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Saving Green by Going Green in Reno

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According to Tom Polikalas, the state is sitting on a another kind of gold mine. He sees the real boost in jobs here, is there for the taking. As he told us, "Energy efficiency represents a tremendous opportunity to create jobs and add to the state's economic output."

Specifically, the home energy retro-fit business. We went to see it for ourselves. Germaine Polikalas lives in southwest Reno. After a bit of research, she signed up for a makeover that will more than pay for itself in heating oil alone. As she told us, "My heating oil runs $4.10 a gallon now, and this year I think I've put in $3000 in heating oil."

Germaine recently had an energy audit that showed she could be saving $900 a year on energy costs, just with better air-sealing and better insulation. Tom Polikalas, who's with the non-profit group SWEEP (Southwest Energy Efficiency Project) says in 13 years, she'll end up saving $13,000. The economic benefits don't come just in the form of new jobs. He told us, "As homeowners and businesses save money on energy, they're then able to spend that money elsewhere in the economy."

Germaine's house was built in 1965, and it has plenty of drafty spots. Mary Winston, who owns Energy Masters, the firm hired to do the work, told us "What we're going to do is air-seal it, because we know that a lot of houses just bleed energy dollars just through random leaks and so forth."

Inside Germaine's home, Energy Master consultant Lesley Greninger pointed her infrared camera to a corner of the ceiling. With this technology, Lesley can see just how much energy is being wasted. Some are like holes in the wall with how much passes through: "We can see if there are any voids in insulation based on color. It shows there are voids in the insulation up there, because it's colder in the attic right now."

Up in the attic, she finds the open draft: "There's a big gap between the fireplace and the attic, so that's just air. We're going to air seal this with a foam, like a rigid foam, then we're going to insulate over the top of it."

Meanwhile, a worker fills in another gap with a new insulation panel, stuck in place with a foam gun. Outside, Tom checks out the cellulose that will be blown into the attic: "This is all newspaper shredded, and treated with fire retardant."

The big picture is, it's a potential $20 billion business. Tom says close to 5,000 new jobs could be created in Nevada by 2020, if more homes and businesses get this done.

Tom says it takes just a few hours to do this for your home. He doesn't work for a utility. He works for the non-profit "SWEEP," just looking to get the word out. Germaine is glad she did: "Oh absolutely! Yeah, with all the new things that are available, I mean you should take advantage!"

-written by John Potter

SWEEP is a non-profit organization promoting energy efficiency in Nevada and 5 other states in the Southwest. Energy Masters is the local company that performed the energy audit and did the work at Germaine's home. Click the links below if you'd like to find out more:

WWW.SWENERGY.ORG

WWW.ENERGYMASTERSHOME.COM

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