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Energy project aims to aid homeowners

CHERP members educate on how to retrofit a house at low cost.

April 30, 2014|By Anthony Clark Carpio
  • Durai Swamy, a homeowner in Huntington Beach, is upgrading his home to be as energy efficient as possible. An energy efficient furnace and tankless hot water heater have been installed and he is waiting to install solar panels on the roof.
Durai Swamy, a homeowner in Huntington Beach, is upgrading… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Durai Swamy was interested in reducing his carbon footprint by making his Huntington Beach home as energy efficient as possible.

So he turned to the Community Home Energy Retrofit Project (CHERP) of Huntington Beach in the interest of doing the work without overpaying for it.

CHERP, which is made up of real estate agents, contractors, city officials and those passionate about sustainability, is hosting free community forums about its services.

Members educate homeowners on how to retrofit their properties at a reasonable cost, said John Shipman, the program's regional director.

The group has worked with residents in Claremont to retrofit about 200 homes since 2008, according to its website, and is expanding into Orange County and other communities.

The organization is working with the city and the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce, which has a Sustainable Surf City Committee. CHERP provides tips on how to get rebates from local energy and water agencies and find contractors and technicians who are qualified to perform energy upgrades.

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"It's going to help the whole community," Swamy said. "If you can avoid spending more on energy, the carbon footprint gets smaller, and that way we feel that we are contributing to society as a whole."

That philosophy is something the retired 68-year-old chemical engineer has practiced in his previous homes, where he installed solar panels to produce electricity and removed turf to reduce water consumption.

Swamy's new property, in the 19000 block of Homestead Lane near Garfield Avenue and Newland Street, will have more than just solar panels and drought-tolerant landscaping. He bought the house at the end of March and has already added a more-efficient furnace and a tankless water heater.

He is putting in low-flow toilets and having high-efficiency faucet aerators installed at the kitchen sink and other water fixtures.

Though Swamy purchased equipment rated to be about 96% efficient, Shipman explained that merely installing those units wouldn't necessarily save the homeowner money.

He supports a method he calls "reduce, then produce," where homeowners reduce their energy through cheaper alternatives, such as using LED light bulbs or buying Energy Star-approved appliances, before investing in expensive items like new furnaces and solar panels.

"Because if you try to produce [energy] first, you'll spend way too much money," Shipman said. "So we helped him save money on what it would normally cost to install all this."

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