So far in my green building posts have mostly been about the ideas and theories of green building in Las Cruces, NM. Today, I’d like to give you some first hand stories of Las Cruces residents who have used green building techniques in their homes.
Henry and Nancy Broekhoff moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico in 2007 from Andover, Mass.
As they built their new home in New Mexico, they focused on solar technology. First they installed a Fafco Solar solar pool heater. They’d heard that their oversized pool could cost more than $500 a month to heat because, despite the Las Cruces, New Mexico sun and warm temperatures, this is an expensive place to heat a pool.
“High altitude, low humidity and wind cause pool water here to evaporate quickly” said Hale Huber of Sun-Tech Services. “This means that pools stay cooler.”
Henry Broekhoff said their system has been worth the cost and estimates the system will have paid for itself within about four years.
Most pool owners use hundreds of dollars in natural gas to heat their pools.
Henry Broekhoff said his pool is always at a comfortable temperature and he hasn’t had a gas bill more than $26 a month since he moved in.
With the success of their Fafco Solar system, Henry and Nancy Broekhoff recently decided to add photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity.
“Our goal, besides the environmental issues, is that we will end up with no electric bill when you average our energy use and production over the year,” Henry Broekhoff said.
The couple selected a 5.2-kilowatt system by SunSpot Solar Energy Systems.
The system was installed, inspected and approved by El Paso Electric within one week. That was just one week ago and they are already seeing the benefits.
Additionally, in the coming months not only will they have a smaller electric bill, there will probably be months when they generate more electricity than they use. In that case, El Paso Electric will write them a check.
“I love to see that meter generating electricity,” Nancy Broekhoff said. “Oneday last week we used 60 kilowatt hours and generated 100 kilowatt hours.”
Bill Dethlef and Candyce Berger have also had a great experience using green building technology in their Las Cruces home. Dethlef and Berger moved into their Picacho Mountain home in 2008. Their home was built with low-profile roof photovoltaic solar panels and a built-in rainwater collection system.
“The Southwest has the most cloud-free days of any area in the United States, and therefore an almost unlimited amount of solar radiation that can be turned into usable energy,” Dethlef said. “Since solar panels are almost maintenance free, and with the current federal and state tax incentives, it made sense to generate our own power.”
Despite our dry climate, Dethlef and Berger also found their rainwater harvesting system to be a great way to save money and reduce their water use. Dethlef estimates that with his 3,000 square foot home, and an average rainfall of 9 inches per year, he is able to collect about 15,000 gallons of rainwater every year. The water is collected during the monsoon season and stored for use during the dry season.
“By not having a lawn, and using a drip emitter irrigation system instead of sprinklers, we have not needed to rely on water from a utility for our landscaping needs,” Dethlef said.
As a Las Cruces resident, I can also personally attest to the benefits of living in a green home. My wife Karen and I moved into a new Build Green New Mexico certified home in Picacho Mountain in May of this year. There are several green features that I have found to be especially beneficial in saving us money on our utility bills in our new home.
A feature that didn’t cost us anything extra, but has been a huge benefit, is the placement of our exterior windows. We designed the home with few windows on west and north facing walls. This has noticeably reduced the amount of summer heat that penetrates into the house.
The increased insulation and lowE2, high-efficiency windows have also greatly reduced our summer electric bills. Prior to moving into this home, we were renting a 2,000-square-foot home in Picacho Hills. Today our electric bills for a 3,138-square-foot home are either equal to or less than the home we were renting. That is like cooling 1,138 square feet for free.
As you can see, green building is more than just good theory. There are residents today in Las Cruces, New Mexico who are reaping the benefits of green building in their homes.