Life is complex today; there is no doubt. Gone are the days of simple decisions if you are going to live in today’s world in an active way. Even simple-sounding decisions can be daunting—what phone to buy, what foods are good for me, or how much exercise do I really need? Then there are more complex decisions such as, what I should do to live more sustainably? Too many choices, too many conflicting views and too many alternatives can cloud our ability to decide. Many put off making a decision, even though our intentions are very good.
So how do we try to live on a water- or energy budget? Should I install a photovoltaic system, a rainwater system, a geothermal or solar thermal system? These competing choices can all save big dollars over the long term, help reduce our carbon/water footprints and are great alternatives for the environment. Many property owners are not fortunate enough to do all of them, so we have to choose which to do first or which we can really afford, and not do the others. They are all good options and, if done properly, will increase your security and provide a positive return on your investment.
But how to choose? How to prioritize? A good starting point is to gain an understanding of how much you could save, energy- or water-wise. Water and energy audits are a great way to start. These will give you an understanding of where you should spend your hard-earned dollars and what options are first steps to consider.
On the energy side of the equation, it is possible to save up to 30 percent of what you already pay for by performing an energy audit, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (www.energy.gov/public-services/homes). Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) has a Home Audit Energy program and graduates certified auditors. A list of local certified auditors is available at www.bpi.org/homeowners.aspx
“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 of 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 continued, “comfort is the main driving force for most home energy improvements.”
For water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an irrigation audit certification program that teaches professionals how to perform and report on irrigation efficiency and effectiveness. The city of Santa Fe has partnered with the SFCC to offer this program locally. The next class is scheduled for Nov. 5, 6, 12, 13 and 14 at the Santa Fe Convention Center. Graduates must both pass a test and perform a water audit before being certified.
City of Santa Fe Water Conservation Manager Laurie Trevizo states, “We are pleased to offer landscape professionals an opportunity to be nationally certified and expand their business. 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.” To register for the class, go to www.santafenm.gov/waterconservation
Investments in energy and water systems such as photovoltaic, solar thermal and rainwater harvesting are great ways to save money, energy and water; however, reducing what you are already using should always be the first step. Get an audit and save.
Information and a DIY video for homeowners may be viewed at: http://www.sfcc.edu/NM_energysmart_academy
Doug Pushard, founder of HarvestH2o.com, is a member of the city of Santa Fe Water Conservation Committee. He designs and installs active and passive rainwater systems in northern New Mexico. firstname.lastname@example.org