FAQ

What are the benefits of enrolling in a Clean Energy for Us campaign?
The benefits of enrolling include:

  • -Discounted solar pricing
  • -A free energy efficiency audit
  • -Vetted contractors and equipment
  • -Education on the technology, interconnection, tax credits, rebates, and financing

We save you time, money, and work.

What is energy efficiency?
How is CE4U different from Solarize?
Our program grew out of an innovative neighborhood solar buying co-op that started in Oregon called Solarize Portland. We brought that model to the Southeast with our first campaign in Asheville, NC, called Solarize Asheville. That program led to the adoption of solar by 52 homeowners (adding 251KW of renewable energy to the grid). However, not everyone can afford solar, even with the tax breaks, so we added an energy efficiency track to the mix. Here’s a run-down of how we differ from Solarize programs around the country:

  • -We work with multiple contractors;
  • -We negotiate pricing for both solar and energy efficiency;
  • -Enrollment is open to homeowners, businesses, and non-profit organizations;
  • -We are self-supporting through a small one-time fee that is paid by the contractor to help us continue administering clean energy campaigns across the Southeast.
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We define energy efficiency as “using less energy to provide the same service.” It starts with identifying the issues and their order of importance. EE is achieved through improvements to the building envelope in areas that form the thermal & air barrier between conditioned and unconditioned space.

From an existing home standpoint, EE improvements should normally consist of items listed in this order:

  1. Identify and fix moisture and combustion safety issues
  2. Air sealing (insulation doesn’t stop air movement)
  3. Duct sealing (average duct system leaks 20%)
  4. Insulation and insulation alignment (insulation only works if contacting surface it intends to insulate)

What are the benefits of investing in energy efficiency?
The benefits of energy efficiency include:

    • -Energy and monetary savings
    • -Improved comfort
    • -Improved indoor air quality
    • -Increased durability
    • -Increased re-sale value
    • -Reduced environmental impacts
    • -Reduced pest infiltration issues

Energy efficiency has the greatest payoff of any other energy resource available, including solar. That is why we consider it the best investment a homeowner can make.

How does energy efficiency pay off as an investment?
Most homes have plenty of potential for low-cost efficiency improvements that will drastically reduce electricity use and produce exponential savings for every dollar invested. The US EPA has found that investments in efficiency improvements have a far better monetary return than any other investment strategy available to consumers and building owners.

The average homeowner can cut their consumption by 20-30% and reduce their heating and cooling loads by 40%. The average return on investment (ROI) for EE is 14%. The payback can be as little as 1-2 years for things like lighting, and 5-6 years for things like insulation.

This calculator can help you translate the payback from your energy savings.

Who is a good candidate for energy efficiency?
Any homeowner who currently feels their home is not performing qualitatively or quantitatively to a standard they are comfortable with is a candidate for energy efficiency. Problem areas in the home that can be rectified include:

  1. High energy bills
  2. Hot and cold spots within the home
  3. Unbalanced temperatures between and upstairs and downstairs
  4. Moist or musty feeling or odors
  5. Allergies/Asthma
  6. Drafty rooms

What is an energy efficiency audit?
A basic energy audit is a walk-through analysis of all energy-related, indoor air quality, and health and durability features within the home. Areas included in the audit include:

  • -Attic
  • -Crawlspace/basement
  • -HVAC systems
  • -Lighting
  • -Appliances
  • -Windows and doors
  • -Moisture issues
  • -Any pertinent structural weakness

A prioritized scope of work is formulated based on the results of the audit. The audit details what areas for improvement the homeowner has, what projects can alleviate those weaknesses, and which projects should be performed in what order, determined by rate of return on investment.

How much do energy efficiency upgrades typically cost?
The cost for basic energy efficiency/retrofit improvements can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on complexity and scale of issues. Efficiency improvements generally pay back within 6-7 years, but can pay back in as little as 1-2 years.

Are there any rebates available for energy efficiency?
Duke Energy offers rebates for:

  • -Duct sealing
  • -Attic insulation & air sealing
  • -Duct Insulation
  • -Heat pump water heaters
  • -High-efficiency HVAC replacement 15 SEER min.

How do I gather my utility information for the assessment form?
 Electricity data (ideally the kWh per month.) If you are a Duke customer, go online to www.progress-energy.com and login to your account. If you dont have an account, create one by clicking the Need to Register button.

  • 1. Click Access your account on the right
  • 2. You may need to enter your account # and pin, located on your bill
  • 3. Go to payment history/bill history
  • 4. You can also call 800-452-2777 and request the information

Fuel data (ideally gallons for fuel oil, therms for gas, cords for wood.)

  • 1. If you are a PSNC customer, go online to www.psncenergy.com
  • 2. If you are not registered for online access go to Register for an online account
  • 3. Enter your account number and the activation code found on your bill or your social security number
  • 4. Create a username and password
  • 5. Go to the Account Management page
  • 6. At the top right of the page go to Other Options
  • 7. Go to Energy Analyzer and then Consumer History

Water data (ideally CCF)

  • 1. Call your City Water Department.
  • 2. Request a printout of the last two years
  • 3. They will mail you a copy of your usage

What is the process for investing in energy efficiency?
If you qualify as an EE candidate:

  1. We will assign you to an EE partner
  2. Your EE partner will call you to schedule your free energy audit
  3. The audit is completed and you receive the results, as well as a proposed prioritized Scope of Work
  4. If you decide to go ahead with the work, you will receive a Services Agreement detailing the work to be performed
  5. At this time you may review financing options with the contractor
  6. Both parties sign the contract
  7. The work is completed
  8. The contractor will complete all pertinent paperwork for your rebates
  9. The contractor will perform final inspections and collect final payment

What is solar photovoltaic (PV)?
Solar Photovoltaic (PV) converts sunlight directly into electricity to offset your building’s electric consumption. Systems can be installed on a roof or on the ground. Systems may be “off-grid,” but are most commonly interconnected (grid-tied) without batteries.
What are the benefits of solar?

  • -Solar power reduces your monthly electricity bill and saves you money after the system has been paid back by energy savings.
  • -By purchasing your power upfront, solar owners avoid probable increases in future electric costs from their utility.
  • -Use of solar reduces pollution as well as your carbon footprint.
  • -Solar reduces our dependence on foreign energy supplies.
  • -Going solar creates jobs and stimulates economic development.

What makes a good solar candidate?

  • -You have a viable solar site.
  • -You have federal & state tax liability, which allows you to take advantage of the tax credits.
  • -You spend at least $60-$80 per month on electricity.
  • -You have capital or the ability to finance a solar system.

If you heat your water with an old, inefficient water heater (oil or electric) or have large, consistent hot water demand then you qualify as a candidate for solar thermal, which is a technology that uses the sun’s energy to heat water or power solar cooling systems.

What makes a good solar site?

  • -Southern exposure
  • -Ability to angle panels 30-45 degrees
  • -4-6 hours of direct sunlight
  • -Open roof area, about 100 sq. ft. per 1 kW
  • -Roof in good repair

What is net metering?

Net metering allows customers to export power to the grid during times of excess generation and receive credits that they can apply to later electricity usage. The utility charges customers only for the “net” power that they consume.  No batteries needed.

Does Duke Energy pay a cash rebate for installing solar?

If you are a Duke Energy Progress customer and a homeowner, you may qualify for a cash rebate through Duke Energys SunSense Program.  Currently, this program offers $500 for every 1kW that is installed. However, there is a limit on how many more people can participate in 2014 and in 2015 Duke will reduce this rebate to $250 for every 1kW that is installed. This is a great incentive to sign a solar contract in September or October of 2014 so that you may qualify for this cash rebate. Our solar partners will advice on this issue after they complete your on-site solar assessment. 

What is the federal personal income tax credit?

“A taxpayer may claim a credit of 30% of qualified expenditures for a system that serves a dwelling unit located in the United States that is owned and used as a residence by the taxpayer.” Click this link for the nitty-gritty. In the meantime, here’s a summary:

  • -Federal personal income tax credit = 30%
  • -No cap on PV or thermal systems
  • -Excess credit may be carried over to the next tax year
  • -Credit is reported on Form 5695
  • -This tax credit expires on 12/31/2016 and will likely be reduced to 10%.

What is the NC personal renewable energy tax credit?

“North Carolina offers a tax credit equal to 35% of the cost of eligible renewable energy property constructed, purchased or leased by a taxpayer and placed into service in North Carolina during the taxable year.” Click this link for the nitty-gritty. In the meantime, here’s a summary:

  • -NC Personal Renewable Energy Tax Credit = 35%
  • -Allowable credit may not exceed 50% of a taxpayer’s state tax liability for the year
  • -Unused amount may be carried forward up to 5 years
  • -Credit reported on Forms D400 TC, 478, 478G
  • -Credit expires on 12/31/2015*
  • -Caps:
    • $1,400 for solar thermal providing domestic hot water
    • $3,500 for solar thermal providing domestic hot water AND heat supplementation
    • $10,500 for solar PV
    • Unused amount may be carried forward up to 5 years
  • *Contact your NC state representative and senator to request that they renew this important incentive.

How does financing work?
Financing, coupled with state and federal tax credits can make solar or energy efficiency an attractive and affordable investment. A number of options exist for financing a solar system, and homeowners may use these options to finance energy efficiency projects as well. These options include a home equity line of credit (HELOC), a loan through local financer, Self-Help Credit Union, or a loan through Admirals Bank.
How do I qualify for a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)?
A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELC) is the most common means of financing solar or energy efficiency projects and can take place through almost any lending institution.

Eligibility:

  • -Must have equity in your home
  • -Minimum credit score

Benefits:

  • -Low interest rate (typically between 2.75% 4.75%)
  • -No origination fees, closing costs, or penalties

How does a loan through Admirals Bank work?
Admirals Bank loan products may be used for solar or energy efficiency. For a residential solar system, you may re-amortize your loan within the first 24 months of receiving any tax credits. No appraisal required. Drawbacks:

  • -Higher interest rates (4.95% 11.99%)
  • -Minimum credit score of 650
  • -Possible fees for origination, recording, title search, inspection fee, notary closing

How can a non-profit finance a solar project?

  1. Purchase directly
  2. Finance with a commercial solar loan product
  3. Use a tax equity investor model*
  4. Receive donations**

*Investors form a business structure through which they purchase a solar system and install it on the nonprofit organization. Investors generate a return on their investment over five years and donate the system to the nonprofit in year six.

**Taxpayers who donate to a non-profit solar project may write off the donation and claim a NC tax credit proportional to the project costs donated (Senate Bill 3, 2007).

How does purchasing solar lead to rate control & predictability?
Electricity rates will continue to increase and solar hedges against that for people who invest today. In fact, this is one of the motivating factors for people joining our program. Over the past 20 years Duke Energy Carolinas has increased residential electricity rates by 44% and most recently increased residential electricity rates by:

  • –7.2% in 2012 (Duke Energy Carolinas NC customers)
  • -7.5% over 2 years in 2013 (Duke Energy Progress customers in NC)
  • -0.1% 2.8% in 2014 (Duke Energy Progress customers in SC)

Duke Energy Progress is currently petitioning to raise residential surcharge from 20 cents to 80 cents and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects U.S. residential electricity prices to increase by another 3.1% this year and 2.4% next year. Solar protects against this volatility.

How does solar and energy efficiency reduce coal pollution in NC?
In 2013, 44% of NC’s in-state electricity generation came from coal shipped by rail and truck from West Virginia and Kentucky. In 2012, Duke Energy spent $1.7 billion out of the state to purchase coal. NC has 14 coal-fired power plants and 50 coal ash impoundments. We rank #9 in the country for coal ash generation. NC’s regulations are severely deficient for this waste. When you go solar you are reducing your reliance on and consumption of coal and other fossil fuels.
What happens if I need to repair my roof after going solar?
If you need to repair your roof after installing solar, you can leave the mounts in place, remove the panels, and re-shingle.
How much maintenance do solar panels require?
Solar panels in NC rarely require maintenance.

 

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