Don’t Miss the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour on Saturday, Oct. 1st

If, like many people, you have back-burnered your plans to buy a new home, now might be a good time to think about updating your current home. Making improvements that reduce the cost of ownership might be pretty appealing, too, and that’s what you’ll accomplish by adding solar panels, improving insulation, and maybe getting rid of natural gas or propane. 

This Saturday, October 1st, is your opportunity to visit a dozen metro area homes which have done just that. That’s because the first Saturday in October is the date of the annual Metro Denver Green Homes Tour. I’m on the steering committee for the tour, and I can assure you that you’ll learn a lot from this year’s selections.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and includes a “green expo” at the American Mountaineering Center (AMC) at 710 10th Street in downtown Golden.

It’s a self-guided tour. You pay $10 in person at the AMC or at  www.MetroDenverGreenHomesTour.org. If you register online, you can pick up the book describing each home plus a map to find them either at the AMC on Saturday morning or on Friday, Sept. 30th between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the office of Golden Real Estate, 1214 Washington Ave., also in downtown Golden.

The homes themselves are open only until 4 p.m., after which you might want to visit the Electric Vehicle Roundup in the parking lot of The Net Zero Store (Golden Real Estate’s former office) at 17695 S. Golden Road. That event runs from 2 to 6 p.m. (See article below.)

You’ll also want to visit the “Growing Dome” at 509 9th Street, a short walk from the AMC, between 3 and 5 p.m.  There will be a “tiny home” in the AMC parking lot all day for you to visit, too.

All of that is followed by a Reception and Green Expo inside the AMC from 5 to 7 p.m. At the expo you’ll be able to visit with exhibitors who sell and install some of the sustainable upgrades which you learned about during the tour, while enjoying complimentary appetizers, local beverages and live music.

If you’d like to carpool to each of the homes in a Tesla or other electric vehicle, inquire at the AMC between 9 and 10 a.m. and they may be able to set that up for you, thanks to volunteers from the Denver Tesla Club and the Denver Electric Vehicle Council.

Leading up to Saturday’s tour, we have created a series of free lectures, the last of which is this evening, Thursday, Sept. 29th, at Jefferson Unitarian Church, starting at 7 p.m.  The speaker is Conor Merrigan, who is Sustainability Program Manager at Spirit, an environmental consulting firm. His topic is “Scaling Up Green Homes to Green Neighborhoods.”

My own contribution to the tour has been to shoot narrated video tours of each home on the tour.  I haven’t been able to shoot all of them yet, but I’ve done several of them, and you can find them as well as the video tours from prior years at www.NewEnergyColorado.com.

I’ve been committed to promoting sustainability and net zero home construction for as long as I can remember, but each and every year I find that I learn something I didn’t know — a new technology or new use of an older technology — and I get to capture what I learn on those videos so you can learn about them.

The broker associates at Golden Real Estate and I are among the most knowledgeable real estate professionals you will find when it comes to buying and selling sustainable homes as well as making a home you buy more sustainable, so feel free to contact any of us for your real estate needs. We look forward to serving you!

Coming October 1st: Metro Denver Green Homes Tour & EV Roundup

If you’ve ever wanted to reduce the carbon footprint of your home, you won’t want to miss the October 1st tour of metro area homes which have done just that.

You’ll learn about new forms of insulation, improved window designs, replacing natural gas with heat pumps, and so much more. After touring the homes, don’t miss the expo of vendors from 5 to 7pm.

Think of it like a Parade of Homes, but where some of the homes were built sustainable but where most of them are older homes that have been made super-sustainable.

The 9am to 4pm tour starts with registration at the American Mountaineering Center in downtown Golden, 710 10th Street. For $10 per adult, you receive a guidebook and map for your self-guided tour. If you would like to ride in an electric car to the different homes, we have volunteers who will make that happen in their own Teslas or other EVs.

After touring the homes, come to the 3-5pm EV Roundup happening in the parking lot of The Net Zero Store, 17695 S. Golden Road, where Helio Home Inc. will be holding demos and answering questions about what you can do to make your own home more sustainable or even “net zero energy.”

You can register for the tour at NewEnergyColorado.com then pick up your guide book and map at Golden Real Estate, 1214 Washington Ave. on Friday, September 30th, 10 to 6. Register for the EV event at www.DriveElectricWeek.info.

Looked at Correctly, It Costs No More to Build (or Buy) a Sustainable Home

“Conventional wisdom” says that it costs more to build a solar powered, highly sustainable or net zero energy home, but that’s not really true if you look at the issue a little differently.

As you surely know, such improvements reduce the operating cost of a home. Solar panels, for example, can virtually eliminate your electrical bill, if your system is sized correctly. They can even provide free fuel for your cars — if they are powered by electricity.

Super insulating your home can reduce the cost of heating it, whether by natural gas or electricity (using a heat pump system). Ditto for installing triple-pane Alpen windows and doors.

If you go all-electric, you not only save on the natural gas or propane you consume, you can have your gas meter removed, saving on the base cost of being connected to the gas distribution network. As a commercial customer, Golden Real Estate, saves over $600 per year from having removed our gas meter, since that’s what Xcel Energy charges before a business uses a single cubic foot of natural gas.  The savings is lower for residential customers.

So, yes, it may cost more to go all-electric, but the return on investment is substantial over a pretty short period of time.

But consider the following. Whether you build or buy a home with these cost saving features, and whether or not you pay a premium for them, you will likely be financing your home with a mortgage.

Let’s say, conservatively, that you pay an extra $50,000 or even $100,000 for those features, and it adds that amount to the principal of your mortgage. Your monthly savings from those solar panels or that heat pump system or those Alpen windows and extra insulation will be far in excess of the increased monthly payment for your mortgage.

And if you make those improvements in a home you already own, you can take out a Home Equity Line of Credit (or HELOC) to pay for them, and the monthly payments will again be less than your monthly savings.

Looked at it this way, does it make any sense at all to build a home powered by fossil fuels, that is not solar powered or that has “normal” insulation and have higher monthly cost of ownership, starting from day one?  Of course not.

You can apply the same reasoning to the purchase of an electric car. You could go with the conventional wisdom that electric cars are more expensive and you should wait until the price comes down, but that thinking substantially misrepresents the cost of ownership.

I haven’t purchased gasoline for my electric cars since 2014, during which time I have saved tens of thousands of dollars on gasoline as well as on repairs on components that don’t exist on an EV, such as transmission, engine, fuel pumps, water pumps, timing belts and so much more.

And I have never had a catalytic converter stolen — or lost any sleep after reading about the epidemic of such thefts in my city.

Forgetting for the moment that there are indeed EVs which cost no more than their gasoline-powered equivalents, even if you paid $10,000 more for an EV than you might for a gas powered car, the cost of financing that difference is far less than what you’ll save on fuel and repairs.

If I have changed your thinking about making your home (or transportation) more sustainable, here’s what you can do.  First, attend this year’s Metro Denver Green Homes Tour on October 1st. You’ll be able to visit a dozen or so homes whose owners have taken steps to make their homes more energy efficient or even net zero energy. You’ll also visit a home builder who is building net zero energy homes. If you can’t visit some of these homes in person, you can view the narrated video tours which I have created for most of them.

(You can also — right now — take video tours of 16 homes that were on this tour in previous years!)

You can register for the tour — and see those videos — at www. NewEnergyColorado.com.

And if I have changed your thinking about the cost of buying or owning an electric vehicle, plan on coming to the Electric Vehicle Roundup (mentioned below) which occurs the same day, October 1st, as the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour.  If that date doesn’t work for you, there are many other EV roundups in October around Colorado. Find those other events online at www.DriveElectricWeek.org.

Metro Denver Green Homes Tour Is Coming Oct. 1

This annual tour of solar and otherwise sustainably built homes may seem like a one-day event — the first Saturday of each October — but it also includes educational presentations. Here are a couple September events that you may want to attend in preparation for the tour itself:

Wed., September 14, 7pm, Bill Lucas-Brown of Helio Home, “Electrify your Life / Electrify your Home!” 17695 South Golden Road, Golden. Free and open to the public.

Wed., September 21, 7 pm, Paul Kriescher, “How Durability and Sustainability Can Save Your Home: The story behind one family’s home in the Marshall Fire burn area,” 17695 South Golden Road, Golden. Free and open to the public.

Thursday September 29, 7 pm, Conor Merrigan, Program Manager Sustainability  – Spirit Environmental, “Scaling up Green Homes to Green Neighborhoods. ” Jefferson Unitarian Church 14350 W. 32nd Ave. Golden free and open to the public

Metro Denver Green Homes Tour Is This Saturday, Oct. 2nd

It is my honor to be part of the team which creates a new tour of solar and sustainable homes on the first Saturday of October year after year. This is our 26th year!

Last year, the tour was entirely on video, featuring the “Best of the Past 25 Years.”  You can still view last year’s videos at the URL http://www.2020GreenHomesTour.info. Register for this year’s tour, which is both virtual and in-person, at http://www.NewEnergyColorado.com.

Regular readers of this column are probably aware of Golden Real Estate’s commitment to sustainability. Our Net Zero Energy office, in fact, was one of the “homes” on last year’s virtual tour, as was my personal home.

Originally called the Golden Solar Tour, we decided several years ago that being solar wasn’t enough. To be included in the tour, homes had to be “green” in many other ways, and the technology we have put on display in recent years has been impressive. I myself learn something new every year, and creating the video tour of each home on the tour has been a great privilege and learning experience!

One of the homes this year is a 1979 two-story home owned by Martin & Bettina Voelker. This year they got rid of their gas forced air furnace and installed a geothermal system to heat and cool their home. This involved drilling three 300-foot deep wells in their backyard to take advantage of the constant 55-degree earth temperature. A heat pump raises the fluid circulated through those deep pipes to heat the home in the winter. This is more efficient than raising sub-zero outdoor temperatures with the more common  air-source heat pumps like we have at Golden Real Estate’s office. In the summer, it cools the 55-degree fluid further to cool the home.

Ron Suliteanu’s home in Golden Gate Canyon also has a ground-source heat pump which provides heat through both a radiant floor system and three wall-mounted units which resemble mini-splits but which provide their heat through fluid heated by the ground-source heat pump, something I didn’t know existed.

Passive solar design is also growing in popularity, and several homes on this year’s tour incorporate passive solar design in their sustainability mix. The tour includes 4 new construction homes, two of which are Passive House certified (top-of-the-line building code) and two of which are near Passive House standards.

Laurent Meillon’s home in Lakewood taught me a lot about solar thermal systems, which Laurent sells and installs. If you’re not familiar with solar thermal, it involves circulating water (or glycol) through black panels which are roughly the same size as solar photovoltaic panels. The sun heats the liquid in the panels which is circulated through a 1,000-gallon tank inside the house. That fluid gets as hot as 150 degrees. Coils within that tank circulate water for domestic hot water use (showering and cooking, etc.) and for circulation during colder months through the baseboard hot water heating system. Solar thermal panels were popularized during the Carter administration, well before solar photovoltaic systems became popular for generating electricity. Many homes still have those Carter-era solar thermal systems, but many of them are out of service for one reason or another. Laurent’s company can inspect the solar thermal systems in those houses and get them working again — and explain them to the home owners, who may have inherited the system from a previous home owner but have no idea how they work.

One home on the tour was chosen for its urban farming aspects, including composting, a greenhouse and a chicken coop.  The owner thanked me with a dozen eggs, which were delicious!

From 3 to 5 pm (same as for our EV Roundup below), you can visit a nearby “growing dome” at 509 9th Street, a short walk from the American Mountaineering Center at 710 10th Street, where you sign in for the in-person tour and return at 5-7 p.m. for a green expo and reception.

Electric Vehicle Roundup Returns to Golden on Oct. 2nd, 3 to 5 pm

On the first Saturday of October every year, it’s our practice to sponsor an EV round-up in the Golden Real Estate parking lot.  That means that on Saturday, Oct. 2nd, from 3 to 5 pm, there will be 20-plus electric vehicles of all makes and models and their owners — no dealers are invited — ready to show you their cars, let you sit in them, look under the hood (look, ma, no engine!) and perhaps take you around the block.

I’ll be there myself with my silver Tesla Model X, and maybe Rita will bring her red Model S. Visit my website, www.DriveElectricWeek.info to see the EVs that are already registered and to register your own EV if you’ll be bringing one.  No hybrids, please, just EVs.

The event happens during the monthly SuperCruise, when our lot is usually filled with gas guzzlers, but not this month!  This way, the hundreds of spectators who line South Golden Road to see those gas-powered cars will get the opportunity to see what electric cars are all about and speak with their owners.

You can expect to see EVs from Audi, Nissan, Ford (the new Mustang), Chevrolet, Hyundai, Jaguar and other manufacturers.  This is a watershed year for electric transportation with new EVs being introduced every month. Next year you can expect to see the electric Ford F-150 Lightning and maybe even the Tesla Cybertruck.

Our event is also timed to be part of this year’s Metro Denver Green Homes Tour, held the first Saturday of each October, 9 am to 4 pm, to show off net zero energy and otherwise sustainable homes. Golden Real Estate has been a corporate sponsor of the tour for over a decade.

Green Home of the Month Is on Lookout Mountain

This Lookout Mountain home owned by Ron & Gretchen Larson has no natural gas service. Instead it has radiant floor heating using water heated by the sun and stored in a 10,000-gallon tank. The original section of the home won first place in the very first solar decathalon in 2002. In addition to extensive solar thermal panels and evacuated tubes, the home has 7 kW of solar photovoltaic panels to provide all the electrical needs of the home. It also has passive solar features and two wood-burning stoves.  Take a narrated video tour with Ron Larson at www.GreenHomeoftheMonth.com.

View the full playlist of last year’s Metro Denver Green Homes Tour at  NewEnergyColorado.com/2020-tour-homes.

Green Home of the Month

Jen Grauer in her kitchen

Each month we feature a different home from the 2020 Metro Denver Green Homes Tour. With 11 kW of solar panels, super-insulation, induction cooktops and ground-source heat pumps powering eight hydronic mini-splits throughout this 4-level, multi-generational home, the owners have a monthly Xcel Energy bill of $5 to $10 per month — even after charging their electric car. I learned a lot from this home! You’ll really like the sustainable design elements of the kitchen. Watch my narrated video tour at www.GreenHomeoftheMonth.com. Or click on this thumbnail:

Do You Own a Green Home?

The Metro Denver Green Homes Tour is looking for homes to feature on its next tour, October 2nd, 2021. If your home has features that would make it a good addition to this fall’s green home tour — super insulation, solar, HVAC, etc. — contact Sheila Townsend at sheilactownsend@gmail.com or Jim Smith at Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com.

Take a video tour of a different home from 2020’s Metro Denver Green Homes Tour every month at www.GreenHomeoftheMonth.com.

Green Home of the Month on Genesee Mountain

Each month we feature a different home from the 2020 Metro Denver Green Homes Tour. This Genesee Mountain home on Chief Hosa Road is owned by Barry Rosenberg and Lee Fisher. It is all-electric—no propane. The architect was Peter Ewers, who specializes in Net Zero Energy homes, and this is one of them. The solar panels (grid-tied) provide all the electricity to heat the home, cook, provide hot water and everything else, including charging their Nissan Leaf. The home has straw bale walls with stucco on the north and east sides of the house. The foundation was poured using Durisol brand ICFs (insulated concrete forms). The well water is purified using UV light. You’ll learn a lot from this home! See my video at www.GreenHomeoftheMonth.com.