How to go green at home

We asked eight local experts to give us the dirt on how to make the switch — and save money

We asked eight local experts to give us the dirt on how to make the switch — and save money

Luke Grabill, president of Grabill Plumbing & Heating, walks the talk when it comes to solar panels.

He uses solar collectors on the roof of both his home and business to heat water.

This is how it works:

The solar panels collect heat from the sun, which is transferred down to a storage tank or large water heater in the basement.

He recommends a 120-gallon tank for a family of four, but typical water usage is taken into consideration.

A backup system kicks in during winter months when daylight is shorter.

Grabill said his family’s solar-heated water lasted all the way to Dec. 1 this past year.

The water in the tank after that remained at 85 to 90 degrees so the backup system didn’t work hard to bump up the temperature.

“We get at least 90 percent of our hot water from solar,” said Grabill, who said many families use about 35 percent of their year-round gas consumption on their water heater.

As for the Ohio weather, Grabill said Germany is No. 2 in the world in its use of solar power, and the weather there is comparable to ours.

“You can make a big impact,” Grabill said of solar heating. “It’s a good, viable way of saving energy.”


Ralph Kilgore, president of the R.C. Kilgore Co. in Canton, is a home-audit specialist who inspects both new and existing homes for their energy efficiency.

Audits check a minimum of 14 areas and take three to four hours of investigation.

Following the investigation is an analysis that offers the homeowner a savings-to-investment ratio that spells out whether an upgrade eventually would pay for itself.

Air leakage and air quality are among the problems Kilgore looks for inside a home.

If the house is too leaky, he said, they tighten it up.Too tight? They address the air quality.

When checking for air leakage, Kilgore said, he inspects from the highest level to the lowest.

Air sealing an existing home can save a homeowner 20 percent or more, he said.

“And that’s not just windows. Actually, windows are one of the last things (we replace) because the payback is so long,” he said.

Air leakage is common around ceiling lights, wiring and plumbing areas, and around window trim and rim plates (where the floor joints hit the outside wall.)

Kilgore also inspects heating and cooling equipment efficiency, lighting efficiency and home appliance efficiency, among other things.

Depending on the comprehensiveness of the audit, the cost is usually $200 to $800.


When it comes to saving energy with appliance usage,Tom Sherer of Sherer Appliance in East Canton recommends looking for the Energy Star logo when purchasing a new refrigerator, washer or dishwasher.

Energy Star appliances use 15 percent to 20 percent less energy than others.

“They generally cost a little more,” he said, “but not 15 to 20 percent more. The savings in electricity more than offsets the cost.”

When it comes to washing clothes, non-Energy Star washers, said Sherer, can use up to 50 gallons of water per load. Energy Star washers use closer to 20 gallons “and probably wash more clothes,” he said.

That adds up to less water, concentrated detergent and electricity.

Using less hot water in the washer also translates to less gas usage for the hot water tank.

Energy Star washers also have a higher spin rate, meaning more water extraction and less time in the dryer. Again, that saves on gas or electricity, depending on the energy source for the dryer.

Dishwashers with the logo use less water and operate at a lower temperature with a longer drying time. Sherer says this offers a significant savings of electricity.

Sherer recommends checking with AEP when purchasing an appliance because it is offering a $50 rebate for any third-party-certified Energy Star washer purchased through the end of April.


It’s been said that good fences make good neighbors. So it may be safe to say fences made with recycled materials make for environmentally friendly neighbors.

Green options are definitely available in fencing, Collins said.

“Two of our very popular residential fence products include aluminum ornamental and vinyl fence,” he said. “Each of these products are great ways to ‘Go Green’ with fencing.”

He explained that aluminum is the most recycled material in the world. The ornamental aluminum fence he uses is made with recycled aluminum.

The finish on this product uses a “powdercoating” process that is environmentally friendly and virtually pollution free.

The company’s vinyl fences are 99 percent recyclable. They also contain at least 10 percent internally recycled materials. These products do not require any chemical treatment or painting.

Collins said there is no sacrifice in quality in either of those environmentally friendly products. And both come with a manufacturer’s lifetime limited warranty.

“The long life span and low maintenance of these products helps to conserve natural resources.They also are both made right here in the U.S.A,” he said.


For Wilson, a Certified Green Professional Home Builder and owner of Charis Homes, building green has to make sense in that it saves money for the homeowner and helps the environment.

“Homebuilding is a science, not the same old sticks and bricks,” she explained.

Today’s builders can choose to save money and energy for the consumer in a number of ways — from planning the house’s placement on a lot with regards to its use of sunlight to choosing cabinetry
made of recycled materials.

She said that by choosing materials that are engineered better, green homes have a longer life expectancy.

Wilson said Charis Homes has reduced the construction waste on its sites from three trash bins to 1 1⁄2 by recycling instead of sending extra lumber, cardboard and drywall off to a landfill.

Her goal, she said, is to build what is called “net zero” homes by 2015, meaning homes that use all alternative sources of energy.

Currently, all Charis Homes are Energy Star tested by a third party, and the results are sent to a state-certified energy rater.

Scores can go from zero to infinity, Wilson said, with 100 and lower being Energy Star efficient.

She recently had a house score a 47, a major accomplishment.

Wilson has a model home in the King’s Ridge Allotment in Green.



When it comes to being “green,” it doesn’t get much greener than growing fresh vegetables in your living room. For Coles, a 25-year indoor-gardening veteran, it has become his business.

“The technology of indoor gardening is still emerging,” he said. “Using LED lighting (for indoor gardening) came out of the technology of growing salad greens on the space shuttle.”

The cost of lighting a small indoor garden varies depending on the choice of crops and lights.

It can add about $28 a month to an electric bill, but, on the other hand, Coles said, it adds heat to the house “and you’re growing food.”

The initial investment of a grow light is from $300 to $700.

“It’s a big investment, but I relate it to any other hobby,” Coles said.

To take the “green” element further, organic-based soils and nutrients also are available.

Coles sells soil made with recycled coconut husks. He also has environmentally friendly lamps and organic air filters for greenhouses.

When it comes to what we grow, Coles said, we are limited only by our imaginations.

Women, he said, often choose herbs and salad greens.

For men, it’s hot peppers — the hotter the better.


Lots of incentive programs exist for those who want to improve their existing home or build a new one using energy-efficient methods and materials.

A good place to start is with your current utility companies.

Haugh, a corporate communications consultant with American Electric Power Ohio, recommends logging on

“We have a variety of incentives for homeowners, depending on their situation,” she said. “Based on the improvements, they can earn rebates to make energy efficiency affordable.”

One such program is AEP’s In-Home Energy Audit Programs.

An expert will inspect the home and make recommendations for improvements. AEP will offer rebates on some improvements, as well as pay a portion of the audit expense.

A one-hour assessment is $25. Four hour audit fees are more.

AEP has an appliance recycling program, as well, to help customers safely get rid of old refrigerators and freezers that may be costing $150 in electricity annually.

The homeowner receives $25 for each appliance, which is taken to Columbus to be safely recycled. The
appliances must be in working condition. Size requirements are available online.

And finally, said Haugh, AEP is offering an instant discount on qualified Energy Star compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) at participating retailers.

No coupons are needed. Choose from a variety of CFL bulbs and light fixtures at participating stores, including Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sam’s Club, Fishers Foods and more.

There is a 12-bulb limit per purchase.


If you are planning on selling your home soon, making “green” updates such as installing solar panels or updating an expensive appliance or heating system in the home, may not be the cost-effective route to go.

According to Perkins, those updates are a long-term investment for the homeowner who wants to cut costs on utility bills and help make an impact on the environment.

As far as affecting the home’s resale value, however, it’s more of a marketing tool than a money-maker.

“It takes time to recoup that cost,” said Perkins. “But, the percentage of people looking for green homes is increasing.The younger generation sees it as important.”

Perkins said that down the road, your updates probably will make selling your home easier, but he wouldn’t say it would pay off in resale value.