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.

Realtor Magazine: Builders Need to Respond to the Home Electrification Trend  

It isn’t in the print edition of Realtor Magazine, but a June 8 article on its website is titled, “The Future Is Now: Home Electrification.”

Regular readers of this column know that home electrification has been “now” for many years here at Golden Real Estate. At the Net Zero Store in our former building at 17695 S. Golden Road, Helio Home Inc. is busier than ever responding to people who want to replace their gas forced air furnaces with heat pump units and their gas water heaters with heat pump water heaters. (You can reach the Helio Home sales team at 720-460-1260.)

The primary focus of the Realtor Magazine article is on the need for home builders to include a larger electrical service as fossil fuels are phased out. Number one, it said, was to accommodate an electric car, since the major car manufacturers are committed to going all-electric or mostly so by 2030.

The article promotes the idea of installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to generate electricity for your home and car. With such a system, the author of the article correctly points out that the electrical grid can function as your home battery (thanks to net metering), but seems not to understand how it really works. He states that the utility will buy your excess solar generation but you might have to buy electricity for your car on a cloudy day. In fact, net metering allows you to send surplus electricity to the grid when you don’t need it, but you get it back at full value when needed. Everyone with a solar PV system should take advantage of the “roll-over” option allowing you to be credited for that surplus production long-term rather than get a check each January for the previous year’s over-production.

When the utility pays you for your surplus production, it does so at its cost of generating electricity — a couple cents per kilowatt-hour. But if you use your surplus electricity, you save the full retail rate (over 10¢ per kilowatt-hour) versus purchasing those kilowatt-hours from the utility.

Not understanding that process, the author promotes the idea of a home battery system, but, as I wrote before, that only needs to be considered if you have medical equipment which must run during a blackout.

The author promotes the installation of a 240V car charging station, suggesting that this could require a larger electrical panel in older homes. I disagree. The Level 2 charging station only draws the same electricity as your electric clothes dryer. If your panel can’t accommodate a dedicated circuit for the car, you could use the same one as the clothes dryer and not use both appliances at the same time. (I recognize that this is not what the code dictates, but it’s still safe if you have a 40-amp breaker on that circuit, because if you do run the dryer and the car charger at the same time, it would trip the breaker.)

Also, every EV comes with a 120V cord to plug your car into a standard household outlet. Although that only gets you 4 miles of range per hour, that’s still over 50 miles of range overnight, which may suffice, especially if you have other charging options during the day. Downtown Golden, for example, has ten free Level 2 charging stations in its garages and elsewhere.

Of course, there’s more to home electrification than car charging. The article points out that there are now electric outdoor tools—lawn mowers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, chain saws and more—that you can buy online or at Lowes. Ego Power is the biggest brand in this field, and their various tools all use the same interchangeable batteries.

Not mentioned in the article are the biggest consumers of fossil fuels—your gas furnace and water heater. As I said, you can speak to Helio Home about converting gas units to electric heat pump units.

For cooking, I have written in the past about induction electric ranges, and I’m really fond of our electric grill shown here. Lift it off its stand and you can use the grill on your countertop. You can’t do that with a gas grill! And it plugs into a standard 120V patio outlet. We bought ours at Home Depot for $100. Food grilled on it tastes just as good as when cooked on a gas grill.

Can the electrical grid handle the increased use of electricity over fossil fuels, given, for example, that by 2030 over 50% of car sales in America will be all-electric? You may have read warnings that widespread adoption of EVs will overwhelm our electrical transmission systems, but I disagree. Solar panels are being installed just as quickly and perhaps more so, and that electricity is consumed within your neighborhood if not by yourself, reducing the needed distribution from the utility. And, as I said, even with Level 2 charging, an EV only draws the same amount of electricity as a clothes dryer.

Home builders can and should adapt to this trend, and are in fact required to do so in some jurisdictions. Every new home should be solar-ready if not solar-powered, by building chases into the home which could accommodate the electrical lines serving roof-mounted solar panels. Also, garages should be wired with a 240V outlet on their front walls in addition to the usual 120V outlets on three walls.

I was encouraged to see that a new 300-unit apartment complex about to break ground in Lakewood between Colfax and 15th Place and between Owens and Pierson Streets is, according to the plans I saw, going to have over 40 EV parking spaces in its garage.

One of the more interesting flaws in the Realtor Magazine article was the suggestion that home garages should be insulated or even heated to avoid shortening the life of an electric vehicle’s battery. This is a misinterpretation of the fact that EVs lose range in the winter. It’s not that the battery loses power in cold weather, but rather that heating the car’s cabin uses battery power which thereby reduces the car’s range, as does the heating of the battery itself to its optimum operating temperature.

Electric Vehicle Roundup in Golden This Saturday, June 4th, 3-6pm

While the cost of gasoline and diesel has hit record highs, the cost of electricity for cars has dropped. Perhaps you’ve heard of the new Time of Use rates from Xcel Energy. Under that rate plan, you pay 10 cents per kilowatt-hour after 7pm and before 1pm and on weekends and holidays. If you opt out of that plan, you pay 14 cents per kWH at all times. The nice thing about EVs is that you can program any EV to start charging at 7pm even though you plug it in earlier. So maybe it’s time to consider getting an electric car! You can meet the owners of more than a dozen makes and models of electric cars and trucks this Saturday, June 4th, from 3 to 6pm in the parking lot of The Net Zero Store, 17695 S. Golden Rd. This is during the monthly Super Cruise event. Pedego Golden will be there with electric bicycles to test ride, too. Below are some of the electric vehicles already registered for this event.

Do You Own an EV?  Bring it to Our EV Roundup on June 4  

It’s going to be the electric vehicle event of the summer — an opportunity for non-EV owners to meet 30 or more owners of different electric cars and trucks, to “kick the tires” and get their questions answered. If you have an EV you’d like to show to non-EV owners (and fellow EV owners), email me at Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com.

The Net Zero Store Is Open for Business!  

     Since vacating Golden Real Estate’s original home at 17695 S. Golden Road (across from Taco Bell), we have converted that net zero energy location into — what else? — The Net Zero Energy Store, and it is now open for business weekdays. The concept is simple — to sell products and services that make your home more energy efficient — either step by step, or all the way to being “net zero energy.”

    A net zero energy home is all-electric (no natural gas heating, cooking, grilling or fireplace), has its own solar panels to generate electricity from the sun, and optimizes the use of electricity through super-insulation, heat pump technology, induction ranges, high-performance windows, energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) and other widely available technology.

    The store, which has many such products on display, is manned weekdays by the sales team of Helio Home, Inc., which sells and installs all those products. Stop by to speak with a sales person who can talk knowledgeably about what’s possible in your own home.  They also have a relationship with a credit union (Clean Energy Credit Union) which lends money solely for sustainability projects and the purchase of used or new electric cars.

‘The Net Zero Store’ Is Now Open, Its Parking Lot Hosting Apr. 2nd Electric Vehicle Roundup  

When Golden Real Estate moved from 17695 S. Golden Road to 1214 Washington Avenue in downtown Golden, we announced that our previous location (which Rita and I still own) would become The Net Zero Store, where products and services would be sold to help homeowners make their homes more sustainable and perhaps even “net zero energy.” 

That building is a perfect location for such a one-stop shop for “all things sustainable” because it is itself a net zero energy building. Its 20 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic panels generate all the electricity to heat, cool and power the building as well as to provide free EV charging to the general public.

No building can be net zero energy so long as it uses natural gas, so we had the gas meter removed in 2017 and now heat the building with a Mitsubishi heat pump mini-split system.

The opening of The Net Zero Store coincides with this Saturday’s Electric Vehicle Roundup in the building’s parking lot. As of this writing, 36 owners of 18 different models of EVs, including a Rivian pickup truck, have registered for the event, and 86 people have registered as attendees. You can register at www.DriveElectricWeek.info.

The EV Roundup is this Saturday, April 2nd, from 3 to 6 pm.

Partnering as the chief tenant of The Net Zero Store is Helio, a business that is already deeply involved in retrofitting existing homes to be more energy efficient. You’re invited to come in during the EV Roundup to learn how you can lower your own home’s carbon footprint, whether with heat pumps, insulation, sun tunnels, geothermal heating or solar PV.

Also participating in the Electric Vehicle Roundup is Clean Energy Credit Union, which specializes exclusively in financing sustainable improvements for your home as well as auto loans solely for electric vehicles. Look for their booth on our patio during the event.

Registrations Surge for Apr. 2nd Electric Vehicle Roundup in Golden

According to the registration site www.DriveElectricWeek.info, 44 attendees and 18 EV owners have registered for this event held on S. Golden Road during SuperCruise.

What excites me about this year’s event is that The Net Zero Store will be up and running in our former real estate office whose parking lot is the venue for the EV roundup. Attendees interested in all aspects of sustainability, not just EVs, will be able to come inside and chat with experts about improving their home’s energy efficiency.

Must Read: ‘From Homes to Cars, It’s Now Time to Electrify Everything’  

Every now and then I read an article that I am compelled to share, because it simply “nails it.”

Such was the article by Saul Griffith, published Oct. 19, 2021, on the Yale School of the Environment website, http://www.e360.yale.edu, and re-posted Nov 30, 2021, on GreenBuildingAdvisor.com.

Here’s a link to the full article: https://e360.yale.edu/features/from-homes-to-cars-its-now-time-to-electrify-everything.

The thesis of that article is summarized as follows: “The key to shifting away from fossil fuels is for consumers to begin replacing their home appliances, heating systems, and cars with electric versions powered by clean electricity. The challenges are daunting, but the politics will change when the economic benefits are widely felt.”

The diagram above right shows what can be electrified in a home. Rita and I are most of the way there. This fall I purchased an electric snow blower to complement our electric lawn mower, weed eater, leaf blower and automobiles. Earlier this year I purchased a heat pump water heater to complement our heat pump hybrid furnace. (Hybrid, because it still burns natural gas when the outdoor temperature dips below 30° F.)

All these electric devices are powered by the sun, thanks to our 10-kW solar PV system installed when we bought our home in 2012.  Because we still cook with gas and occasionally burn gas in our furnace and fireplace, our Xcel bill is still around $35-40 per month, but we’re doing our part to “electrify everything.”

You can do that, too.

The central thesis of Saul Griffith’s article is that we have little control over the supply side of energy, although there are encouraging signs of it becoming less dependent on fossil fuels.  But we have total control over the demand side of energy:

“We don’t have a lot of choice on the supply side, but we have all of the choice on the demand side. For the most part, we decide what we drive, how we heat our water, what heats our homes, what cooks our food, what dries our laundry, and even what cuts our grass. This constitutes our ‘personal infrastructure,’ and it is swapping out that infrastructure that will be a key driver of the global transition from fossil fuels to green energy.”

According to Griffith, who co-founded the non-profit Rewiring America, there are 280 million cars and trucks in America, 70 million fossil-fueled furnaces, 60 million fossil-fueled water heaters, 20 million gas dryers, and 50 million gas stoves, ovens and cooktops. Until now, the conversation has been about making each of those fossil-fueled appliances more efficient, earning “Energy Star” ratings.

But the real goal should be to replace them with electric appliances burning the increasingly green electricity which is being generated by our electric utilities.

A common refrain from people regarding electric cars is that they are not really zero emissions because of how the electricity is generated. I myself was originally reluctant to buy an EV because I didn’t want to “switch from burning gas to burning coal.”

However, that argument overlooks the relative efficiency of electric motors.  In a fossil-fueled car, only 20% of the energy in the fuel is propelling the car. The rest is waste energy, primarily creating heat which then requires more fuel to cool it. In an EV, 90% of the energy from the battery propels the car. There’s almost no waste energy.

An suitable analogy to the gas-powered car is an incandescent light bulb, in which light is a byproduct of heating the filament. It’s no surprise that the LED light bulb uses about 20% of the electricity of an incandescent light bulb for the same amount of light, because light is the primary product of the LED, not a by-product of waste energy.

Because of its relative efficiency, even if an EV is charged from electricity created entirely by coal, its carbon footprint is far below that of a fossil-fuelel vehicle. The same applies to today’s highly efficient heat pumps for both space heating (and cooling) and for water heating.

Griffith’s point is that more efficient fossil-fueled appliances won’t get us where we need to be to save the planet from catastrophic climate change. We need to get to zero emissions, which is only possible by going all-electric in our homes and vehicles as our electric utilities make their inevitable transition — whether incentivized by government or simply by the economies of renewable energy — to clean energy.

You, like me, will love the effects of this transition to all-electric living. Imagine a future where carbon dioxide is not a household poison; where motorcycles don’t disturb the peace and quiet of our streets and canyons; where semis slow down quietly because they are putting energy back into their batteries instead of using loud and polluting engine braking; where our neighbors aren’t disturbed by loud lawn mowers, snow blowers and leaf blowers; and where children no longer suffer health problems from their own school buses or playgrounds next to highways.

You, like me, will appreciate the ease of use and near-zero maintenance of electric devices. My snow blower, lawn mower, and leaf blower start by pushing a button or pulling a lever and never need a tune-up, refueling or oil change.

Griffith is not arguing that everyone should immediately swap out their fossil-fueled cars or appliances but rather avoid replacing them with newer ones. Cars, for example, can last for 20 years, and gas furnaces for 15 years. When they need replacing, make the smart choice and replace them with their electric counterparts. You’ll be glad you did five or ten years later when their resale value has evaporated due to public recognition that they became obsolete before you purchased them.