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Conference focuses on going green at home

June 29, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS and DAVE McMILLION

FREDERICK, Md. -- When David Barrow decided to have an energy audit performed on his Myersville, Md., home, he was amazed to find that the top two suggested improvements were all it took to virtually eliminate the need for heating and cooling in his home.

"It was a night-and-day difference," Barrow, 51, said of the foaming and caulking work that allowed his 15-year-old home to remain above 70 degrees inside, without the heating system on, when the temperature dropped to 40 degrees outside.

For homeowners on limited budgets, even an investment as small as $10 worth of weather stripping or a $5 can of foam sealant can result in significant energy savings, speakers said Monday during a workshop at a "Go Green Energy Conference" at the Frederick Fairgrounds in Frederick, Md.

The free conference was hosted by U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., and the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission was one of its sponsors. It featured 112 exhibitors and included breakout sessions in which speakers discussed the future of green jobs and industries, and shared energy-saving strategies for homeowners, small businesses and farmers.

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Bartlett, a member of the House subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, boasts he was "green before it was cool to be green," having built solar housing in Frederick County as early as 30 years ago.

In his keynote address Monday, Bartlett said the push to use less fossil fuels and shift to renewable energy sources is the solution to at least three serious problems. One is climate change, he said, adding that even those who do not believe carbon emissions are causing global warming can agree the emissions add undesirable pollutants to the air. The other issues, Bartlett said, are the rising costs that accompany dwindling oil resources and the national security concerns that result from the United States' need to import two-thirds of its oil.

The need for change is immediate and has real implications for Maryland residents, said Malcolm Woolf, director of the Maryland Energy Administration.

Energy consumption is outpacing new energy generation at a pace to cause blackouts in 2013 or 2014, when local systems will not be able to import enough power to meet demands on hot summer days, Woolf said.

Among the panelists at the conference's breakout sessions was Eric G. Huffman, whose Rohrersville-based company, HUVCO Daylighting Solutions, sells systems for using natural daylight to light homes and businesses during the day. The lights are similar to skylights, but are less expensive, easier to install, and use diffusers to spread the light and prevent glare, Huffman said. A kit for his smallest unit, a 10-inch "high-performance tubular skylight" that could be used to light a bathroom, costs $225, he said.

On the other end of the cost spectrum, HUVCO imports a cutting-edge lighting system from Sweden that collects sunlight and transmits it indoors through fiber-optic cables, Huffman said. That skylight sells for $10,000, he said.

Another Washington County company represented at the conference was Glory Energy Solutions of Boonsboro, which provides energy audits and consulting, and sells solar generators.

Glory Energy Solutions' co-founder, Timothy D. Jones, moderated a panel discussion on ways homeowners can cut their energy consumption with a budget of $1,000 or less.

Jones said most of his company's energy-auditing clients are in Montgomery, Howard and Anne Arundel counties, but he wished the company would attract more business closer to home.

Even Washington County's oldest homes can be fixed up to use less energy with simple upgrades, Jones said.

"A good energy auditor can come out and give you a plan from the biggest bang for your buck to the least and save you money on your house," said Damien Edwards, an Energy Star-approved contractor who spoke during the panel discussion.




Free and low-cost energy-saving tips



o Make a habit of turning off appliances and lights when not in use

o Swap incandescent bulbs for Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs)

o Clean your dryer's lint trap regularly to improve efficiency

o Unplug extra refrigerators and keep your primary refrigerator full

o Turn down the temperature on your hot water heater

o Install low-flow shower heads (about $20) and faucet aerators (about $3)

o Install an insulating blanket on your water heater (about $20)

o Keep blinds closed on south- and west-facing windows during the hottest parts of summer days

o Seal air leaks with an insulating foam sealant (about $5 a can)

o Add insulation

o Replace worn weather stripping around windows and doors (about $10 for four windows)

o Install storm windows

o Have a qualified HVAC tech perform a tuneup on your heating and cooling equipment

Source: Damien Edwards, Energy Star-approved contractor and founder of Brunswick, Md.-based Noble House Building Services LLC

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