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Thursday, October 2, 2014

This Weekend Is Your Opportunity to Explore Solar-Powered Living

[Published Oct. 2, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

The first Saturday in October is the occasion for the Golden Tour of Solar & Sustainable Homes. This year a dozen Jefferson County homes plus one business — Golden Real Estate — are on the tour.  Each site is an opportunity for you to learn not just about powering homes from the sun, but also about making them more energy efficient. The event is co-sponsored by Golden Earth Days and the Colorado Renewable Energy Society.

There is so much more to sustainability than harnessing the sun’s power to create electricity or to heat water.  Here are some of the concepts you’ll encounter that can reduce your “carbon footprint”:
¨  Daylighting of interior space through skylights and “sun tunnels” (e.g. Solatubes) to reduce the need for interior lighting

¨  Conditioning of crawl spaces so that your above-ground space retains more heat

¨  Passive solar designs which promote solar gain when the winter sun is low in the sky but shade the windows when the summer sun is high in the sky.

¨  More effective insulation of concrete foundations

¨  Creative greenhouse applications for year-round food production

¨  Finding and sealing air leaks that steal heat from your home

¨  Powering your electric car with surplus solar electricity — let your home power itself and your car!

¨  Configuring your home’s HVAC system for effective warm-air return in cooling mode but cold-air return in heating mode.

¨  Using air-source heat pumps to shift your forced air system from using natural gas to sun-generated electricity for heating — this works for hot water heaters, too.

¨  Taking advantage of federal and state tax credits designed to encourage solar and sustainable improvements in your home

¨  Discovering the role of “thermal mass” in capturing and storing heat in the winter and coolness in the summer.

¨  Exploring new lighting technologies that are not only more efficient but also more effective in different applications.

You can register for the self-guided tour of solar homes ($5 per person) at the American Mountaineering Center, on the corner of Washington Avenue and 10th Street in downtown Golden, starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. The homes on the tour will be open for visiting until 4 p.m., following which you can return to the American Mountaineering Center for a free reception and expo of solar and sustainable vendors or all sorts.  There will be free refreshments, and you don’t need to go on the tour to attend the reception and expo.  The homeowners and docents will show you what each home on the tour has to teach about sustainability.

The parking lot of Golden Real Estate will be the site of an “Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Round-up” during the day, so be sure to visit us for more than our building’s sustainable features. (I’ll be offering occasional free rides in my Tesla Model S.)

Another not-to-be-missed event happens on Friday, Oct. 3rd, prior to Saturday’s solar home tour. That’s when COSEIA — the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association — is hosting an educational event at the Golden Community Center, 1470 10th Street. At this event, beginning at 11 a.m., you’ll learn about the many ways  Jeffco cities — Lakewood, Arvada and Golden — are using solar technology themselves and making it possible for their residents to go solar. (The Golden Community Center, for example, heats its swimming pool with a solar thermal system.)  You’ll also hear from developers of “community solar gardens,” which allow people without suitable roofs to benefit from solar.

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