Environmental advocate can lower your energy bills

TRAVERSE CITY – In the midst of winter’s marathon of cold, environmental advocate Jeremy Truog wants to help both homeowners and homebuilders increase a home’s heating and energy efficiency.

His company, Sustainable Environmental Services, offers analyses and recommendations that can affect everything from a family’s bills to a builder’s bottom line?while also helping the environment.

Truog envisions his niche as win-win-win: building energy efficient homes or making existing homes more energy efficient benefits builders, consumers and the planet.

“Both builders and homeowners are receptive because they like to save money,” said Truog, who started the business in September of 2001. “I don’t talk about saving the environment, but these things help the environment, too.”

For existing homes, Truog will evaluate a home’s energy efficiency, insulation, air sealing and appliance energy use. He also offers blower door testing, where he installs a portable framework over a home’s front door. Then a powerful fan in that framework draws the air through the home and allows Truog to note the air changeover rate in the home every hour and also identify leaks.

“I’ve seen everything from .8 changes per hour to 1.53 air change per hour, which means that over 150 percent of the indoor air volume is exchanged each hour,” he said. “It’s hard to keep that house warm.”

After his tests, he gives homeowners an energy analysis plus a set of recommendations. Changes could include caulking, installing plastic, upgrading appliances or adding more insulation.

“A lot of people have leaks around windows or doors,” said Truog, of the simple fixes he identifies.

The efficiency changes he recommends will save energy and money year round.

“In the summertime, keeping the heat out works the same as keeping it in,” Truog noted, adding that for an air conditioned home, the cool air will stay indoors where it belongs.

For builders, Truog can recommend building methods and materials that may give a builder a competitive edge. For example, builders can install high-performance windows, control air infiltration, seal duct systems and use upgraded water heating equipment.

During the sales process, a home is more desirable if a builder can tell potential buyers the home was built such that they will have lower energy bills.

“There’s a number of builders, and a growing number of them I know, that with every house they do they take energy efficiency into account,” said Truog, who has a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in sustainable systems from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.

Truog cautioned, however, that there is a crucial difference between claiming energy efficiency and actually having a home built to such standards. He evaluates homes against an Energy Star standard, a point system whose requirements are more stringent than the State of Michigan energy code.

“It’s tough in Michigan (to convince builders) because the state’s energy code is less stringent to Energy Star’s,” he noted. “An energy rating is the way to prove what was done and I’m impartial because I’m a third party.”

To help spread the word about both his services and also further his underlying mission of helping the environment, Truog joined the Home Builder’s Association of the Grand Traverse Area last March. He writes a monthly newsletter article on green building concepts to encourage builders to consider a range of sustainable building methods.

“I’m trying to change attitudes and I like to change things from the inside,” noted Truog, who also helped complete the Association’s Green Builder’s Manual. “I don’t want to fight, I just want to change things.”

With heating costs and energy prices jumping an estimated 60 percent over the past five years, Truog said some homeowners could cut bills by nearly a third per month.

“There’s some horrible houses in this town, a lot of them are older and poorly insulated,” he said of his work on existing structures. “I could save them a varied amount depending on the house, but I wouldn’t be surprised by a 30 percent savings overall.”

By parlaying his deep-seated commitments to the environment and sustainable living into a growing business, Truog offers a range of services that he envisions will help cut fossil fuel use overall.

“I think that interest is growing and that I am in the right place at the right time,” said Truog, who is also a volunteer research director for SEEDS, a non-profit environment group.

Reach Truog at 922-5907. BN