Archive for Friday, September 11, 2009

Energy-efficient homes to take center stage at weekend event

Aron Cromwell, left, CEO of Cromwell Environmental, and Chris Rogge, project manager, created a solar panel array on a home in west Lawrence. The home, at 1638 Bobwhite Drive, will be part of a sustainable homes tour and fair on Saturday.

Aron Cromwell, left, CEO of Cromwell Environmental, and Chris Rogge, project manager, created a solar panel array on a home in west Lawrence. The home, at 1638 Bobwhite Drive, will be part of a sustainable homes tour and fair on Saturday.

September 11, 2009

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Codes may change

Lawrence’s building codes may soon include several new energy-efficiency standards.

City leaders are reviewing the new 2009 ICC building codes for possible adoption. Those codes would require:

• All new homes and buildings with forced air furnaces to be equipped with programmable thermostats.

• Newly constructed homes to have at least 50 percent of the permanent light fixtures equipped with high-efficiency light bulbs.

• Windows in new homes to meet a higher standard for trapping heat in a home. The u-factor rating would be required to be 0.35 instead of 0.40.

• Contractors to conduct leakage tests for duct systems in attics, crawl spaces and garages.

The city has the ability to opt out of any part of the code. Various city advisory boards are reviewing the codes and will make recommendations to the City Commission about what should be adopted.

Cash for Clunkers may be over, but the federal government is still handing out money to people who want to become more energy efficient.

That will be a major message at this weekend’s Lawrence Energy Conservation Fair and Sustainable Homes and Business Tour.

“We’re in a position where we have federal tax credits for energy efficiency that are unprecedented,” said Aron Cromwell, who is a Lawrence city commissioner and also the owner of a Lawrence-based environmental consulting firm.

Cromwell and other vendors will be extolling on Saturday the benefits of making your home greener as part of the fair and tour. The Energy Conservation Fair will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Community Building, 115 W. 11th St. The Sustainable Homes and Business Tour — which will allow people to tour seven projects that have used everything from solar panels to geothermal heating — will begin at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. from the Community building.

Vendors said the event is coming at a time when improving energy efficiency in homes is a top-of-mind issue.

“We’ve definitely been busier the last three years,” said Julie Dugan, an owner of Ground Source Inc., a Holton-based firm that designs and installs geothermal heating and cooling systems for homes and businesses.

A big reason for the spike in interest has been a federal program that allows people to take a 30 percent income tax credit on energy-efficiency projects.

In the case of geothermal projects — which use heat trapped below your yard to partially heat and cool your home — the credit can be significant. Dugan said many geothermal installations can cost about $20,000, which means the 30 percent tax credit would reduce the cost by about $6,000.

“A lot of times the system can pay for itself in about four years,” Dugan said, based on current electric costs. The geothermal systems use electric heat pumps, but the pumps use less electricity than a normal heat pump because it also uses the geothermal heat.

The credits also apply to solar energy installations. Cromwell’s company — Lawrence-based Cromwell Environmental — has done about 40 solar projects in the region, including two Lawrence homes that will be part of the tour.

Cromwell said the tax credits — which recently have been changed so that the amounts are no longer capped — have made solar projects dramatically more feasible.

“For individuals, the payback is about 12 to 15 years, which is better than the stock market has been doing lately,” Cromwell said. “Without any incentives whatsoever, the payback was more like 25 years.”

The fair is free to attend. The tour costs $10 for adults and $2 for children under 14. Information about tour sites can be found at LawrenceRecycles.org.

Comments

devobrun 5 years, 7 months ago

Just a question to Mr. Cromwell: What was the amount and nature of the energy that was used to build the solar cells on the roof behind you? Megajoules are a convenient unit.

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