My last column about the season of giving suggested that green living can be a wonderful way to express our appreciation to those we care about. Just after I wrote it, a friend sent a wonderful email providing a real world example of exactly what I had in mind. I'll refer to this couple as Jenn and Rob.
The excitement in Jenn's email was obvious. She mentioned "a merrier Christmas season" for her and Rob, attributing it to the energy-efficiency measures they had implemented earlier this year after moving in to a home built in the early '60s.
Jenn included some images of a recent online utility bill and wrote, "Just look at our latest NV Energy bill. See the graph comparing our energy use to neighboring homes?! Our house is a little larger than average for this neighborhood and we are paying close to 40 percent less each month in energy bills!"
She told me later that she just got excited while paying the bill and decided to share the news with her friends. Energy efficiency may not be the sexiest thing in the world, but I can almost guarantee that every time Jenn and Rob get their bill, they will both be grateful for what they have given to each other.
How did they do it? Here is what Jenn wrote:
"Following our energy efficiency upgrades we tested out at about a 37 percent improvement. And our NV Energy bills have been right on track! We started with an $11,000 total package that included a new variable speed pool pump, blown-in attic insulation, replacement of one of two heat pumps, and new programmable thermostats. Still, we were only out of pocket $1,700 after all the great rebates and our green mortgage! We have lots more we want to do (mainly windows and patio doors - there's tons of them!) and want to see just how low we can go ... before Santa finally brings our solar panels (next year, maybe??).
"Oops! ... almost forgot to include one of our favorite new features ... our Solar Water Heater ... love it! At least we have one sexy solar panel on our roof!"
Hmm, perhaps I was wrong about this stuff not being sexy. Jenn's excitement really comes through in her message, as well as the fact that they are nowhere near done. The couple are looking forward to further changes that will lower their bills even more while improving the comfort and value of their home.
Aside from experiencing a more comfortable summer this year, Jenn said that one welcome benefit was immediately obvious. When one of their old heat pumps was replaced with a more efficient unit, the contractors also repaired a previously undetected problem with the air intake system. This led to an unexpected improvement in the indoor air quality of the home that was delightfully noticed within minutes of turning on the new system.
If you are interested in giving your family a similar gift, you are in for a pleasant surprise. EnergyFit Nevada is a nonprofit organization that helps homeowners through the entire process, step by step. It provides prequalified contractors; It is aware of all available incentives; and can even explain the benefits of a green mortgage. Best of all, it offers performance-based rebates that help pay for your improvements.
The basic process is simple. Initial testing establishes a baseline that, coupled with a detailed inspection, helps determine what improvements are best suited for each particular home. The homeowner selects from the available options and the work is done by contractors who are properly trained to perform the work. Final testing determines the amount of improvement, and therefore the rebate amount.
EnergyFit Nevada consists of a great group of people who have helped a lot of folks like Jenn and Rob. If you have an older home and high energy bills, why not give them a call? It just might be the best gift you can buy.
Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. For more information and links to additional resources relating to this column, or to reach Rypka, please visit www.greendream.biz.