CU-Boulder students give Boulder mayor’s home A+ for efficiency

The members of the University of Colorado’s Energy Service Corps are used to educating Boulderites on sustainability. But Saturday, the group was schooled by Boulder Mayor Matt Applebaum during an assessment of his passive solar home.

A group of about 10 students from the Energy Service Corps — a student group aimed at improving energy efficiency in Boulder homes — rated Applebaum’s house using a carbon footprint survey intended to find improvements that could reduce a family’s energy use.

Kimberly Petrick, an Energy Service Corps intern, said the assessment produced an A+ for the mayor’s energy use and his home’s efficiency.

“We know his house is really efficient,” Petrick said. “We are more interested in seeing what he’s done and using it as a example for other homes.”

The group — an arm of the CU chapter of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, or CoPIRG — performs the free energy assessments and improvements around Boulder in an effort to increase sustainability city-wide, Petrick said.

Despite completing more than 100 surveys this fall, Applebaum’s home was the first the students had assessed with net-zero efficiency.

“We end up being net zero every year for electricity from our solar panels,” Applebaum said.

The home was built “leak-free” to prevent air from getting in or out. Landscaping was strategically planted to be low maintenance while still providing shade from the sun. Low phantom-energy electronics fill the living spaces, and the kitchen is stocked with energy star appliances.

One of the most impressive and costly additions to the home are the energy efficient windows coated with heat mirror film and concrete floors that soak in heat during the day and slowly release it at night to maintain a comfortable temperature.

Applebaum said his wife even does some of her own composting in the basement.

“We have some worms in the basement that she feeds some of our table scraps to,” Applebaum said. “It’s quite disgusting.”

Applebaum predicts he spent about 10 to 15 percent more building his home than he would have without the sustainable upgrades. The mayor even recommended a few additional questions to the student’s survey, like asking about the age and materials on the roof.

The student group said they don’t expect everyone in Boulder to be on par with Applebaum’s exceptional home, but there are likely affordable, minor improvements that can be made in most homes.

The assessments are free, Petrick said, and the group even provides some basic materials, like weather stripping, to homes that complete the survey.

Anyone interested in inviting the students to do the efficiency survey can contact Energy Service Corps’ campus organizer Brenna Spadoni at 253-225-9341.

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