By Pat Sherman
SDUN Assistant Editor
San Diegans will learn how to use the sun’s warmth to make their homes more energy efficient while slashing utility bills by up to 50 percent or more during the Kensington Clean Energy Festival, June 26 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
During the event, at the Kensington-Normal Heights branch library and the Kensington Community Church, attendees will learn about cost-saving rebates and incentives such as the California Solar Initiative and the city’s Clean Generation Program. These rebates are available to homeowners who install energy- and water-saving features such as solar water heating and photovoltaic systems.
The festival is a partnership between the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE), the Kensington 100th Anniversary Committee and the Kensington-Normal Heights branch library. It will include a series of educational workshops and a walking tour of energy-efficient Kensington homes.
Martin Offenhauer’s 1914 Craftsman-style home is one of the stops on the tour. Shortly after purchasing the home in 2000, Offenhauer had a $3,500 solar water heating system installed that included two solar panels mounted atop his garage and a separate solar heating reservoir. Between a state rebate of $750 and the money he saved on utility bills, Offenhauer estimates the system paid for itself within three years.
“I figure probably about two-thirds of my hot water heating is done by solar,” he said. “‘May gray’ and ‘June gloom’ cut it down a little bit but it does pretty well most of the year.”
Offenhauer’s sustainability efforts also include replacing his lawn with decorative cactus, yucca, aloe and other succulents that require only 10 minutes of watering, three times a week. A solar fan pumps warm air from his attic and keeps the house significantly cooler, while a front-loading, energy-efficient washing machine recycles two gallons of the final rinse for use in the first cycle of the next load of laundry.
These and other energy-saving elements have reduced Offenhauer’s utility and water bill by an average of 50 to 60 percent, he said.
Charles Rightmyer, whose home also is on the tour, installed 18 solar electric (photovoltaic) panels on his roof, which often produce more energy than he can consume – an excess that flows back into the energy grid.
“The (south-facing) panels provide 3.5 kilowatts of power in the best of conditions,” Rightmyer said. “We get paid for the small amount we dump back into the grid. … Once a year we can sell that power back to SDG&E.”
Some energy-saving features, such as dual pane windows, were not an option for Offenhauer, due to the historic nature of his home, he said.
Architect Curtis Drake, board president of the Save Our Heritage Organisation, will offer a workshop geared toward the owners’ historic homes. Drake will offer advice on how to add energy-saving features while maintaining a structure’s historic integrity.
The festival was the brainchild of Kensington resident Tom Evons. While volunteering with Kensington’s centennial festivities this year, Evons moved from ruminating on the community’s rich history to its uncertain future.
“We are (adding) new sewer pipes because the ones we have here are almost 100 years old,” Evons said. “Some of the infrastructure is getting upgraded but what about the homes and the people and how they interact with the environment? Almost all the homes in Kensington are older homes and sometimes it’s difficult to do an energy remodel.”
Evons approached the California Center for Sustainable Energy about helping him organize an event. The nonprofit group offers workshops and administers the rebate program for San Diego Gas & Electric.
Drew Henley, CCSE’s outreach coordinator, said center staff will offer information about rebate programs, though there will be no vendors or contractors at the event.
“We wanted to make this more of a grassroots feel and a community feel,” Henley said.
“We handle the marketing, outreach and actual processing of the rebates (for SDG&E),” he said. “We also serve as quality control, to make sure that the contractor gives the homeowner exactly what they said they would.”
Evons, who moved to Kensington two years ago, said he has yet to implement energy-saving features, but hopes to glean useful information during the event.
“I’m one of the ideal type of resident to really gain a lot from this day,” Evons said. “I’m working toward solar (power) and more energy-efficient watering systems. I’m talking to people about rainwater harvesting and maybe down the line greywater harvesting. I’m going to be very interested in all the information that’s being given out.”
Workshops also will be offered on energy efficiency, xeriscaping (gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for irrigation), smart meters and photovoltaic technology.
Pamela Meisner from Cuyamaca College’s Water Conservation Garden will entertain children at the library, appearing as “Ms. Smarty Plants.” Meisner uses animals, song and sleight-of-hand to show children how they can become conservation heroes.
Home tour maps and workshop information will be available at the library.
Kensington Clean Energy Festival
WHEN 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. June 26
WHERE Kensington-Normal Heights branch library, 4121 Adams Ave.; Kensington Community Church, 4773 Marlborough Drive
INFO energycenter.org or (858) 244-1177