Smart Energy Expo to offer homeowners insight into products and services

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Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013 12:00 am

When it comes to building a sustainable home, there is no one-stop shop.

At least that's what Patrick Wheeler found when he and his wife decided to build an eco-friendly home in west Omaha in late 2011.

Building a home can be a time-consuming, logistical nightmare, Wheeler said, and adding sustainability, with a focus on nontoxic products, complicated the process even further.

“It was definitely a steep learning curve. There was an awful lot to think about,” Wheeler said.

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He hopes to simplify the process for others by offering tips and insight into the process at the Smart Energy Expo, which will be hosted at Millard Lumber, 12900 I St., on Sunday by the Green Omaha Coalition.

Wheeler will be at the expo representing the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he works as an environmental advocate and sustainability champion. Other exhibitors, including Metropolitan Community College and bioengineering firm Transduction Technologies, will provide expert advice on products and services available that add value, save money and promote energy efficiency.

David Holtzclaw, president of Transduction Technologies, will demonstrate several products and services, including a “door blower” demonstration, which shows how much heat is lost through the cracks in a closed door on a cold day.

Holtzclaw also will have Solar Pathfinders, which allow homeowners to analyze where solar panels should be placed using local weather data.

In addition, he will show some electric data monitors that allow businesses and homeowners to monitor their energy usage via a wireless device. The sensors are fairly new to the U.S. but are popular in Europe, Holtzclaw said.

The bread and butter of Holzclaw's business is performing residential and commercial energy audits to evaluate how home and business owners can save energy and calculate what their return investment might be when it comes to replacing windows, air-conditioning units or furnaces. Holtzclaw said that business typically picks up in the late winter or late summer, when homeowners are faced with high energy bills.

“People don't think ahead. It's just a knee-jerk reaction,” Holtzclaw said.

Some of the recommendations Holtzclaw makes to clients that are typically easy for homeowners to do themselves and cost-effective include:

» Replacing incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs.

» Sealing ductwork and air leaks in basements and attics with caulk, tape or spray foam.

» Purchasing a programmable thermostat to allow for energy savings when homeowners are out of the house or asleep.

» Wrapping hot water pipes and hot water heaters with insulating foam and blankets.

More expensive recommendations include replacing old furnaces, air-conditioning units and windows.

The analysis includes the financial payback over time as well as the environmental payback, but Holtzclaw said he emphasizes the financial payback. Even then, he gets little follow-through from homeowners. “It's an informed public, but it's not always a reacting public,” he said.

Millard Lumber, which works with both homebuilders and homeowners in finding sustainable products, finds one of its biggest sellers to be windows made from a combination of scrap vinyl and wood, said Don Rowe, Millard Lumber vice president of sales.

Replacing windows is one way homeowners can cut energy costs, Rowe said, because the latest double-pane technology and ultraviolet protectants available can reduce energy costs in all seasons.

Although the number of people interested in sustainable products has grown, Rowe said, it seems people are either all-in or apathetic.

“It's sometimes hard to make the return on investment ... work, but when you think about morally, or for the good of the planet, it starts to make sense for people. They're willing to invest a little bit more if they know it's a green product, knowing that it's good for the environment.”

Contact the writer:

What: The Green Omaha Coalition's Smart Energy Expo aims to provide expert advice on the newest products and services available for homeowners that add value, save money and promote energy efficiency.

Where: Millard Lumber warehouse, 12900 I St.

When: Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Who: Exhibitors will include the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Transduction Technologies and Metropolitan Community College.

Related event: The Green Omaha Coalition will also host a tour of sustainably built homes on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information: greenomahacoalition.org

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