A home may be weatherized only once, except that homes weatherized before October 1, 1993 may be reweatherized.

More specific information about national and state weatherization can be found at the following web sites:

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Lincoln Postal Center In Geothermal Test

Call it the Geothermal Pipe and Pump Bowl

Over the next four years, two federal postal carrier centers in Lincoln will be competing against each other each month on their buildings' energy use. The contest will help determine if geothermal equipment can provide significant energy savings without altering indoor facility designs.

In mid-1999, a geothermal heating, ventilating and air conditioning system was installed in the Northview Carrier Annex in Lincoln. This new annex is a processing center for 55 routes and houses 72 employees and 57 vehicles. A similar annex in south Lincoln, the Cheney Ridge Carrier Center, opened in fall 1998. This building has a traditional heating and cooling system that utilizes boilers and chillers.

Geothermal systems cost more to install, but typically pay for themselves within five years. The Cheney Annex's system cost $9 a square foot, $4.51 less than Northridge's. Yearly maintenance savings on Northview's geothermal system are projected to be about 64 percent less than the Cheney Ridge facility.

A $90,000 Gift

Oklahoma Gas & Electric paid for the $90,000 difference in the cost of Northridge's geothermal system. Using the facility as a test site, the utility provided the funding, design, equipment and construction monitoring.

By mid-2001, the first year's energy use numbers from both facilities were analyzed and Northview came up a winner. Operating costs on a dollar-per-square-foot basis at Northview were 24 percent, or 17 cents a square foot less than Cheney Ridge's 71 cents-per-square-foot.

Northview's geothermal equipment at the 20,400+ square feet facility consists of:

  • 72 wells that are 200 feet deep with 14,400 feet of ground heat exchangers;
  • two air handling units and water-to-air heat pumps, each with a cooling capacity of 20 ton;
  • a single chilled water unit and a water-to-water heat pump with a cooling capacity of 10 ton;
  • two hot water heat pumps and water-to-water heat pumps each supplying 38 gallons per minute of 130°F water; and
  • six fan coil units with total cooling capacity of about 6 ton.

More information about other heating and cooling systems in Nebraska can be found at these web sites:

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Out of Print No More...

Saving Energy and Historic Courthouses

drawing of old Nebraska courthouse

More than 15 years ago, a pioneering effort to demonstrate how energy efficiency could be achieved in very old, but historically significant, large public buildings was launched in Nebraska.

More than 25 counties with courthouses eligible for or on the National Register of Historic Places asked to be selected as one of the five to have improvements made in their buildings. After a thorough screening that encompassed locale, building style and age and type of project, courthouses in Antelope, Gosper, Hamilton, Kimball and Pawnee Counties were selected.

Most of the courthouse projects were fairly typical types of improvements such as replacing windows, window air conditioners and car-sized boilers from another era with more modern heating and cooling systems.

Over the next several years, details for improvements were finalized, local dollars to match more than $800,000 in oil overcharge funds were secured and the improvements made. Oil overcharge funds were sent to the states for use in energy projects and came from oil companies that overcharged consumers during the period of oil price controls in the 1970s.

The Energy Office selected Berggren and Woll Architects of Lincoln to work with the counties, define the projects and oversee improvements in the historic buildings.

In the final year of Courthouse Trails, energy savings were tabulated and compared to energy use before the improvements were made.

The Internet to the Rescue

For nearly 14 years, the booklet that chronicled this project and detailed the improvements has been out of print, except for a few copies in libraries.

The advent of the Internet and the ease with which publications can be converted to electronic formats and posted at web sites at minimal cost has made it possible for some long out-of-print publications such as Courthouse Trails to have a second life.

The Energy Office is pleased to make Courthouse Trails available to the public again. Courthouse Trails can be found at the Energy Office's web site at Courthouse Trails

Another publication, Energy Efficiency and Historic Preservation – A Planning Guide for Buildings, is also available electronically and may be useful when considering projects in historically significant buildings.

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The Nebraska Energy Quarterly features questions asked about 5% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans.

Loan forms may be obtained from participating lenders or the Energy Office, or at the agency's web site.

Loans as of June 30, 2001 ...

... 18,391 loans for $140 million

Questions and Answers...

5% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans

Ben Franklin on a $100 bill
A borrower has an enclosed porch on the front of the home. The proposed improvement would install new windows, a door and insulate the ceiling and walls to make the porch more energy efficient. Would this project qualify for an energy loan?

This project would qualify for a Dollar and Energy Saving Loan if the work that was being done met the minimum standards for pre-qualified projects and the home is more than five years old.

The standards for door, window and insulation projects are contained on Form 2. Windows, sliding or swinging glass doors, and exterior doors must be replacements of the same size or smaller. The replacement windows and glass doors must have a whole unit R-value of 2.86 or greater, or a U-value of 0.35 or less. Replacement exterior doors must have a system R-value of 4.0 or greater, or a U-value of 0.25 or less.

It is possible for the replacement windows and doors to qualify for the loan if they have certain construction features even though they do not have a documented measured performance. The required construction features are detailed on Form 2 Window/Door, which must accompany Form 2 when applying for an energy loan. The standard for ceiling insulation is the addition of at least R-30 and the standard for frame walls is the addition of R-10. The addition of R-5 is the standard for masonry walls.

A proposed project might be a pre-qualified project or might require a technical audit. Can the Energy Office help categorize the proposed project?

The Energy Office has a registered professional engineer and an architect on staff to provide the technical reviews of loan applications. Bruce Hauschild or Lynn Chamberlin can provide lenders and borrowers with guidance on the eligibility of potential projects and what documentation might be needed to accompany the application.

Continued in the next column

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Questions and Answers... continued...
5% Dollar and Energy Saving Loans continued...
If there is a waiting list for funding commitments and a project has received emergency approval from the Energy Office because the furnace was red tagged or quit working, how is the contractor paid in the meantime?

In these situations, the lender could make a bridge loan at current market rates so the contractor can be paid, and then convert the loan to a 5% energy loan when the funding commitment has been signed by the Energy Office.

Other options could include the contractor carrying the account until the lender was able to make the energy loan or covering the cost with borrower funds or some other method of financing until the 5% funding is available.

Only the actual cost of the emergency project can be included in a 5% Dollar and Energy Saving Loan. Any accrued interest or the carrying costs of interim financing cannot be included in the loan.

How does the Energy Office determine the standards for pre-qualified projects?

To establish loan program standards, the Energy Office looks at criteria used in the U.S. Environmental Agency's Energy Starr program; current model energy codes, such as the 2000 International Energy Conservation Code; and guidelines used in the Federal Energy Management Program. In the absence of any specific standards, the Energy Office considers what level of efficiency needs to be achieved to have a 10 to 15 year simple payback on the improvement. Simple payback is the period of time its takes the annual energy dollar savings to recover the initial cost of the improvement.

The Energy Office strives to have the energy efficiency levels for its pre-qualified equipment in the top 25% of all products in that category. Since 1990, the standards have been thoroughly evaluated twice, and updated to reflect the ever-increasing energy efficiency levels of equipment and materials being manufactured.

Dollar and Energy Saving Loans are made available to residents of Nebraska for energy efficiency improvements in their homes, businesses and agricultural operations. The low interest loans are provided as an incentive for Nebraskans to make a choice to invest the extra dollars needed into equipment and materials to achieve an even higher level of efficiency than they might under normal financing circumstances.

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Alternative Fuels...

National Alternative Fuels Day Odyssey

National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium logo


Central Community College-Columbus
4500 63rd Street
Columbus, Nebraska


April 11th, 2002 8:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.


  • Power Drive Program speakers from major electric utilities
  • Panel discussion with original equipment manufacturers
  • Tour of Minnesota Corn Processors' ethanol plant
  • Rides and drives in alternate fuel vehicles
  • Local industries' booths
  • Presentations and sessions with energy providers, manufacturers and product distributors
  • All alternative fuels - electric, propane, ethanol, methanol, hydrogen, natural gas and biodiesel fuels will be covered

For more information contact:

Teresa Hansen or Nick Wagoner at 1-800-642-1083 ext.1277



Web site: National Alternative Fuels Day Odyssey

Continued in the next column

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U.S. DOE Energy Grants...

$131,000 in Energy Grants for Utility Projects

The Energy Office recently received two competitively-awarded grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. Omaha Public Power District is the agency's partner on the projects.

  • A $55,000 grant will pay for a portion of the costs to demonstrate the potential for landfill gas power projects by the utility. Omaha Public Power District has planned an extensive marketing and education plan for their customers about the availability of this new, "green" power resource at a former landfill in the Omaha area.
  • A $76,000 grant will examine the feasibility of displacing natural gas use at Offut Air Force Base through the use of geothermal energy. This project will produce thermal conductivity tests, computer-based simulation studies of on-base dormitory facilities, a presentation and published study of the results and preliminary design documents.

Continued in the next column

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Online information & updates...

Information Services and Resources


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

  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse
    P.O. Box 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116
  • 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
  • Internet: EERE Consumer Info
  • EERE Factsheets

The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy or EERE is a gateway to energy efficiency and renewable energy information sources.

One of the new additions to the agency's Statistics section includes current prices for gasoline and diesel in four Nebraska cities as well as a 90 day weather forcast from the national Weather Service.

Continued in the next column

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Online information & updates... continued...

New, Updated and Long-time Internet Site Favorites

Here are several sites on the Internet that readers may find helpful or informative.


Thomas Jefferson and the Library of Congress

This is the site for the Library of Congress and is the most comprehensive site for federal legislation and information.

Among its features are:

  • The full text of all Congressional legislation introduced since 1989 Issues of the Congressional Record since 1989
  • Summaries of bills since 1973
  • Committee reports and hearing schedules as well as copies of testimony provided at hearings
  • Congressional debates and documents from 1774 to 1873

The web site is http://thomas.loc.gov

Continued in the next column

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Online information & updates... continued...

Fuel Economy Guide


Annually, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issue the Web-based Fuel Economy Guide which features information about vehicles in all clasess, from small two-seaters and compact cars to sport utility vehicles, picup trucks and minivans. The web site allows side-by-side comparisons of up to three vehicles at a time and includes vehicle-specific fuel economy data and an annual fuel cost calculator for new and used vehicles dating back to 1985.

A search engine enables users to find vehicles according to manufacturer, class and miles per gallon.

The Guide can be found at Fuel Economy

Energy Education Resources: Kindergarten Through 12th Grade

This resource is published by the National Energy Information Center to provide students, educators and other information users a list of generally available free or low-cost energy-related education materials. The resources are accessible via the Web, may be downloaded, or a traditional printed copy may be obtained from the Information Center.

Energy Education Resources

Energy Information Directory

This redesigned directory is only available on the Internet and includes the latest information on government and non-government organizations that provide public energy information. The Directory includes information centers, technology centers, state energy offices and numerous trade associations with a concise and up-to-date listing of energy contacts and resources.

The index for the Energy Information Directory can be found at EIA's web site at EIA Energy Information Directory

Continued in the next column

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Online information & updates... continued...

Regional U.S. Energy Profiles

This new and expanding section at the Energy Information Administration web site provides a series of brief reports and maps about U.S. energy markets and current consumption issues.

Among the listings are:

  • Renewable Energy Maps. This series integrates solar, geothermal, and wind energy potentials with indicators of hydroelectric, biomass and wood energy. All renewable energy power plants of a certain size are also plotted. The West North Central region, which includes Nebraska, can be found at: Renewable Energy Maps
  • Data Abstracts provide statistical regional snapshots of energy use in household, commercial and manufacturing sectors as well as the region's geography, natural resources, economy, agriculture and industry.
  • Energy Market Maps plot the geographic location of energy infrastructure including electric plants, transmission lines, oil ports, refineries and natural gas pipeline flow and market centers.
  • Appliance reports compares long-term trends in market share of more than 20 appliances and air conditioning in the U.S. to trends in each census region.

Regional U.S. Energy Profiles can be found at Regional U.S. Energy Profiles.

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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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