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State rolls out energy conservation exhibit

Dennis Webb

The stuff of a science laboratory could be witnessed in the parking lot of True Value in Glenwood Springs Wednesday.

On a tabletop inside a passenger bus, a surprisingly simple contraption made use of tiny solar panels and mere water to harness the power of hydrogen, spinning a fan a few inches in diameter.

It was only one of several displays on board the Energy Savings Exhibit bus, now on tour across rural Colorado.

The tour is being conducted by the Governor’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation (OEMC). Fittingly, the vehicle being used is one of the zero-emission, hybrid buses powered by compressed natural gas and batteries and used on Denver’s 16th Street Mall.

Within the confines of the bus Wednesday, visitors were able to witness evidence of various means for saving energy and pick up pamphlets and other materials on a range of energy-efficient technologies and products.

In one display, two light bulbs – one conventional, the other fluorescent – were hooked up to a household electrical meter. Flip the switch to light up the conventional bulb, and the meter disc began to spin. Turn on the efficient model, and the disc turned far more slowly as the bulb consumed less electricity.

Nearby were side-by-side window pane displays. One was conventional; the other had what’s called a “low-e” coating that filters out solar heat. Display visitors merely had to turn on a light bulb immediately behind each window to feel how much less heat passed through the coated version.

Such a window keeps less heat from entering a house in the summer, and less heat from escaping in the winter.

People touring the bus also could learn about a solar-powered submersible water pump, more efficient room-cooling technology that doesn’t require refrigerants or compressors, geothermal heating, and the availability of re-refined motor oil that uses recycled oil. They could hear of new agricultural irrigation techniques that use computers and global positioning systems to optimize use of water.

Another exhibit touted clean, quiet wind power. One windmill can power 100 homes, said Olga Erlich of the OEMC.

“I truly think that this is the future,” she said of wind power.

Also exhibited was an on-demand water heater that heats water as it passes through. One drawback, said Erlich, is that it limits heat production to one faucet at a time, meaning, for example, that you can’t shower and do dishes simultaneously.

“There are disadvantages, there are advantages to this thing like everything else as well,” she said.

While some energy-efficiency measures are expensive and some aren’t for everyone, others can make sense for many.

Erlich said that simply converting to a front-load washer from a top-load version results in 60 percent less water consumption. The clothes also agitate better, and thus clean better, and drain of water better, requiring less energy to dry them in an electric dryer.

Simple weatherization practices such as caulking, insulating, covering pipes with foam and installing special blankets over water tanks also can produce big energy savings for little money. Erlich noted that low-income families can apply for assistance in covering the costs involved.

Besides saving residents money, such upgrades reduce pollution. Energy consumption by buildings accounts for 35 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions, almost half of sulfur dioxide emissions and almost a quarter of nitrogen oxide emissions.

One visitor to the exhibit was Nick Looper, of Carbondale, along with his wife and their young child.

“We’re considering building a house and would like to try some different ideas, seeing how our electricity and gas prices are getting outrageous,” he said.

Looper, who has built other homes, said he appreciated being able to learn more about what products are on the market that can’t typically be found at building supply stores.

“I think availability is the biggest challenge” in energy-efficient construction, he said.

The bus tour provides an opportunity for several Colorado-based companies to tout their products, although the tour organizers are careful not to promote any one company over others. They just want to let people know what options are out there, and the tour enables them to spread the word outside the metropolitan Denver area.

The tour has proven to be popular, said Megan Castle, also of the OEMC.

“We keep getting more and more phone calls, `Can you bring the bus here, can you bring the bus there?'” she said.

The bus came to Glenwood from Grand Junction and heads next to Steamboat Springs. Its itinerary includes a stop at the Colorado State Fair in August.

The OEMC also was involved in a computer recycling event at the same location in Glenwood Springs earlier this year.

For more on its current tour and on energy conservation, the OEMC may be reached at http://www.state.co.us/oemc, or call 1-800-632-6662.


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