Living with the Sun in the Verde Valley

Solar and Green Home Tour Nov. 1

Governor Janet Napolitano has proclaimed October 2008 as Solar & Renewable Energy & Sustainability Month, and ASEA and Sustainable Arizona have joined to celebrate and educate with tours taking place all over the state.

Governor Janet Napolitano has proclaimed October 2008 as Solar & Renewable Energy & Sustainability Month, and ASEA and Sustainable Arizona have joined to celebrate and educate with tours taking place all over the state.

On Saturday, Nov. 1, a wide array of solar and green homes will be open to the public to see and learn about energy efficient building and solar technologies.

Homes will be open beginning in the Village of Oak Creek starting at 9 a.m. The self-guided tour will proceed up the canyon and through West Sedona and on to Cottonwood in the afternoon. People may join in the tour at any point along the way and visit as many different homes as they like.

The free tour is part of the American Solar Energy Society's National Solar Tour and is cosponsored by Sustainable Arizona, Arizona Solar Energy Association (ASEA) and the US Green Building Council of Northern Arizona. Governor Janet Napolitano has proclaimed October 2008 as Solar & Renewable Energy & Sustainability Month, and ASEA and Sustainable Arizona have joined to celebrate and educate with tours taking place all over the state. The ASEA website, www.azSolarCenter.com, has the full list of tours, dates plus information about every tour.

Here in the Verde Valley, there will be ten homes on the tour. The tour kicks off at 9 a.m. in the Village of Oak Creek. Visitors can start at the AEA Power (www.aeapower.com) demo home at 245 Arrowhead, just in back of the Circle K. This small home combines healthy interiors with a well-insulated structure sited for both passive and active solar energy. You can watch the electric meter go backward as the photovoltaic cells deliver electricity to the home and the grid. The owner of this demo home also has built the first Platinum LEED certified home in Arizona.

Then, take a short drive out Verde Valley School Road to just past the Big Park School to see a true Energy Star home at 115 Brielle Lane. At 10 a.m., you can witness a Blower Test that help to analyze how well a home controls the indoor air temperatures. Even without solar panels, this home is designed to use a fraction of the energy of most homes in America. The owner is an expert and will share his experiences with you.

On the way to Sedona, up at 22 Alpine Lane in Sky Mountain Ranch, is another solar home with 3.5kW of photovoltaic panels. Here the owner has kept detailed records of his costs and the benefits of going solar. You can learn a lot about investing in solar for your home.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., a special home will be open in Oak Creek Canyon. You'll need to drive up just past Garlands to get there. The home is located up the narrow Thompson Road, so park your vehicle at the lot at the corner of Thompson and 89A.

There will be special shuttles to take visitors up to the house. It's a unique solar Craftsman style home from the Design Group in Sedona. The architect will be there to answer questions about the solar systems, the waste water irrigation systems, the reclaimed and recycled materials and much more.

From noon until 4 p.m., you can tour homes in West Sedona, Red Rock Loop, out Bear Mountain Road, and even above Cottonwood.

In West Sedona are two completely different solar homes. There is an established home at 70 Whitetail Lane with a brand new 7 kW photovoltaic array. Estimated payback, just 8 years. Both the owner and EV Solar will be there to answer your questions.

Then, at 120 Painted Pony Lane in Thunder Mountain, there is a new home with a combination of systems. Constructed almost entirely of SIP (structural insulated panels), this energy efficient home boasts both photovoltaic and hot water solar systems.

The home is owned by the former head of the Department of Energy for the State of Iowa and is loaded with features...including a solar charged electric sports car.

Off the beaten path out on Bear Mountain Road is a long time fixture on the Sedona "green" scene, the off-grid dome home. The dome was built in the 1980s when no utilities were available out there. "This is the ultimate passive design," says the owner and builder, Mason Rumney. "You don't need air conditioning, even here in Arizona."

His dome is fireproof, waterproof, windproof, solar and wind powered. The low-cost concrete dome home requires only $15 a year for heating and cooling.

There are two very interesting homes down Red Rock Loop Road that represent opposite ends of the financial scale for green building. The first is a low-cost, energy efficient home down the Chavez Ranch Road at 145 Cathedral Vista.

It is still under construction and built of dry-stacked concrete blocks, which are insulated on the outside to create a greater interior thermal mass to hold a comfortable ambient temperature using less energy. The home features a wetlands waste water system and other green ideas. It's amazing to see what can be done in green homebuilding on a budget.

A bit further down Red Rock Loop, at 200 E. Wing Drive, is an upscale solar home. The highly insulated walls are a combination of SIPs and Rastra Block, an insulated concrete form. Then the owner added large 7.8 kW photovoltaic system tied to the grid. The home also features healthy interiors using renewable products, a grey water irrigation system, high-efficiency lighting and more. It's a wonderful contrast to the low-cost home.

Finally, it's really worth the trip up to the hills above Cottonwood to see this unique, off-grid home complex at the end of Abbey Road off Black Hills Drive. Constructed years ago of mostly natural materials, the home and office buildings are self-sufficient. You'll see a range of different solar arrays, amazing battery storage, and a systems approach to building. The architect and builder will be there to show you around and explain how all the simple systems work together for more sustainable living.

For more information about the tour, including maps and directions, visit www.azSolarCenter.com or www.SustainableArizona.org and click on Calendar. You may also contact John Neville, president of Sustainable Arizona at jneville@SustainableArizona.org.

Sustainable Arizona is a resource and education nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life in Arizona. Visit www.SustainableArizona.org to learn more about sustainability and what is going on around the state. You can find a sustainability blog, the latest news, links to information on clean energy, green building, water conservation and much more. Also watch for notices of more events throughout the year.

The Arizona Solar Energy Association (ASEA) was founded in the mid-70's as a state chapter of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), the largest solar energy organization in the United States. ASEA's mission is to educate the people of Arizona about solar energy, its applications, and the benefits of utilizing solar technologies.

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