Home tour gives close-up look at renewable energy

September 30, 2011 (CHICAGO)

A wind turbine and photovoltaic solar panels are just a couple of the green features homeowner Jacek Helenowski installed on the city's North Side, giving the house an Energy Star rating.

"We have soybean insulation, a large percentage of recycled materials are used, including standing on the roof here is recycled car tires, a lot of lumber salvaged from other buildings, " Helenowski said.

The Helenowski home also has a green roof and a geo-thermal heating system complete with a pellet stove that burns sawdust to produce additional heat.

A house on the West Side has a hybrid renewable energy system, a vertical axis wind turbine plus solar panels that work in tandem. Homeowner Annette Britton has seen big changes in her utility bills.

"I'm able to follow what exactly is being produced, how much energy I'm producing and I had produced an excess of 33 percent," Britton said.

Doug Snower outfitted his home with10-kilowatt solar panels, with a charging station.

"This house is a combination of luxury lifestyle and sustainable living," Snower said. "It really has the combination where you don't have to sacrifice living enjoyably with being sustainable."

Visitors on the tour can get a close look at all of the green technology and learn about the costs and feasibility of installing them into their own homes.

"The whole purpose is to promote solar and to educate," said Lisa Albrecht of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. "There's a great number of myths in the industry and this gives consumers a chance to talk to consumers instead of people in the industry to understand how it works, that it's affordable and it's reliable."

The Illinois Solar Tour is on Saturday 10a.m. to 3p.m. It is a self-guided tour, so visitors select which homes they want to visit from the 53 that are participating. There are properties listed throughout the city and suburbs. For additional information, visit illinoissolartour.org

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