The American Solar Energy Society, Southern Nevada Chapter has put together the first tour of energy efficient homes in Las Vegas. The public will see eight homes, two educational facilities and four commercial sites as examples of how the public can save energy. KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports.
PLASKON: Steve Rypka was an audio engineer for strip properties, but lately he's found himself making a different kind of sound.
RYPKA: That's amazing . . . This is my Nevada power bill and my bill total for last month was 6 dollars and 86 centes.
PLASKON: He's been talking so much about Green Living he's decided to start a new career as a Green Living Consultant. Today he invited reporters into his 21-hundred square foot home to point out the paint on his walls.
RYPKA: It actually sealed our walls and made it a healthier environment in our home.
PLASKON: And the floor tiles.
RYPKA: The tile is meant to be exposed because it acts as a thermal mass, it is meant to keep it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
PLASKON: Where he has carpet, it's made of 100-percent recycled soda bottles. Up above is a sleek ceiling fan with curved blades.
RYPKA: That is an energy star fan that goes beyond energy star and is about 44 percent more energy efficient than a standard fan.
PLASKON: All the reporters go silent when Rypka turns to a blinding light that's pouring out of the ceiling.
RYPKA: That is a solar tube, it is a natural light coming through a domed thing on the roof through a highly reflective tube and it can be routed around the rafters and it is more energy efficient than a sky light. It's very bright, ya, there is a diffuser there.
PLASKON: Casual visitors wouldn't know the light, paint, fan and carpet are anything special - they look completely normal, but use little or no energy.
RYPKA: There is a payback, and the payback is you feel so good that you are making a difference.
PLASKON: These kinds of upgrades won't help much for inefficient homes he says. All the gaps in Rypka's house are so tightly sealed he needs a fan to occasionally bring in fresh air. To top it all off, on the roof are panels capable of generating 5-kilowatts of power.
RYPKA: And it just sits there and generates electricity every day, and it is a great feeling to know that when the sun comes up in the morning your power is coming, not form some dirty coal buring plant, and I am really happy to have that.
PLASKON: The average energy bill in the valley is 127 dollars a month. At that rate, Rypka's saving more than 1500 dollar a year in energy bills. The benefits aren't confined to Rypca's home. Since he pumps electricity back into the grid, other businesses are using it and he is actually banking power credit. That means his solar energy system can even benefit him when he is away. With a little tweak to his hybrid car Rypka can use his conserved energy to drive.
RYPKA: There are now people that are modifying the prius that will allow it to operate on pure electric up to 45 miles an hour. With that modification I can charge it from my solar system and get up to 180 miles per gallon literally from solar power.
PLASKON: The solar energy system cost about 45-thousand dollars, more than half of it was paid for by Nevada Power Rebates. Nevada power only issues about 140 rebates a year for homes - the rebates sold out in less than a month and there is currently a waiting list. Senator Dina Titus was there too. She insists it wasn't a Gubinatorial campaign stop, but rather to promote renewable energy bills she's passed that have made rebates like this possible. She wants to make lots more of these rebates available and would like to issue rebates to home builders who install solar energy systems too.
TITUS: I want to put together a whole renewable energy summit we have geothermal we have sun we have been dibbling and dabbling in it but we have never made it a priority, I would like people to come together for economic development, from the utility companies and the R and D side of this, if we could capture all of that it is good for national security.
PLASKON: While it isn't a summit, Reno is hosting a Sustatnable living expo this weekend. Here Southern Nevada is getting its first public tour of energy efficient homes. Rypka's is one, UNLV has two that will scientifically study home efficiency for 18 months.
Ky Plaskon News 88-9 KNPR
Steve Rypka stands next to a solar cooker while it cooks vegetable soup at 280 degrees using only the power of the sun.