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Save Energy, Save Water, and Be Smart About It

by Doug Pushard

Many of us want to live more sustainably and yet feel overwhelmed by the many options and conflicting views that are out there. Should I install a photovoltaic system, a rainwater harvesting system, a geothermal or solar thermal system? All are good options and if done properly will increase your water/energy security, save dollars over the long term, and help reduce your carbon/water footprint. Many of us are not fortunate enough to do them all so we have to prioritize. And to do that, we need information.
Water and energy audits are a great way to start. These audits will help you understand where you are spending your hard-earned dollars and which conservation measures would be the best to implement first.

The Department of Energy states that an energy audit can help you save up to 30% on your energy bill (www.energy.gov/public-services/homes).
“While most people can identify and repair obvious energy issues in their homes, a trained energy auditor can give you a more comprehensive view," said Xubi Wilson, with Energy Solutions New Mexico. "Home energy planning can help a homeowner understand their building — its energy strengths and weaknesses — and how to make the most economical improvements. While economics are important,” Wilson added, "comfort is also a driving force for doing home energy improvements."

Many Community Colleges have a Home Audit Energy program that train certified auditors. A list of local certified auditors is available at: www.bpi.org/homeowners.aspx.

On the water side, the US EPA has a host of tools for conserving water both indoor and outdoor (www.epa.gov/watersense). Here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the City offers free audits to Commercial accounts and is working on an outdoor irrigation program that that teaches professionals how to perform and report on irrigation efficiency and effectiveness. The City of Santa Fe has partnered with the Santa Fe Community College and the New Mexico Water Conservation Alliance to teach this program. Graduates of the EPA program must pass a test and perform a water audit before being certified. Professional irrigation auditors can be found on the EPA website at http://www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor/irrigation_professionals.html.

"We are pleased to offer Santa Fe landscape professionals an opportunity to be nationally certified and expand their business,” said Laurie Trevizo, the City of Santa Fe Water Conservation Manager. “Some of the benefits of landscape evaluations include reducing water consumption, increasing the efficiency of your irrigation system and ultimately saving money on water bills.”

Pueblo Alegre is a very small neighborhood here in Santa Fe last year spent $16,000 watering two large parks. "We needed a solution, but first we needed to find out where all the water was going," said Grace Mayo, president of Pueblo Alegre's Board. Mayo says that an irrigation audit paid for itself in one season and will continue saving the neighborhood money for years to come.

Investments in energy and water systems such as photovoltaic, solar thermal and rainwater harvesting systems are great ways to save money, energy and water. But don’t forget that reducing what you are already using should always be the first step. Get an audit and save.

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