INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — It’s time to put those New Year's resolutions into action and I would like to encourage all property owners to make their house, condo or investment property more energy efficient in 2012. Whenever I see advertisements on television promoting “clean coal” it makes me cringe because except for wind and solar there really aren’t any forms of energy consumers use on a daily basis that are truly clean. Hydroelectric power is great, but it still means constructing large dams and building transmission lines to distribute the energy. All other methods for generating electricity and heat in our homes create various forms of pollution, emissions or result in a waste disposal problem. So, if everyone can make a few small home improvements along with slightly reducing consumption, we can help the environment and we won't need to build more coal fired power plants in Nevada.
When most people think of utilizing wind power, it conjures up visions of large-scale arrays like the one near Altamont Pass or the big old wooden windmills that you see on a farm. Modern technology has resulted in small-scale windmills with blades the size of your hand and wind tunnels that fit seamlessly along the roof line of a house. We are not going to completely replace the use of coal, gas and oil with wind and solar in the next decade or two. But if each property owner can slightly reduce consumption and use alternative methods to offset between 10% and 30% of their energy use we can reduce the number of new power plants that will be needed.
Replacing your old light bulbs and fixtures with modern energy efficient ones is one of the more cost-effective ways to reduce energy usage. We are already seeing the phaseout of incandescent lightbulbs and in our lifetime it is likely the compact fluorescent bulb will become obsolete and replaced with LED light fixtures. One of the beauties of using LEDs is that they can be powered by direct-current. This means that you can take the energy from a solar panel or wind system and run it directly into an LED lighting array without using an inverter. This dramatically reduces the cost and makes the installation of artificial light powered by natural means much simpler.
One of the great pleasures of living at Lake Tahoe is that you can look up at night and see the Milky Way when it's not blotted out by artificial light. Turning off lights not only saves money and energy but it also reduces light pollution and helps all of us enjoy the planets, stars and constellations. You can install a motion sensor so the lights for your driveway, garage and front door turn on and off automatically. There are times when you will want to leave the outside lights on when friends and family are coming and going. But the vast majority of the time up here we don't need outside lights making the neighborhood look like Manhattan and obscuring the night sky.
A lot of construction took place in Incline Village and Crystal Bay between 1970 and 1990. During those years the amount of insulation that was used during the building process varied dramatically. Many structures have insulation in the stem walls in the crawlspace and not between the floor joists. This goes for condos as well as single-family homes. So, while condo owners may not personally be responsible for maintenance of the crawlspace because that is often handled by their homeowners association, the HOA is generally not going to pay to insulate underneath your particular unit. The cost to install insulation in a crawlspace has dropped dramatically in the past few years. This simple step will help to reduce heating bills while making your place warm and cozy during the cold winter months.
If you are contemplating replacing the roof or doing any significant remodeling at your house or condo, then consider incorporating passive solar elements into the design. We get approximately 300 days of sunshine each year and Incline Village and Crystal Bay receive a lot of direct sunlight due to the general southern orientation of our community. When I put a new roof on my house I had just 2 skylights installed and it cut my heating bill by 30%. You can incorporate passive and active elements such as skylights, solar panels, wind systems, bidirectional window blinds, vents, ceiling fans, LED lighting, vegetation and other features that will help to keep your place at a comfortable temperature all year ‘round while reducing utility costs and energy usage.