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AS SEEN IN USA TODAY’S LIFE SECTION, JUNE 1, 2006

In a city known for environmental awareness, Toor fits right in. He has been the director of the University of Colorado's environmental center and served on the city council and as mayor before his election to the county commission in 2005.

At the university and in elective office, Toor has pushed initiatives for recycling, mass transit, energy-efficient construction and reduction of carbon emissions.

120 gallons a year and says, "It's nice to feel like I'm not supporting the Exxon-Mobils of the world."

And, he says, there's the pleasure of going outside to look at his electrical meter as it runs backward on sunny days, a visible reminder he's pumping clean power into the grid, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and saving money.

Of all the changes he has made to his home and way of living, Toor says, "none of it has been a particularly big deal." Colvin concedes she sometimes has "to remind myself it would be better to bike than take the car" but calls it a minor problem.

Energy improvement

Changes that Toor and Colvin made to their house include:

Nor has it been particularly expensive, Toor and Colvin say. The 1.67-kilowatt solar system mounted on their garage roof had a net cost after tax credits and a rebate from their utility company of about $1,000.

Electricity

Replaced the refrigerator, washer and light bulbs with high- efficiency models. Electricity use went from 750 kilowatt- hours a month for the previous owner to 185 to 250 now.

The new refrigerator and energy-efficient light bulbs cost another $1,100.

Remodeling

They waited to do the energy-efficient retrofits to the house until a planned major remodeling that added a second story. "It was definitely an upfront expense, but it will save us money in the long run," Colvin says.

When adding a second story, the couple:

u Used 2x6 studs on the upper story, putting in 5.5 inches of insulation.

Some people might say hanging laundry out to dry is an inconvenience, Toor says, but overall, the family's low-carbon lifestyle is no sacrifice.

u Put in about 9 inches of insulation between roof rafters, using soy-based foam insulation for the roof and second- floor walls.

"The house is more comfortable and has lower energy bills," Toor says. "Everything that we've done makes life more comfortable. We've made a decision to live close to where we work and where the kids are close to school.

u Sprayed in foam insulation on the first floor, which has pre-existing 2x4 studs, and added 2 inches of rigid-foam insulation wrapped around the outside framing.

Solar panels

"For us, it's all been really positive."

As Americans gnash their teeth and empty their wallets over the surge in gasoline prices, Toor merely shrugs. He buys only

Solar panels line the roof of the garage. The recently completed 1.67-kilowatt solar electric system reduced electricity use to 25 kilowatt hours in the first month.

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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