by Derek Meyer
At first sight, it is unassuming, just one more business in a shopping center between a paint store and a restaurant supply company. However, it’s getting more and more attention and interest lately.
“Welcome to the Solutions Center!”
That’s Charley Juris speaking, founder of the Energy House Solutions Center, a one-stop shop in Alexandria, Virginia of renewable energy and energy efficiency providers for residential and small office projects. Its 30 member businesses range from solar and geothermal installers to a cellulose insulation provider to a security camera company, all
“People are excited about this, yet they don’t know where to begin,” says Juris.
The Solutions Center is designed to showcase those member businesses, and was itself built using their products. “Our electricity bill here, including heating and cooling [for a 2000-sq ft space] is only about $51,” says Juris.
Energy efficiency begins on the drawing boards, he explains, and is a wide-ranging, complex thing with several factors meshed together. Often, consumers end up with “paralysis by analysis” attempting to plan things out themselves. And while there are many attention-grabbing alternative energy products on the market such as solar panels, the gains from those are reduced or negated if there are problems overlooked elsewhere on the property.
Instead, Juris and his team take a thorough and holistic approach, starting with a free energy review based on a one-hour walkthrough of the property. From there, they can create a customized plan to address the client’s energy efficiency goals. Many clients have turned to him for this assistance after repeated attempts themselves that have fallen apart, Juris says—in some cases after 5 or 6 solo efforts.
In describing the first case that his team worked on, Juris clearly illustrated an avoidable situation. The client had already had a geothermal system installed, and was frustrated because it didn’t seem to be working. Juris and his team examined the previous installer’s work and found that that installer had moved a large cap in the attic and left a big hole in the insulation. Upon finding this, they were able to turn things around to the point where the client added 3 more geothermal systems on the property.
In another case, someone was using 4 VCRs that were easily replaced by one TiVo—something, Juris pointed out, that many solutions providers would either not have noticed or felt was out of their place to suggest. His holistic approach, on the other hand, considers these factors and addresses them.
Does this call for a proprietary approach? A patented system? Absolutely not, says Juris. Instead, his role model is Tesla founder Elon Musk: just as Musk hopes his open-source-style approach on Tesla’s patents will build competition in the electric car industry, Juris is striving for the same in energy-efficient construction.
At the end of the day, widespread adoption of renewable energy will be tied to energy efficiency, Juris argues. And that has to be based first and foremost in economics, rather than a focus on climate change or other concerns—both because that will reach a wider audience and because it’s a high priority for just about anyone. Everyone wants to reduce bills.