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100-year old Eagle home goes green

Article as it appeared on Vail Daily
November 16, 2008
By Katie Drucker | Writer

EAGLE, Colorado — Last January, Kraige and Jann Kinney received a natural gas bill of $380 for their Eagle, Colorado home. It was motivation. By the end of this week, the Kinney household on Brush Creek Road will go green.

Over the past few months, Kraige Kinney has embarked on the project of upgrading his old house into a green house.

Kinney took on the endeavor because he has been an advocate for renewable energy. He figures it would be a way to provide an example. He also said he was greening his home for the benefit of his family for generations to come.

Kinney, a Vail Fire Department lieutenant and a member of the Eagle Town Board, has been pushing for sustainable solutions in Eagle.

"I would say that both Kraige and I have advocated at the town board level for the town staff to begin working on sustainable initiatives in general," said Yuri Kostick, Eagle County environmental sustainable coordinator and Eagle Town Board member. "The personal project of greening his own home is a very applaudable effort."

Old house, new tricks

Kinney has outfitted his home, built in 1901 and thought to be Sears and Roebuck home, with new insulation, solar panels, retrofitted radiant heat, and a 96 percent efficient water heater.

As a result of the home’s age, new insulation was another necessity.

"It wouldn’t do well to put solar on a cardboard box," said Kent Zeltner of Morning Sun Solar, a consulting, design and installation company.

Kinney notes the solar panels, which will supplement heating and hot water, are really important to his two teenage daughters.

Kinney retrofitted his home with radiant heat by lining the floors with tubes filled with hot water, heated by the solar panels. The tubes cause heat to rise and are the only heat source on the first floor of the Kinney house.

The 96 percent efficient hot water heater, installed by Kinney with the help of plumber Kenny Williams, is a back-up for the solar panels.

Kinney’s green project cost about $16,500 and lots of sweat equity.

"It is more expensive, but hopefully, over time, more efficient," said Kinney.

Kinney says 50 to 70 percent of space heating will be covered by solar and 80 to 100 percent of hot water will come from the solar panels, cutting his utility bill by about half.

"I’m hoping payback on the solar portion will be six to eight years," says Kinney.

With fuel costs expected to rise, Kinney’s investment might have an even bigger payoff later.

"To try to take advantage of natural resources that doesn’t require fossil fuels is obviously a benefit," said Kinney.

The Kinney house is not the only green house in Eagle. Kinney cites a house in the Bluffs and two houses in Eagle Ranch that are also trying to capitalize on natural resources.

Kinney notes that green homes will become less scarce as the town of Eagle moves toward a green community.

Kinney says eventually the town plans on offering financial incentives to help people get over the initial cost hump. However, due to the current economy, Eagle has its incentive program on hold.

"We are trying to budget for the year ‘09 to put some money in place so the town can study some options out there," said Kostick.

Incentive options

Though the town is not yet offering incentives for sustainable initiatives, the federal government, Holy Cross Energy and Eagle County are.

The Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency provides tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements made during 2009. The bill also extended tax credits for solar energy systems and fuel cells to 2016. Tax credits for builders of new energy-efficient homes and tax deductions for owners and designers of energy-efficient commercial buildings were also extended, according to the Energy Star Web site.

"That is a big deal," Kostick said of the renewed bill.

Holy Cross Energy also offers a green incentive. Holy Cross Energy has a $2,000 rebate per kilowatt of renewable energy installed. That means if a 1-kilowatt renewable energy generation system cost the average home owner $10,000 to install, Holy Cross will rebate a $2,000. The maximum rebate Holy Cross Energy would give is for a 10-kilowatt system, or $20,000 per system.

ECObuild, an Eagle County initiative, also offers help for adding green aspects to a home.

Eagle County partners with the Governor’s Energy Office to reimburse local residents installing insulation in existing homes at 50 percent of the cost, not to exceed $500 rebate per household. ECObuild also offers a grant program, which makes funding subsidies for renewable energy or energy-efficient improvements in homes.

"The county has that help to make this solar install affordable. Those, combined with the federal rebate, about halve the installed cost of our system," says Kinney.

His old house, which was built when cast-iron radiators heated most homes, now uses sustainable energy. The Kinneys hope their home will stay in the family. Kraige and Jann plan on staying in Eagle, and passing it on to whichever one of their girls wants the home.

"It’s all been fun and games, besides the parts that weren’t," said Kinney.

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