On Saturday I went to Burbank Water and Power’s Energy Fair in front of their Magnolia Boulevard plant. After I finally got there, I was impressed with much of what I saw. I almost gave up trying to attend because of welling frustration in driving around for 10 or 15 minutes trying to find a parking place, and feeling like I was wasting the better part of a tank of gas trying to learn how to save energy.

But I was glad I stuck it out. I learned a few things that I believe might benefit some Burbank businesses and homeowners.

There were information booths with displays on things like electrical safety and energy efficiency for people’s homes. There were free energy-saving light bulbs. There was a booth where they were offering free shade trees, and another where you could arrange for free installation of free water-saving faucet aerators and shower heads, plus free energy-saving tips. But what really got my attention were two items: solar panels and a hybrid car, mainly because they appeared to provide ways for consumers to actually save money by going green.

According to the booth attendant, the city would rebate one-third the cost of the solar panel system, and the IRS would rebate 30% of the actual cost. So if a system cost $30,000, the city would kick in $10,000, and then the IRS would rebate $6,000 (or 30% of the remaining $20,000), for a net cost of $14,000.

He said that such a system would cut a typical home’s annual electrical cost by about two-thirds (in my case, saving an average of about $100 per month depending on use of air conditioning). He said it would probably pay for itself in about 15 years, but obviously the number of years would depend on the energy use and corresponding savings involved.

If the monthly savings covered the payments on a loan for the cost of the system, it could work out especially well, and it would add value to the house. Each person would have to learn the details of their own situation to see if it made sense, but it seems worth looking into.

The Burbank Water and Power experimental model of the Prius has an improved, longer-life battery that can be plugged in to a normal home outlet. The booth attendant said a similar Chevrolet Volt is due out next year, and that Toyota is working on a public market/production version that should soon follow. He said the utility’s car gets about 40 miles to a normal electrical charge; after that it starts running on gasoline.

He said the cost to run the car on electricity worked out to the equivalent of buying gasoline for 75 cents a gallon. So if a person drives 40 miles per day back and forth to work, and they now get about 20 miles per gallon, they would normally be using two gallons of gas per day. With gasoline about $3 per gallon, they would save $4.50 per day, or about $90 for a month of 20 working days. If gasoline went to $5 per gallon, they would save about $170 per month.

And the savings would increase if the car were used for weekend errand-driving, and even more so, if the car-charging home electricity were generated by solar panels.

By providing profit plus pride, green will grow.

 ROBERT PHIPPS is a long-time Burbank resident who’s been involved in politics and business for many years. He can be reached at WriteRobertPhipps@ yahoo.com.

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