Energy-efficient living knows no age or lifestyle, according to the Hampton Roads Green Building Council.
If you use a refrigerator, flush a toilet or wash clothes, you can learn how to use less and save more when you take the council's free, self-guided Hampton Roads Solar Tour of more than 20 businesses and homes Oct. 1-2.
In 2007, Ben Cuker and wife Dawn, Hampton residents who have their solar home on the tour, quit using their electric clothes dryer; they added several clothes lines to their back porch to dry laundry. They've also installed several solar systems, including a "solar awning," that make their 1939-built house energy efficient.
"It is now fairy easy to construct a super insulated new house that is energy neutral," says Cuker, professor of marine and environmental sciences at Hampton University.
"I wanted to demonstrate that it is economically feasible to bring an older house to near energy neutrality."
Here are 10 examples of what you can see and learn during the tour and how you can use that information in your own life. The tour features experts who will answer questions at each site.
The Dolan House on 57th Street in Newport News has a rooftop solar system, bought online in 2010, that meets 100 percent of the home's electrical needs.
•You can buy or rent a Kill-A-Watt meter to measure the electricity being used in your old refrigerator, dryer or toaster oven.
A new LEED-certified administration building at NASA Langley features solar power panels that save taxpayers money.
•At your home, install garden lights powered by mini-solar panels or buy a solar-powered battery recharger for household items and toys.
At several houses on the solar tour, watch an electric meter run backward, creating a utility bill with credits instead of charges for electricity.
•Use an online calculator to determine your potential solar savings at http://1bog.org/solar-estimate.
See an electric vehicle charging station and learn about the new generation of electric vehicles that will soon be widely available.
•The next time you're in Washington, New York or San Francisco or many other major cities, try a rental electric car through Hertz, Enterprise and Avis.
See a "green roof," or a rooftop garden insulating a home with wildflowers.
•Start a "green wall" by planting trees, shrubs or vines on the south side of your house to increase shade and reduce your
Feel the insulation on a super-insulated building and learn how insulation is the first best step of all energy improvements.
•Upgrade the insulation in one room of your home; next season, upgrade another area and keep going until your entire home is done.
See how rainwater can be collected and learn the importance of efficient water systems.
•Install your own rain barrel, and check for a rainwater barrel program or rebate in your city or county; James City County offers rebates for
barrels and cisterns through Let's Be Water Smart at bewatersmart.org.
Listen to a wind turbine quietly generate renewable energy for a house in Hampton.
•Use your computer to learn more how wind energy benefits us from the American Wind Energy Association at awea.org.
Watch a solar hot water system operate and learn why the sun is better than electricity for heating water, even in winter.
•Install low-flow aerators on your faucets and shower heads to save on your own utility bills.
Discover ways to teach your kids about the future of energy and the need to conserve.
•Find kid-friendly science projects at houseplansandmore.com/a-kids-guide-to-solar-power-in-the-home.html
Take the tour
What: Hampton Roads Solar Tour
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 1-2
Details: Self-guided tour of nearly two dozen homes and businesses in Newport News, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Poquoson, Williamsburg, Hampton and Virginia Beach that run on solar energy. The NASA Langley stop requires special registration in advance. Experts will be at each location to answer questions. Free tour; for maps, schedules, touring instructions and details, visit hrsolartour.com or call 214-6732.
Sponsor: Hampton Roads Green Building Council — http://www.hrgbc.org — in conjunction with the National Solar Tour coordinated by the American Solar Energy Society.
Read the article "The Energy Producing and Saving Home" by Ben Cuker, professor of marine and environmental science at Hampton University, at roomandyard.com/digging; Cuker's home in Hampton will be on the Solar Tour.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun