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Landscaping accounts for up to 70 percent of homeowners water use, says environmentalist

Imagine twenty-dollar bills floating out of your house. This is essentially what is happening with inefficient home design, said Dan Thomsen, president and founder of Building Doctors, at an event hosted by the Alhambra Preservation Group. His presentation was part of the APG's "Energy Efficiency and Historic Homes Seminar" on Wednesday. Two dozen Alhambra residents attended the event to learn how they could maximize their home’s resources. 

Thomsen gave an example of how leaky air ducts and poor insulation in a house leads to losing circulated air, energy, and money. Thomsen stated that, due to poor design, 30 percent of “the air you’re paying to heat and cool is being lost." According to the Environmental Protection Agencyhidden cracks and gaps lead to higher energy consumption to maintain the temperature, and windows can account for a significant portion of poor temperature control. 

Scott Campbell, owner of Window Restoration and Repair also presented and spoke on the importance of retrofitting and restoring windows to control air flowing in and out of a house to save money. Campbell said the benefits from replacing a window are “incremental from old to new window but never pays off over time” adding that “old windows, when repaired, are better” in terms of long-term savings. Campbell did note that there are times when a window should be replaced, such as if it is missing two corner joints.

The seminar also focused on the ways that native Californian vegetation—compared to the ubiquitous green lawn—could decrease water waste and help alleviate the current drought crisis. Lisa Novick, Director of Outreach at the Theodore Payne Foundation, said that California native vegetation uses one-seventh of the water required for a traditional garden. Landscaping accounts for 50-70 percent of a homeowners' water use, Novick said. She added that native plants help the ecosystem by providing the necessary environment for insects and birds, and that residents should think of landscaping as a way "to combat drought and promote bio-diversity."

Scott Campbell speaks with residents

Resident Chris Hildreth expressed gratitude for the event, saying he hopes to make his home “more efficient,” because “water is going to be a major problem.” Genny Go lamented that she spends $150 on average a month on water, and wants to redo her landscaping to offset that cost. “I wanted to put rocks but that’s not so fun," said Go. "But these [California native plants] are beautiful." 

APG hosted the event to bring awareness to what APG President Chris Olson calls the “fallacy “of “tearing down an old building to make a more energy efficient one.” Olson asserts that the destruction and construction of buildings has a negative effect on the environmentan effect that will not be offset by green upgrades. The better alternative, said Olson, is to make existing homes more energy efficient. "The greenest building is the one that's already standing," said Olson. 

The Enivronmental Protection Agency advises homeowners to get an audit to determine "trouble spots" that contribute to a home's poor energy performance. 

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