Smart $aver® Custom Incentives FAQs
What are examples of energy conservation measures that could receive Custom Incentives?
Custom Incentive applications may include, but are not limited to, variable speed air compressors, thermal improvements to the roof and wall insulation, upgrades to windows and doors, on-demand ventilation systems, energy management systems, HVAC tune-up initiatives, energy recovery systems, energy-saving process upgrades, retro-commissioning of existing buildings, and non-prescriptive lighting measures such as reflectors.
What are the criteria for eligibility and what information do I need to provide?
Proposed energy conservation measures may be eligible for Custom Incentives if they clearly reduce electrical consumption and/or energy demand. Customers must submit a completed Custom Incentive application, questionnaire, and supporting documentation, which outlines the proposed project and provides energy-saving estimates and implementation costs. To avoid delays in receiving your preliminary incentive offer, ensure that the application is completely filled out and that all of the additional supporting data is attached to the application.
Currently, program guidelines do not allow for incentives that reduce the simple payback to under one year.
If you would like more information on the application data requirements for your project and/or a general idea of what incentive you might expect, please use the Smart $aver Custom Incentive Planning Form for project pre-screening. Use the form to provide us with a little information on your proposed project, and we will respond with advice on submitting a full application form.
What is the process for Custom Incentive applications?
Please allow at least one month for your Custom Incentive application to be reviewed. Trade Allies who are completing an application to be incorporated into a customer proposal should plan well in advance to allow sufficient time.
Phase I: Application Process
The process begins when Duke Energy receives a Custom Incentive application (see application for submission instructions). After receipt, the application will be initially reviewed and the customer will be notified if there is any missing information. Once the application is complete, a technical review of the project takes place. During the technical review, the customer may be contacted again with a request for additional supporting data. Once the technical review is complete and all data has been accepted, the preliminary incentive is calculated and communicated to the customer. Duke Energy strives to review applications as quickly as possible – reviews currently average 1 month in duration, with some applications requiring additional time. The length of time varies depending on the number of applications under review and the complexity of your project. If, at any time during the process, Duke Energy determines that the energy conservation measures do not meet its requirements, then the customer will be notified immediately.
Phase II: Installation and Payment
Once a preliminary incentive is approved and accepted by the customer, the customer may proceed with installation. Upon completion, the customer notifies Duke Energy by submitting a completion form provided with the offer letter as well as receipts, invoices, or other proof of installation. Duke Energy then issues the payment in approximately 10 business days.
Phase III: Measurement & Verification
Duke Energy verifies a portion of approved Custom Incentive applications. This involves an independent third-party visiting the facility where the energy conservation measures were installed to take measurements of the energy reductions.
What amount of Custom Incentive can be expected on an approved application?
Duke Energy calculates an incentive for each individual Custom Incentive application. The incentive is ultimately tied to the impact of the measures on the customer’s load profile. Past incentives range from approximately 25 to 150 percent of the projected annual electrical savings from the proposed energy efficient equipment.
Why does the application form ask for so much detail?
Duke Energy’s Custom Incentive program is designed differently from other utilities. We do not limit the amount we can provide in incentives, but we are only compensated for real, verified electrical energy and demand reductions that result from approved projects. Duke Energy performs a significant amount of due diligence on the information submitted in each application to ensure that the claimed energy conservations impacts will be realized after installation.
If you are unsure whether it is worth your time to submit a Custom application, please complete the Smart $aver Custom Incentive Planning Form. Provide us with a little information on your proposed project and we will respond with advice on submitting a full application form.
What rate should be used to calculate annual monetary savings from a proposed project?
Refer to your bill(s) or ask your Duke Energy Account Manager about your electricity rate schedule. If your facility is billed on a time-of-use–rate, then the cost savings estimate should be calculated using on-peak and off-peak charges, as well as the appropriate energy and demand for on-peak and off-peak hours.
How does one apply for a project that involves some energy conservation measures that qualify for Prescriptive Incentives and some that require a Custom Incentive application?
If equipment that is eligible for a Prescriptive Incentive is submitted through the Custom application, the equipment will still receive the same incentive as it would through a Prescriptive application.
If the equipment that requires a Custom Incentive application is not integrated with the equipment that qualifies for a Prescriptive Incentive, then we encourage you to only submit the equipment that requires a Custom Incentive application. This will speed up the review process. If a combination of Prescriptive-eligible and Custom equipment is submitted, then we may ask you questions about the equipment in order to determine the most appropriate way to calculate an incentive.
My project reduces non-electrical energy use. Does it qualify?
Duke Energy’s Smart $aver Custom Incentive program is only applicable to projects that reduce electrical energy and/or demand through energy efficiency measures.
Another electric utility provides a rebate that is not listed on Duke Energy’s Smart $aver Prescriptive Incentive application. Is it eligible for a Custom Incentive?
Possibly. Submit a Custom Incentive application and the energy conservation measure will be considered.
Can I apply for a Custom Incentive if my project has already started?
No. Custom Incentives require pre-approval, which means that you must apply and receive approval before you start your project. The timing of the application is critical. You should apply once you have a proposal for a measure that will reduce your electrical usage, but BEFORE any equipment has been ordered, purchased or installed.
What do I do if I receive a Custom Incentive offer and the energy conservation measures I undertake subsequently become part of the Prescriptive Incentive program?
Whenever feasible, energy efficiency equipment will be added to the list of Prescriptive Incentives. If the Prescriptive Incentive program adds a measure for which you have already received a Custom Incentive offer, then the following will apply:
- If the measure is added to the Prescriptive application before you complete your project, then you may receive the higher of the two amounts for your project.
- If the measure is added to the Prescriptive application after you have applied for a Custom Incentive payment for your project, then you will receive the Custom Incentive. There will be no adjustments to the incentive paid if the Prescriptive and Custom Incentives differ.
Because the Prescriptive Incentives involve averages across all customers and Custom Incentives are based on one customer, it is common for there to be some variation in Custom Incentive and Prescriptive Incentive offer amounts.
Are the following eligible for Custom Incentives?
- Capacitor banks: No. In most cases, the benefits of installing capacitors do not include significant energy and/or demand reductions.
- Compressed air redundancy: Smart $aver incentives require that the equipment being replaced be removed and disposed of properly. In the case of compressed air, adding system redundancy can be important. We permit you to keep the old compressed air system as a back-up to the new system in case of failure or maintenance. To qualify for a Custom Incentive and keep the old compressed air system as a back-up, the customer must provide and commit to an operational plan for the back-up system when submitting the custom application.
- De-lamping: Some de-lamping is eligible. As with any lighting project, the proposed light levels must be appropriate to the space involved. Provide a lumen method and study with a Custom Incentive application for de-lamping, and keep in mind that the de-lamping must have a simple payback of more than one year to be eligible for an incentive,
- High performance ballasts combined with reduced wattage bulbs: Please refer to the question “Are high performance ballasts combined with reduced wattage bulbs eligible for Smart $aver Custom Incentives?”
- Induction light fixtures: Yes. As with any lighting project, the fixture application must be appropriate to the proposed induction fixture. This prevents subsequent retrofits from negating the projected energy savings.
- LEDs: Some LEDs are eligible and others are not at this time. See details below.
- New construction: Yes. With new construction and major renovations, the baseline is equal to the equipment or facilities that the customer would install if an incentive was not available from Duke Energy. Typically, this baseline is the facilities/equipment that meet the building energy code requirements, usually ASHRAE 90.1 2007. For new construction, the incremental implementation cost is the difference between the cost of the baseline equipment/facilities and the cost of the proposed energy-saving equipment/facilities. The proposed design must consume less electrical energy than the baseline design to receive an incentive.
- Polarized refrigerant oil additives: No. It is not clear that these additives can consistently produce savings in the ranges that vendors claim. Most HVAC manufacturers do not recommend using these additives in their systems, and, in some cases, will void the warranty of the system.
- Power factor correction equipment: No. The annual kilowatt-hour savings of power factor correction equipment is negligible.
- Renewable energy generation technologies: No. See details below.
- Surge protector/voltage control devices: No. In most cases, the benefits of voltage control devices do not include significant energy and/or demand reductions.
- VFDs on new equipment: For some new equipment, a VFD is considered to be a standard feature. In those cases, the VFD is not eligible for an incentive. Where a VFD is not standard for new equipment, an appropriate baseline can be established and the project simple payback is above one year, the application can be considered. On retrofit projects, VFDs can be considered if reduced electrical consumption is projected for the equipment on which the VFD is to be installed.
- VSD air compressors (Ohio only): Eligibility depends on the equipment being replaced. New air compressors with variable speed drives are now eligible for a Prescriptive Incentive and should not be submitted through the Custom application. To qualify for a Prescriptive Incentive, the new unit must be a variable speed rotary vane compressor or variable speed screw compressor that replaces a rotary unit with inlet modulation control. Replacing other types of compressors as well as other compressed air system upgrades may qualify for Custom Incentives. Examples include replacing load/unload and variable displacement units; equipment replacement that results in a change in system size; and replacements integrated with automatic drains, air storage and controls.
Smart $aver Custom Incentives and renewable energy generation technologies
The Smart $aver program regulations do not allow Duke Energy to offer incentives for renewable energy generation projects. Although these projects will reduce a customer’s electricity purchases from Duke Energy, the approved programs are designed specifically for energy efficiency.
Example technologies that are not eligible for Smart $aver incentives include solar PV, wind, biomass-fueled generation, and combined heat and power. Any Smart $aver Custom Incentive application for these renewable energy generation projects will be declined. Currently, solar thermal for water heating is under review and eligibility is yet to be determined. Any Smart $aver Custom Incentive application for solar thermal for water heating will be placed on hold until eligibility is determined.
Are LED light bulb replacements eligible for Smart $aver Custom Incentives?
LED light bulbs that have earned the Energy Star® rating can be evaluated for a Custom Incentive. Click this link for eligible bulbs:
Details of Smart $aver Custom Incentive LED lamp eligibility are listed below.
Indoor LED Lamps:
- Ohio – Energy Star LED lamps replacing indoor incandescent bulbs must be submitted using the Smart $aver Prescriptive application. Other Energy Star LED Lamp replacements may be eligible for a Custom Incentive.
- Carolinas – Energy Star LED lamps may be eligible for a Custom Incentive. LED lamps must be listed on the Energy Star Qualified Light Bulbs list to qualify.
Outdoor LED Lamps:
- Ohio – Energy Star LED lamps replacing incandescent bulbs (retrofit only) may be eligible for a Custom Incentive. LED lamps must be listed on the Energy Star Qualified Light Bulbs list to qualify.
- Carolinas – Energy Star LED lamps may be eligible for a Custom Incentive. LED lamps must be listed on the Energy Star Qualified Light Bulbs list to qualify.
Energy Star qualified products are eligible for Custom Incentives where an LED light bulb will replace a non-LED light bulb in an existing fixture. On new construction, Energy Star qualified products are eligible for Custom Incentives as compared to the alternative non-LED light bulb that is appropriate for the fixture being installed.
Are LED fixtures eligible for Smart $aver Custom Incentives?
Some LED fixtures (where both bulb and ballast are replaced) are eligible for Custom Incentives. While we believe LED lighting has the potential to save customers a significant amount of energy, we provide incentives for only the most efficient and reliable products on the market. LED fixture Smart $aver Custom Incentive eligibility is listed below:
LED Fixture –Indoor:
- Ohio – Energy Star or DLC qualified LED fixtures replacing 60 to 100 watt incandescent downlights should be submitted using the Smart $aver Prescriptive application. Energy Star or DLC qualified LED fixtures replacing the following may be eligible for a Custom Incentive.
- Incandescent downlights less than 60 watts or greater than 100 watts,
- Non-downlight incandescent, or
- Any non-incandescent fixture.
Some fixture categories will not be covered by Energy Star or DLC evaluation standards. Refer to the documentation below for direction in applying for Custom Incentives for such fixtures.
- Carolinas – Energy Star or DLC qualified LED fixtures replacing any fixture may be eligible for a Custom Incentive. Some fixtures categories will not be covered by Energy Star or DLC evaluation standards. Refer to the documentation below for direction in applying for Custom Incentives for such fixtures.
LED Fixture – Garage & Outdoor:
- Ohio –Energy Star or DLC qualified LED fixtures replacing high intensity discharge fixtures are eligible for Smart $aver Prescriptive Incentives. Energy Star or DLC qualified LED fixtures replacing other fixtures may be eligible for a Custom Incentive. Some fixtures categories will not be covered by Energy Star or DLC evaluation standards. Refer to the documentation below for direction in applying for Custom Incentives for such fixtures.
- Carolinas – Energy Star or DLC qualified LED fixtures replacing any fixture may be eligible for a Custom Incentive. Some fixture categories will not be covered by Energy Star or DLC evaluation standards. Refer to the documentation below for direction in applying for Custom Incentives for such fixtures.
For more information on Energy Star and DLC performance standards, please visit the following:
If the fixture category is not addressed by Energy Star or DLC, what are the LED qualification requirements?
Through the Smart $aver Custom Incentive process, Duke Energy can evaluate specialty fixtures on a case-by-case-basis, as resources allow. Because of the added fixture qualification requirement in the review process, turnaround time for incentive offers, if granted, may take longer than with other applications. Prospective applications should include any and all available warranties, specifications and independent lab test results. Such documents include the following:
- Product data sheet with complete information on exact options being specified.
- LM-79 test. Provide report on results of testing, conducted according to IES standard LM-79 that provides efficacy, output, color and photometric distribution of your product. At a minimum, the LM-79 test report(s) should include:
- Luminaire efficacy (Lm/w)
- Light output (Lumens)
- Color rendering index (CRI)
- Correlated color temperature (CCT)
- LM-80 test. Provide LED package manufacturer IES LM-80 test report with results showing relative (%) light output over time at 55°C, 85°C and X°C (a third temperature at the manufacturer’s choice).
- In-Situ temperature test. Provide test report indicating the temperature of the hottest LED In-Situ in ANSI/UL 1598-04 (hardwired) or ANSI/UL 153-05 (corded) environments. This temperature measurement will be used with LM-80 data to validate lumen maintenance and useful life of product. Note that this temperature measurement should be specially requested from the manufacturer as they are getting their UL testing.
- Product warranty and proof of UL listing.
Additional documentation, including photometric layouts, site plans and project site information may be required.
Testing by the U.S. Department of Energy’s CALiPER (Commercially Available LED Product Evaluation and Reporting) program indicates that some manufacturers provide product specification sheets that show inaccurate or misleading information. Due to this, a Custom Incentive application for any proposed LED fixture requires a copy of a lab test reports performed by a CALiPER testing laboratory, listed at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/test_labs.html.
Are high performance ballasts combined with reduced wattage bulbs eligible for Smart $aver Custom Incentives?
In order for high performance or reduced wattage fluorescent lighting installations to qualify for a Smart $aver Prescriptive Incentive, both the ballast and the bulb must be on the same CEE list. Until industry listings can be updated, lighting projects that don’t meet the Prescriptive requirement can be submitted for a Custom Incentive. To qualify for a Custom Incentive, the following criteria must be met:
- The application must be submitted in advance of the project
- The application must be complete and go through the normal process for a Custom Incentive pre-approval. (Note: applying for a Custom Incentive does not guarantee that one will be approved.)
- Both the ballast and bulb must appear on either the CEE high performance list or the CEE reduced wattage list.
- The manufacturer must provide a warranty for the ballast and bulb combination proposed for the project.
- The manufacturer warranty must be effective for more than 12 months after installation.
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