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Home tour highlights energy efficiency

Paul Raymore
Paul RaymoreJonathan Stoumen, an area-architect, shows off one of his projects in the Donner Creek area during the Truckee Energy-Smart Homes Tour on Oct. 18.
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Truckee residents and second-home owners joined visitors, builders and other green building enthusiasts Saturday for the Truckee Energy-Smart Homes Tour.

More than 50 people took part in this year’s tour, which gave participants the chance to witness firsthand environmentally friendly building techniques, energy efficient home designs as well as emerging technologies such as solar-electric systems and ground source heat pumps.

Sponsored by the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, the tour brought participants by bus to four Truckee homes and three buildings in the area that feature elements of what has come to be known as “green building” – a philosophy that emphasizes using renewable building materials and energy sources as much as possible.

Scott Terrell, the Director of Planning at the PUD and one of the tour’s organizers, believes green building practices make a lot of sense in the Truckee community.

“I think it’s the right thing to do … We should be conserving and making good use of our resources,” Terrell said, adding, “If we’re wasteful, we’re wasting all our resources, including financial resources.”

Terrell has been helping organize the tour for five years now along with Rick Solinsky, who this year allowed tour-goers to visit his own home.

At the Solinsky home, guests learned about everything from solar hot water systems to ground source heat pumps. Perhaps the most important lesson learned at Solinsky’s house was the importance of preventing large amounts of energy losses through cracks around windows, doors, light fixtures and other holes that leak heat to the outdoors.

Solinsky enjoys the tour every year because “it’s a great opportunity for normal people like you and me to talk to experts in situations where tour-goers can actually see what’s going on and ask questions about certain homes.”

The tour attracted a number of people from all over the Truckee/North Tahoe region and beyond.

John Hillstrom made the trip up from San Francisco specifically for the homes tour. “I definitely found it worthwhile,” Hillstrom said, adding that he hopes to be able to incorporate some of the building techniques and technologies featured on the tour in the vacation-home he has in Tahoe Donner.

John Street, who made the trip up with Hillstrom, found inspiration in the amount of enthusiasm he witnessed for green building practices.

“It was neat to meet the people on the tour. It seemed like there was a palpable excitement about building energy smart homes. I just think people love the idea of being efficient and here’s a chance to be efficient in your own home,” Street said.

Local builders, architects, engineers and other contractors who utilize green technologies came out for the tour as well.

Richard Duncan, an engineer with offices in Tahoe City, felt that the tour gave people a pretty good idea about how people should start thinking about building homes.

According to Duncan, getting contractors to build homes with green technologies can be difficult due to the higher up-front costs associated with green building techniques.

However, if homeowners insist upon making sure their homes are energy efficient and utilize alternative energy sources from the very beginning of the planning phase, many of the added costs can be built into the price of a construction loan, allowing homeowners to stretch out payments while enjoying immediate savings in the form of reduced energy costs.

“A really alert homeowner… that person will be the most important piece of the puzzle in building green,” Duncan said.

Residents and others interested in green building techniques who missed the tour can still pick up a brochure containing information on all of the homes featured. Brochures are available from Scott Terrell at the Truckee Donner PUD building.


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