25 Years, 52,200 homes and more than $81 Million Later
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 through a decades-long,
federally-funded program called the Low-Income Weatherization
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.
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
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
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.
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
More specific information about national and state weatherization
can be found at the following web sites:
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.
For Each Additional
Who is eligible to receive weatherization
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
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
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:
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
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
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:
More than 15 years ago, a pioneering effort to
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
New, Updated and Long-time Internet Site Favorites
Here are several sites on the Internet that readers may find
helpful or informative.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.