Sounding Off: 'Green' wishes for the new year

Green jobs, green jobs, green jobs. I wish the economy would develop the new cleaner sources of energy and the efficiencies highly needed in a building environment that consumes more than one-third of the energy, and accounts for 15% of the greenhouse gases and 80% of the CO2 emissions.

I look forward for a cash for home efficiencies program model in the success of the cash for clunkers that was the engine for vehicle sales during the summer. A modernization program to improve fuel efficiency on cars, by providing credit to consumers with funds from the Recovery Act, that help shore the auto industry.

This is very much needed in the construction sector, which despite the generally favorable trends in recent months, continues to report decline in revenue and job losses. This sector of the economy, which accounts for a little more than 5% of employment, has absorbed more than 20% of job losses since the downturn began.

The federal stimulus package provides a great opportunity for energy efficiency on buildings, with $787 billion allocated to rebuild our nation's infrastructure, create jobs, and invest in green building and energy efficiency. So why not a building program designed for energy efficiency, retrofitting homes or commercial buildings with new technologies and systems, for significant energy savings? A simple plan based on incentives for homes to promote efficiencies can make the difference.

We are not talking about homeowners starting with the installation of solar panels (PVs) on their roofs or farming wind in their backyard, but working on efficiency upgrades first and other low-key improvements to buildings that can provide a quick bang for the buck.

In tough economic times, capital costs are going to be a barrier for many homeowners in investing thousands of dollars in high technology, such as solar panels. But everyone can replace 10 incandescent bulbs around the home to produce the same result of one PV panel for much less.

A road map that begins with simple actions as replacing incandescent bulbs by efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LED) is the best first step to saving energy. This has the added benefit of cutting the unwanted heat produced by incandescent bulbs to glow the filament when electricity passes through it will reduce the heat load in our homes, requiring less air conditioning during the summer, cutting down on utility bills. If every U.S. household switched out just one incandescent bulb for an energy-efficient equivalent, the greenhouse gas emission prevented would be the equivalent to taking 1 million cars off the road.

We could follow these actions finding air leaks, installing programmable thermostats to turn down heat or air conditioning when nobody is home, wrapping water heaters to avoid heat loss and replacing heating and cooling filters. There are many simple tasks that can be part of a do-it-yourself for efficiency program that are not rocket science and can be conduct by homeowners with a simple but diligent walk-through.

More complicated categories such as insulation, heating and cooling equipment, solar panels and more complicated retrofits would come after. However, there are some tools and trained technicians that can point out problems more accurately, and provide solutions with an energy profile of your home.

Friends of mine like the ideas but didn't know where to find these professionals and asked also how to find rebates or incentives available today. A good place to start is the local utility or the state Energy Department or surfing the web for local efficiency experts.

A professional energy audit generally goes into great detail, room by room as well thorough examination of past utility bills to quantify future savings. The bottom line is that a well-designed program has the potential to do good from the bottom up, helping homeowners to savings in utility bills right away. The best is that in doing it we are going to save energy and reduce greenhouse emissions, too.

In spite of the generally favorable support for this approach, the decision lies at the federal level, but there's plenty of money available for buildings at the state level. California received an estimated $85 billion to create jobs and promote economic growth last year, with $3 billion allocated to the Energy Department and $2.5 billion for water and the environment, both considering a portion to provide funding for projects to reduce energy use by making buildings more energy efficient

Could the economic crisis be the end of green? Instead, "green" may be how we end this financial crisis, because with the economy hitting bottom, everyone is going to be looking to be more cost-efficient in the way we live and do business, and that will mean demand for the most cost-saving energy efficiencies," as written by Thomas Friedman in his book "Hot, Flat & Crowded."

There is little argument that energy efficiencies mean big savings; we just have to understand how to choose technologies and techniques that offer the greatest return on the investment. It makes sense to spend money today to save money later. Efficiency just makes economic sense.

GUSTAVO GRAD is a sustainable building advisor in Laguna Beach.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World