Wells Rural Electric Company’s Energy-Efficiency & Rebate Programs

Many members are signing up for more comfort at home and using less energy

By Dianna Troyer

Ductless heat pump systems use 25% to 50% less energy to heat homes that have zonal electric heat or a forced-air electric furnace. Photo courtesy of the Bonneville Power Administration

Within a short time, Garrick Richins’ crews make noticeable home improvements that will make residents more comfortable and reduce energy use for years.

“It’s really gratifying to hear people tell us their air conditioning and heat doesn’t kick on as much as it did previously,” says Garrick, president of GNR Enterprises. “Or they say their home stays at a more comfortable temperature for longer.”

Garrick coordinates with Wells Rural Electric Company to implement an energy-efficiency program administered through Efficiency Services Group.

The program is funded through Bonneville Power Administration rates, which include energy-efficiency dollars allocated to electric cooperatives to reduce members’ electrical use.

The energy-efficiency program was temporarily curtailed when Nevada officials issued a COVID-19 mandate prohibiting workers from entering homes due to fears of the virus spreading.

“We’re back in full swing,” says Spencer Egbert, coordinator of energy services at WREC.

For site-built homes, Garrick and his crews insulate and air seal attics and floors. In manufactured homes, they insulate attics and the homes’ bellies.

Last month, they began installing ductless heat pump systems, which use 25% to 50% less energy to heat homes that have zonal electric heat or a forced-air electric furnace.

A ductless heat pump system can be installed in less than a day. It includes a wall-mounted unit inside the home, and a compressor and condenser outside.

During colder weather, the system extracts and concentrates heat from the outside air, and conditioned warm air is pumped inside to comfortably heat an indoor space. During warmer weather, the system works in reverse to expel hot air from indoors and cool the home.

Rebates of $1,000 are offered for eligible installations. Income-qualified members may be eligible to receive a free ductless heat pump.

In addition to insulation and heat pumps, several other residential energy-efficiency programs are available through WREC.

“We want members to know they can contact us to see what rebates and energy-saving products might work for them,” Spencer says.

Certain home upgrades are free, depending on a member’s household income and family size. Income qualifications and an application form are available on our website.

“That information goes to a third-party provider, and we don’t see it,” Spencer says. “When a member qualifies, the secure third party makes an appointment with the applicant.”

Through the Plug Into Savings Program, residential members can receive free LED bulbs, load-sensing power strips, water-saving showerheads, aerators and thermostatic shower valves. Free thermostats are available, too.

Rebate programs for all income levels are offered for insulation and items that meet Energy Star standards, including washers and dryers, heat pump water heaters, residential manufactured homes, windows and doors, and smart thermostats.

For certain rebates, members must submit the rebate form within 6 months of having the work done.

“We’re here to give advice about whatever energy program you’re interested in,” Spencer says.

He notes that WREC’s normal electrical rates are, in many cases, lower than what some solar companies offer. He encourages members who consider installing solar panel systems to contact WREC.

“We want to look to the future to see what does and doesn’t work for members to help reduce energy use,” Spencer says. “We want our members to know that WREC is always looking for ways to help.”

By the Numbers

Energy-efficiency upgrades have made homes more comfortable and reduced electrical use throughout Wells Rural Electric Company’s service area, with the following breakdown the past three years:

  • 2022—95 homes, 451,572.29 kilowatt-hours (kWh) saved
  • 2021—167 homes and one apartment complex, 1,583,414.58 kWh saved during COVID
  • 2020—79 homes and four apartments, 687,892.68 kWh saved

The impressive savings totaled 2,722,879.55 kWh, which is enough to power 254 homes for a year.