published Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Rising costs generating interest in green energy

Audio clip

Ethan Collier

With energy costs rising, more Chattanoogans are interested in green construction, and companies helping homes be more energy efficient are growing.

In the last two years, business has boomed at Engineered Services Cooperative, which installs geothermal heating and air conditioning systems and solar heating systems, said Richard Parsons, a manager at the company.

When the company opened in 2006, it installed three geothermal heat pumps the entire year. In the past two years, the company placed more than 45 geothermal systems in homes, he said.

"People are thinking about being green because the costs of energy are skyrocketing," said Mr. Parsons. "We anticipate a tremendous increase in interest."

Also, Mr. Parsons said the federal government is offering tax incentives for installing geothermal heat pumps or solar panels.

"With the tax credit, the geothermal is the same price as a high-efficiency conventional air system," he said.

Besides geothermal technologies, companies are salvaging stormwater and building homes that stay warmer longer.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

* How much? The pumps have an upfront cost of $12,000 to $36,000.

* What are the benefits? Homeowners can save 30 percent to 60 percent on energy costs. They also can save consumers nationwide nearly $750 million over the 20 years the equipment is running.

* How are they green? According to the Geo Exchange, a geothermal heat pump consortium in Washington, D.C., geothermal heat pumps significantly reduce greenhouse gas and other air emissions.

Source: Engineered Services Cooperative

Stormwater Runoff Systems

* How much? The systems cost from $2,000 to $10,000. Some systems collect water from the roof, and the water is used for drinking, showering and running the toilets. Other systems are used just to irrigate the lawn.

* What are the benefits? Homeowners can reduce their water usage by as much as 70 percent depending on the system.

* How are they green? Harvesting stormwater reduces energy and saves water. The systems also help neighborhoods avoid problems with flooding.

Source: Collier Construction

Aaron Collier, marketing director at Collier Construction, said homeowners are reusing rainwater for lawn irrigation by building stormwater runoff systems.

"That has become popular because it has helped people save money on water," he said.

Also, people are asking for homes built with less lumber using advanced framing practices.

"We are using 50 percent less lumber in the walls of the home," said Mr. Collier. "It reduces the need for lumber production and reduces construction waste."

In the place of lumber, Collier Construction uses more insulation in the walls, which can double homes thermal capacity -- its ability to hold in hot and cool air.

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about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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