At Saturday’s ‘Green Homes’ Tour, You’ll Learn What’s Possible for Your Home

The Metro Denver Green Homes Tour is an annual event that happens on the first Saturday in October, which is this coming Saturday. For $10 per person, you get to go on a self-guided tour of 14 Jefferson County homes with a variety of green features.

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about solar power and sustainability, but every year I learn things I didn’t already know by touring the homes on this tour.

Golden Real Estate is proud to be a platinum sponsor of this event each year. Also, I serve on the steering committee and help in a variety of ways, such as organizing the Electric Vehicle Showcase, which takes place during the post-tour reception, 4 to 6 pm in the CoorsTek parking lot at 10th & Jackson Street in downtown Golden. It coincides with the reception and Green Expo in the American Mountaineering Center (AMC) across the street.

You can register for the tour online at www.MetroDenverGreenHomesTour.org, but you’ll need to pick up your tour book and map, which you can do anytime on Friday at Golden Real Estate’s office, 17695 S. Golden Road, or on Saturday after 9am at the AMC, 710 10th Street.  If you don’t register online, you can do so at the AMC on Saturday morning.

Then you’re on your own, mapping out your own tour based on locations but also on what you read about each house in the tour book.

I couldn’t shoot video tours of every home, but I did choose two that the committee felt represented particularly interesting examples of sustainability. You can see those two videos on the website mentioned above. By watching those two videos you will learn things you didn’t already know, as I did by shooting them.

To quote from page 3 of the tour book, “In our ongoing effort to showcase a wide variety of solutions and lifestyles, you will see solar, of course, and also mini splits, ground source heat pumps and passive solar treatments. You can visit an Arvada sustainable new town home community [Geos] and enjoy many other sustainable lifestyle features such as co-housing, electric vehicles and water wise gardens. You will be viewing the tried-and-true in addition to the latest in innovative technologies, plus learning many steps used to eliminate red tape while going green.”

If you pick up your tour book at Golden Real Estate, let us show you how we transitioned to “net zero energy” using many of the features you’ll see on the tour, including heat pump/mini-split heating & cooling, solar panels, super insulation, and tankless electric water heating. Our monthly energy bill is $10.26 since having our gas meter removed two years ago. If you come in an electric car, you can plug in to our free ChargePoint charging stations — powered by the sun — while we show you around! Click here to read the Jan. 4, 2018, column I wrote describing Golden Real Estate’s transition to Net Zero Energy.

This Saturday’s tour is one of 79 such tours of 894 private homes happening this weekend as part of the National Solar Tour sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). And that doesn’t include, for example, last Saturday’s Boulder Green Home Tour, which had 10 homes on it. This is the 25th National Solar Tour, and we have participated for 23 of those years.

Don’t forget the Green Expo during the reception, 4 to 6 pm following the tour. Many companies which implement green solutions will have booths, and there will be an Electric Vehicle Showcase in the parking lot across the street. If you have an EV, bring it for display! If you’re interested in going electric, there will be test drives available. Also, Pedego Golden is bringing electric bicycles which you can test ride.  I have an electric bike, and I love it!

Also at the event will be the CSU Extension 4-H Mobile STEM Lab. The primary focus of the mobile lab is energy production and conservation, energy conversions and mechanical advantage for youth and adults.  Should be interesting!

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Were Last Week’s “Climate Strikes” Enough of a Wake-up Call on Climate Change?

We can thank Al Gore for educating us about global warming, but I wish a non-politician such as Carl Sagan had performed that service. I can’t think to any other scientific research which became partisan in a similar way.

Remember CFCs and the ozone hole? It wasn’t a partisan issue. The issue was addressed quickly in a bi-partisan manner.

It was meteorologists, not politicians, that taught us about El Nino and La Nina—the cyclical events in which changes in ocean temperature create weather patterns affecting our entire continent. No one has said El Nino is not real.  It is accepted science — like climate change.

It’s only because Al Gore introduced us to the “inconvenient truth” about climate change that his teachings were disputed and rejected as left-wing propaganda by those on the right. How sad, how unfortunate, and how deadly the consequences.

Last Friday I attended the “Climate Strike” event on the Colorado School of Mines campus and watched news coverage of bigger events around the world.  I’m 72 now, and, yes, the climate will worsen before I die. But those under 40 and certainly those under 20 are seeing the early effects of global warming and worry that their world will be unlivable by the time they’re my age.  For them, it’s a huge crisis.

Back in June, I attended my 50th reunion at M.I.T, during which there was a Technology Day symposium on climate change. One of the speakers, Prof. Noelle Selin, told us that the global concentration of carbon dioxide was 325 parts per million when we graduated in 1969, but now it was 410 ppm. She made us think about those who graduated in 2019 (who she dubbed “the Class of 410 ppm”) and speculated on the class that would be graduating at their 50th reunion. “Will it be the Class of 600 ppm or the Class of 700 ppm?” she asked. And what will life be like for them at their 50th reunion?

It was a sobering presentation. And you can be sure that it was even more sobering for the Class of 2019 and for M.I.T. students who have yet to graduate.  To view her 19-minute presentation, click here.

The impact on real estate — and national security — is apparent when you consider all the “climate refugees” who are likely to migrate from heavily impacted areas such as the Bahamas, Florida, Houston — and Syria, where drought, as much as civil war, contributed to the exodus of Syrians to Europe. Indeed, over a decade ago the U.S. Defense Department labeled climate change a threat to national security. You can understand why.  I do.

The headline of my column on Jan. 14, 2014 was, “We May Have Already Passed the Tipping Point on Climate Change.” That statement was based on the already dramatic reduction in summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, as documented by the Earth Policy Institute at Rutgers. I published their chart showing a correlation between the increase in atmospheric CO2 from 300 to 400 ppm since the Industrial Revolution, and the 50% loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic between the late 20th Century and 2013. 

The reason loss of sea ice creates a tipping point for our climate is that sea ice, being white, reflects sunlight, whereas open ocean, being dark, absorbs sunlight, causing more ice to melt and to melt faster. A warmer Arctic region in turn upsets weather patterns worldwide.

Almost six years have passed since I wrote that column, and now the Arctic Ocean is open and navigable for part of the summer. We have learned the term “polar vortex” and experienced the effects of wilder than normal fluctuations of the jet stream. Warmer oceans in the tropics have caused stronger, slower hurricanes, causing 100-year floods to become frequent, as we have already seen in Houston. These effects were already happening back in 2012 with superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey and even here in Colorado with the heavy rains and flooding of Sept. 2013.

Unfortunately, we have a president who will never admit he was wrong, so he will never admit that climate change is real, that it is exacerbated by CO2 emissions, and that the only hope, if there is any this late in the game, of reducing the impacts of climate change is to drastically reduce the output of greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane. Instead, inaction on climate change, and worse, may be this president’s #1 legacy.  How sad.

All-Electric Homes Are Practical Now, and Can Help Mitigate Climate Change

The typical American home is powered electrically but heated by natural gas, propane or other fossil fuels. You and I can generate our own electricity with solar panels, but there’s no way for us to generate natural gas or other fossil fuel energy, so the transition to a “net zero energy” lifestyle necessitates turning away from fossil fuels and going all-electric.

Fortunately, technology has advanced — just in the last decade — to the point where going all-electric is totally practical, affordable, and a way you and I can mitigate climate change

At Golden Real Estate, our office was heated with natural gas until November 2017, when we installed a heat pump “mini-split” system and had our natural gas meter removed. With 20 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic panels, we were able to eliminate our natural gas bill but not increase our electric bill. We continue to pay just $11 per month to be connected to the electric grid (which functions as our “battery” thanks to net metering), but we are generating all the electricity needed to power, heat and cool our office building. We even have enough electricity from the solar panels to power our four electric cars without buying any net electricity from Xcel Energy. We hope other businesses will follow our lead.

Making the switch to all-electric at home is still in our future, because — like you, I suspect — we prefer gas cooking, gas grilling, and having a gas fireplace.

If, however, we can get beyond those preferences, it is possible now to heat our home and domestic hot water using heat pump appliances, and to cook our food with electric or induction cooktops and ovens.  Electric grilling is also available, although not as attractive from a taste standpoint to most of us.

All-electric homes was the subject of a talk by architect Peter Ewers at last week’s meeting of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society’s Jeffco chapter.  You can view an archived video of Peter’s talk at www.cres-energy.org/video.

Once we have removed gas service from our homes (and gas cars from our garages), we will have also eliminated the risks of explosion and carbon monoxide poisoning, too.  Wouldn’t that be great?

Free eBook on Solar Power with ‘The Property Brothers’

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER is the name of the free eBook, which you can download below.

The simple, undeniable fact is this: The sun can provide more energy in an hour than all of humanity uses in a year. We’re talking about an inexhaustible supply of clean, safe, reliable power that people and countries across the planet can access to power their lives and economies.

Even still, fossil fuel utilities continue to make billions of dollars from dirty energy monopolies – while the rest of us pay the consequences.

But we can flip the script by taking bold action.

That’s why Climate Reality has teamed up with HGTV’s Property Brothers co-host and solar energy advocate Jonathan Scott for Knowledge is Power, a new e-book about the incredible benefits of solar energy and the deceptive tactics fossil fuel utilities are using to protect their bottom lines at the expense of every person on the planet.

The benefits of solar don’t end with lower power bills. Cutting carbon pollution? Check. Empowering communities? Check. Providing energy independence? Check. Creating good jobs? Check and check.

Learn more about this incredible resource – and how together we can take control of our energy future – by getting your free download of Knowledge is Power today

Thoughts From Attending My 50th Class Reunion at MIT

Forgive me for straying from my usual topic of real estate — I took some time off with Rita to attend my 50th reunion at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week, and I was super-inspired by the experience of returning to the Institute for what was more than just a party. It was an immersion  into the continuing impact that MIT is having on the world of science and technology.

Reunions at MIT are probably unlike those at any other college or university. Yes, there is partying, but roughly half the events were educational in nature, updating alums on current research regarding important topics of the day. This year the dominant topic was climate change — something I wrote about, quite coincidentally, in last week’s column.

Not only was climate change the subject of Michael Bloomberg’s commencement address (there’s a video link for it at http://news.mit.edu), but the 3-hour Technology Day symposium the following morning was all about climate change. The 1,200-seat auditorium was filled to capacity with alumni eager to be updated on MIT research about this important topic, and they were fully engaged to the very end.

Technology Day at MIT – click here for archived 3-hour video.

When I attended MIT 50 years ago, undergraduate men vastly outnumbered the undergraduate women, who barely filled the one dormitory provided for them.  Over the past 20 years, women have risen to comprise 46% of the undergraduate student body and 35% of the graduate student body, spanning every academic discipline. This gender equity was evident in Saturday’s symposium, too. Four of the six presenters, including the moderator, were women.

In his commencement address, the former NYC mayor observed that the technology for successfully addressing climate change is largely in place (except for bringing it to scale), and challenged graduates to go out into the world not just to expand upon it, but to build the political will to deploy it. I was reminded of that statement the following day while attending a Class of ’69 discussion about anti-Vietnam war activism at MIT during our time on campus. During the Q&A, a fellow ’69 alum said he had interviewed several undergraduates about political activism, which is not currently evident on campus. The impression he got is that the students are all “heads down,” concentrating on solving the world’s problems — such as climate change — undistracted by the politics that excite and divide those of us beyond the walls of academia.  Reflecting on that analysis, as someone who was very active politically as a 1960s undergrad and is still active now, I suspect it’s because nowadays, unlike in the 1960s, the Institute and its students are on the same page about such issues, sharing the same commitment to addressing commonly accepted world problems.

(In the unlikely event that President Trump were to stage a campaign rally in the Boston area, I get the impression there would be a sudden upwelling of activism at all local universities, including MIT, but the MIT activists would be focusing their vitrol on the President’s denial of climate change.)

Climate change, of course, is only one of the “world’s great challenges” which MIT is committed in its mission statement to addressing through academic research. We learned in Saturday’s symposium about ground breaking research on mass storage battery systems and alternatives to blast furnaces for creating steel. Those inventions likewise contribute in a big way to sustaining the livability of our planet.

A deceased member of the class of ’69, Bob Swanson, who cofounded Genentech, is generally credited with creating the biotech industry. Scores of biotech businesses now populate the high rises on Kendall Square, adjacent to the MIT campus. A tribute to his accomplishments during one of the luncheons was most inspiring.

It was hard not to come away from the reunion weekend without a deep appreciation of what MIT and its graduates can and are accomplishing in addressing the planet’s most important challenges.  I consider myself very fortunate to be among those who were given the privilege of being immersed in that environment for four or more years, however long ago.

A videographer asked members of my class what their biggest learning was from MIT.  My answer to that question referenced the chemical process of osmosis, a secondary definition of which, according to Google is, “the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc.” Just being in that environment amidst the faculty, administration and fellow students was its own education through osmosis. This may be hard to understand if you weren’t there, but my classmates would probably all nod in agreement.

I return from my reunion, renewed in my appreciation of science and technology and of all that my alma mater contributes to their positive application to society.

PS: I was honored when MIT chose to feature me in a pre-reunion “Slice of MIT” blog post, focusing on what I have done to transition Golden Real Estate’s office to “net zero energy.” Here’s a link to that blog post.

Climate Change, Our Planet’s Most Pressing Issue

Colorado has been blessed with probably the least impact of climate change, but eventually it will catch up with us.  Meanwhile, we watch, stunned, not only by the tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires and flooding in other sections of the country, but also by the failure of the major networks to mention climate change as the culprit and to point out that it will only get worse over time.

Over 5 years ago, in 2014, the headline on my column was “We May Have Already Passed the Tipping Point on Climate Change.”  Here is what I wrote back then:

Each January, political leaders shower us with speeches on the State of the Union, the State, the City and other jurisdictions.  No one presents a State of the Planet speech, but if someone did, I suspect climate change would be topic #1 — and for good reason.

My friend and mentor, Steve Stevens, sent me a chart (below) showing the decline in late summer Arctic sea ice. It’s a wake-up call regarding climate change.

I don’t have a degree in science, but I do understand science enough to know this chart’s significance.

If you studied any science — or own an automobile — you know that white surfaces reflect solar heat, whereas dark surfaces (open ocean, for example) absorb it. The loss of sea ice does not just indicate global warming, it accelerates it, which makes one worry whether it’s already too late to reverse the effects of human-caused global warming.

Climate change deniers may celebrate the fact that the Arctic Ocean is becoming increasingly navigable in the summer, but they need to connect the dots between global warming and the whipsawing we now see in our day-to-day weather. 

I’d be curious to see the statistics on how many times the network news programs featured severe weather reports in 2013 versus previous years.  I can’t remember an evening in which weather wasn’t a major or lead story.

Our earth’s climate has been de-stabilized. Had you heard of the polar vortex before this year?  I hadn’t.  The uninformed will say that our cold weather proves that the earth is not warming, but how naïve is that?  It’s global warming that is causing extremes, both of temperature and precipitation — which is caused by warming. I don’t hear them questioning El Nino, in which natural changes in ocean temperature affect climate.

Is there time to reverse this situation?  Maybe not. But we certainly don’t have time to debate its existence with climate change deniers.

[End of my 2014 column]

Night after night, we see news reports of unprecedented severe weather around the country, but rarely is the connection to climate change mentioned. Our president’s failure to address climate change may be part of his legacy.