Fourth Annual Green Chaffee House Tour and Conference September 17 – by Merrell Bergin

Learn how to save money and limit climate change by using less energy

The fourth annual Chaffee Green Home Tour will take place on Saturday, September 17, sponsored by the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA), New Energy Colorado (NECO), and Arkansas Valley Energy Future.

Energy saving information available in the yellow tent during the 2022 Chaffee Green Homes Tour at the Farmers Market. John Avenson/NECO Photo

Locals and visitors are invited to stop by the Big Yellow Tent and other stalls at the Salida Alpine Park Farmer’s Market, Fifth and E Streets, beginning at 9:00 a.m. on September 17 to pick up the free featured house map and start the tour.

Before leaving, visitors can gather information on various measures that homeowners can install to save energy, often at lower cost than the alternatives.

Sustainable living practices include raised bed gardening, composting and xeriscaping. These work with energy-efficient appliances such as swamp coolers and ceiling fans, better windows and energy-efficient insulation to significantly reduce energy consumption and improve year-round comfort. Many of these features have been incorporated into the tour houses.

Sample Tour Highlights

The tour includes five homes in Salida, Buena Vista, and Poncha Springs that will be open until 2:00 p.m. to showcase a variety of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable living practices. Tour participants can visit owners willing to explain how features in their projects work as a system.

According to organizers, “Local homeowners participating in the tour have taken steps to be responsible and sustainable solar citizens. Like this country [belatedly] works to limit climate change, learn what you can do to reduce greenhouse gases and live more comfortably in your home.

When it comes to saving money on home energy, most people think first of expensive items like solar power. Solar panels and batteries are all becoming more efficient these days. Tax incentives (which vary by location and utility provider) can also help make a new system more sustainable, while helping to reduce our community’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Now may be the time to consider new technologies, especially in older homes whose traditional systems are nearing the end of their lifespan. Local installers Peak Solar, Renewable Energy Outfitters and Colorado Solar Energy are all involved in the event.

Several houses of Salida on tour

The Rausch/Cullinan house in Salida offers many energy saving measures. Photo Courtesy 2022 Chaffee Green Homes Tour

A tour stop at the Rausch/Cullinan home includes a variety of features including new stucco siding with one inch layer of foam, spray foam in the attic, garage walls and a garage door insulated, solar tubes for interior daytime lighting, and a flat-bellied fireplace, to name a few.

In the county near Buena Vista

Xeriscaped Court at Richard and Jane Shoemaker. Photo Courtesy 2022 Chaffee Green Homes Tour

The Rich and Jane Shoemaker home is enhanced by a beautifully landscaped, low water yard.

The Shoemakers installed a very sophisticated 7.48 kW power generation system and a Tesla Power Wall II battery backup system, powered by 22 grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) panels installed by Peak Solar. Located in a rural area and with the house supplied with well water, the 24/7 system provides extra peace of mind.

Tesla Power Wall II Backup Battery System at Richard and Jane Shoemaker. Photo Courtesy 2022 Chaffee Green Homes Tour

While Rich Shoemaker says their utility cooperative, Sangre De Cristo Electric Association (SCDEA) is very reliable, in the event of a loss of grid power, their system (serving critical devices and circuits) also helps provide measurements of fire safety, ensuring well and pump are available.

Originally designed as an upgraded traditional PV system (with solar as the primary source and battery only as a backup source), Shoemaker now expresses “it can flip that perspective.” He says he can routinely use modest battery life at night with solid reserves and then be off the grid.

In January, a test using the Power Wall II (plus the 3,000 kWh excess generation allowance provided by the SCDEA) showed that it could enable these homeowners to become even more self-sufficient on an ongoing basis.

It should be noted that power outages are not limited to rural areas. Salida’s utility provider, Xcel Energy, experiences occasional outages caused by lightning strikes, downed trees from storms and car crashes, all of which can affect large residential areas and downtown businesses.

Meanwhile in Poncha Springs

Jackson’s home in Poncha Springs hides solar panels in the roof design. Photo Courtesy 2022 Chaffee Green Homes Tour

Patrick Jackson’s family generates far more electricity from the 6.6kW photovoltaic system than the family uses, with two Tesla Powerwall systems for battery backup. Their solar panels are visually hidden from the front of the house with an attractive architectural roof design.

Cost savings and return on investment over a longer 10-15 year horizon are considerations, but so is energy independence. With today’s growing vulnerability to the global fossil fuel market, the use of solar energy and the reduction of lower heating and cooling efficiency become more important than ever.

Special Church Conference Highlights Incentives

Following the tour, a special presentation focusing on clean energy incentives and options in the new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) recently passed by Congress is planned.

Tom Plant, Senior Policy Advisor, Center for New Energy Economy. CNEE courtesy photo

The presentation – “Clean Energy for the Green Home” – features Jeff Lyng, Xcel Energy and Tom Plant, Senior Policy Advisor at the Center for the New Energy Economy. With this groundbreaking new legislation, attendees will learn the latest details on how homeowners can benefit.

The conference (including pizza and drinks) will be at 6:30 p.m. at Church A, 419 D Street in Salida. $5 tickets are available online at GARNA.

“The tour is a unique annual opportunity for community members to learn many ways to save energy and live more sustainably,” said Dominique Naccarato of GARNA, co-sponsor of the tour. “We hope many Chaffee County residents will visit their neighbors and learn about all the latest exciting opportunities.”

The event is also part of the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour.

Featured Image: Jackson’s home features a 6.6 kW photovoltaic system (hidden panels) with two Tesla Powerwall systems for battery backup. Photo Courtesy 2022 Chaffee Green Homes Tour

Angela C. Hale