Greetings to all you energy conscious, eco-minded folks! I hope you are ready to read about solar energy and green building in this 10-part series! I’d like to start with a little background, though, so you can see:
• Solar has been around for a long time.
• Energy efficiency is not trendy.
• I’m a credible source.
Solar energy is not new. It has been around for as long as the sun! Did you ever notice that the cliff dwellings of indigenous peoples, such as the Anasazi, face south? Over a thousand years ago, people understood the power of the sun. They built their dwellings facing south to capture the sun’s winter warmth. The rocks absorbed the heat and released it slowly after dark. Cliff dwellings were also built under overhangs to shade out the high summer sun. (photo: flickr PhillipC)
The principles of solar energy have not changed in thousands of years, and we use them in building today. As energy prices remain unstable, passive solar and other energy efficient building methods are becoming more important. Many communities, such as Taos, New Mexico, where I live, are putting energy efficient requirements into their building codes. (graphic: NM Solar Energy Assoc)
We must incorporate more renewable energy, because fossil fuels are finite. They will not be here forever to heat and cool our homes, and as they get depleted, prices will rise. We cannot create more oil, natural gas and coal, but the sun, wind and water will always be available.
Fossil fuels also cause political struggle, greed and other negative energies. No one needs to die in the battle for fossil fuels when the sun, wind and water can supply our energy needs.
Your home is the first place to begin saving energy. According to the EPA, buildings in the US account for:
• 39 percent of total energy use
• 12 percent of the total water consumption
• 68 percent of total electricity consumption
• 38 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions
It is clear that saving energy in your home will have a positive impact on the planet and your wallet. An energy-efficient home is also a buffer against fuel price increases.
Energy efficient homes are my passion. I have wanted to be an architect since I was about six years old. I played with Legos more often than Barbie dolls. My passion for homes, solar energy and all things eco drove me to become a Certified EcoBroker®, a Realtor® specializing in green homes.
I’ve been attracted to the sun since my Lego days, too. Maybe I was an Anasazi in a previous life. Or maybe the large sunny window in my childhood room had an effect on me. My mom turned my room into a greenhouse after I grew up and moved out. Whenever I came home, I slept with geraniums and orchids without complaint.
I was always outdoors, too, running in the woods, catching frogs in the brook, or marveling at pansy faces and the multicolor sheen of Japanese beetles. I knew at a young age I was part of the natural world.
At 25, I got a grounds-keeping job at a large summer resort. I was in my element, working with plants and being outside every day. This was my first experience with a greenhouse, though.
The Wentworth by the Sea in Newcastle, NH had a greenhouse where we started from seed all the plants for the hundreds of lavish flower gardens. We mixed our own potting soils, transplanted seedlings into the ground, mulched, weeded, watered, fertilized, cleaned up in fall and spread composted manure on the beds in November. After eight heavenly months at the Wentworth, I wanted to study horticulture. I enrolled at the University of New Hampshire’s Thompson School of Applied Science for the fall of 1980.
There my solar studies began.