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Learn to Save Money and Limit Climate Change by Using Less Energy

The fourth annual Chaffee Green Homes Tour will be held on Saturday, Sept. 17, sponsored by Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA), New Energy Colorado (NECO), and Arkansas Valley Energy Future.

Energy saving information available in yellow tent at 2022 Chaffee Green Homes Tour at Farmers Market. John Avenson/NECO photo

Locals and visitors are invited to stop by the big yellow tent and other booths at the Farmers Market in Salida’s Alpine Park, Fifth and E Streets, beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Sept. 17 to pick up the free map of the featured homes and begin the tour.

Before setting off, visitors can gather information featuring a variety of measures that homeowners can install to save energy, often at lower cost than the alternatives.



Sustainable living practices include raised bed gardening, composting, and xeriscaping. These work together with energy-efficient appliances like swamp coolers and ceiling fans, better windows, and energy-efficient insulation to significantly reduce energy consumption and improve comfort, year-round. Many of these features have been incorporated into the homes on the tour.

Sample Highlights of the Tour

Featured on the tour are five homes in Salida, Buena Vista, and Poncha Springs which will be open until 2:00 p.m. to showcase a variety of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable living practices. Tour participants can visit with the homeowners, eager to explain how the features of their projects work as a system.

According to organizers, “the local homeowners on the tour have taken action to be responsible, sustainable solar citizens. As this country [belatedly] works to limit climate change, learn what you can do to reduce greenhouse gas and live more comfortably in your home.”

When it comes to saving money on energy at home, most people think first of the big-ticket items like solar energy. Solar panels and batteries are all becoming much more efficient these days. Tax incentives (which vary by location and utility provider) also can help make a new system more viable, while contributing to reducing our community’s reliance on fossil fuels.

This may be the time to consider new technology, especially in older homes with traditional systems nearing the end of their service life. Local installers Peak Solar, Renewable Energy Outfitters and Colorado Solar Energy are all involved in the event.

Multiple Salida Homes on Tour

Rausch/Cullinan home in Salida features many energy saving measures. Photo courtesy 2022 Chaffee Green Homes Tour

One tour stop at the Rausch/Cullinan home incorporates a variety of features, including new stucco siding with a one-inch foam layer, sprayed foam in the attic, insulated garage walls and garage door, solar tubes for interior daytime lighting and a potbelly fireplace, to name just a few.

Out in the County Near Buena Vista

Xeriscaped courtyard at Richard and Jane Shoemaker home. Photo courtesy 2022 Chaffee Green Homes Tour






The Rich and Jane Shoemaker home is enhanced by a beautifully xeriscaped, low-water courtyard.


The Shoemakers have installed a very sophisticated, 7.48 kW electrical generation and Tesla Powerwall II battery backup system, powered by 22, grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) panels, installed by Peak Solar. Located in a rural area, and with the home on well water, the 24/7 system provides added peace of mind.

Tesla Power Wall II battery backup system at Richard and Jane Shoemaker home. Photo courtesy 2022 Chaffee Green Homes Tour

While Rich Shoemaker says that their utility Co-op, Sangre De Cristo Electric Association (SCDEA) is highly reliable, in the event of power loss from the grid, their system (servicing critical appliances and circuits) also helps provide fire safety measures, ensuring the well and pump are available.

Originally conceived as an enhanced traditional PV system (with solar power as primary and battery only as backup), Shoemaker now expresses “he may flip that perspective on its head.” He says he can routinely use a modest amount of battery life at night, with solid reserves and be off-grid then.

In January, a test using the Power Wall II (plus the 3,000 kWh surplus generation allowance that SCDEA provides) showed it may allow these homeowners to become even more self-reliant on an ongoing basis.

It should be noted that power outages are not limited to rural areas. Salida utility provider Xcel Energy has occasional outages caused by lightning strikes, trees downed by storms, and car accidents, all of which can affect large residential areas and downtown businesses.

Meanwhile in Poncha Springs

Jackson home in Poncha Springs hides solar panels with in-roof design. Photo courtesy 2022 Chaffee Green Homes Tour

Patrick Jackson’s family generates significantly more electricity from the 6.6 kW PV system than the family uses, with two Tesla Powerwall systems for battery backup.  Their solar panels are visually hidden from the front of the home with an attractive architectural roof design.

Cost savings and payback over a longer 10-15 year horizon are considerations, but so too is achieving energy independence. Given today’s increasing vulnerability to the worldwide market for fossil fuels, using solar power and squeezing every last bit of heating and cooling efficiency become more important than ever.

Special Lecture at A Church Highlights Incentives

Following the tour, a special presentation that focuses on clean energy incentives and options in the new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) recently passed by Congress is scheduled.

Tom Plant, Sr. Policy Advisor, Center for New Energy Economy. CNEE courtesy photo

The presentation — “Clean Energy for the Green Home” — features Jeff Lyng, Xcel Energy and Tom Plant, Senior Policy Advisor at the Center for the New Energy Economy. With this groundbreaking new legislation, attendees will learn the latest details about how homeowners can benefit.

The lecture (including pizza and beverages) will be held at 6:30 p.m. at A Church, 419 D Street in Salida. $5 tickets are available online at GARNA.

“The tour is a unique annual opportunity for community members to learn many ways to save energy and live more sustainably,’’ said Dominique Naccarato, Executive Director of GARNA, co-sponsor of the tour. “We hope many Chaffee County residents will visit with their neighbors and learn about all the latest exciting opportunities.’’

The event is also part of the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour.

Featured image: Jackson home features a 6.6 kW PV system (hidden panels) with two Tesla Powerwall systems for battery backup. Photo courtesy 2022 Chaffee Green Homes Tour