Lunch and learn with Jeff Wilson
By Briagenn Adams, CG News
In honor of Earth Month, Ohio University’s Office of Sustainability welcomed Jeff Wilson, Home and Garden Television personality and avid environmentalist, into Baker Center on Tuesday to talk about his personal efforts to go green.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Wilson spent his childhood taking weekend trips to Hocking County. When he was nine years old, his parents bought land in Southeast Ohio and his father decided to build an eco-friendly home using geothermal heat. In the 1980s, the concept of “going green” was still pretty novel, but his father’s unprecedented determination set off a passion inside of Wilson that has helped to shape the man he is today.
“I always dreamed of building my own, super efficient home,” he said. While living in Nashville with his wife and children, Wilson experimented with house designs using different materials ranging widely from concrete to straw. In 2001, he and his wife decided to move to Athens, Ohio, to make their dream a reality.
“We loved Athens because of its University community and relatively inexpensive real estate,” Wilson said. He and his wife, Sherri, purchased a Cape Cod style kit home that was drafty, moldy, near freezing in the wintertime and too hot during the summer. Wilson said it was the perfect starting point for his project.
Wilson and his wife immediately set out to renovate their little home and make it as energy efficient as possible. Using green materials and local products, Wilson insulated his home against weather and air leakage and installed a brand-new solar roof.
“Our garage is not heated,” Wilson said. “However, since it is so well insulated, during the winter I have never seen it dip below 48 degrees.”
In addition to the new insulation and roof, Wilson installed an Ultimate Air Energy Recovery Ventilator, which recovers 95 percent of the energy in the indoor air and replaces it with fresh, clean air. This, along with the use of energy efficient appliances such as EnergyStar and utilizing SmartGrid-enabled appliances that allow for the homeowner to dictate when and exactly how much energy is being used , Wilson has managed to cut back his total energy expenses by 80 percent.
Wilson said that not all changes have to be as dramatic as going out and completely renovating your home. Something as simple as becoming more aware of “vampire loads,” or appliances that expend energy even while they are seemingly turned off, can make a huge difference.
“It’s a little-by-little process,” he says. “I say my house is now finished, but it’s never finished,” Wilson said. “There is always something more that can be done.”
When asked about the cost of his endeavor, Wilson admitted that it was expensive. However, Wilson also pointed out that the improved quality of life and peace of mind that came out of his project are priceless.
“We (Americans) have not framed the story (of going green) right,” Wilson said.“We are too concerned with dollar-for-dollar paybacks, when really there’s so much more to it than that.”
According to the 2009 American Housing Survey, 39 percent of energy expenditures in the United States each year go towards buildings. And of that 39 percent, 80 percent comes from the cost after initial construction is over.
Wilson went on to discuss the “Triple Threat Problems” currently facing America that can be solved by going green, starting in the home. These “Triple Threat Problems” include economy, environment, and national security. The manufacture of more energy efficient homes would bring jobs into the construction industry, boost the production of green materials and essentially save money on energy costs. Furthermore, it would be a benefit to national security because relying on renewable resources would decrease our dependency on imported oil from foreign countries.
“I really don’t think the idea is that hard to sell,” Wilson said. For him, clean energy and renewable resources are like vegetables; essential to any well-balanced diet. On the other hand, fossil fuel and coal are like dessert; only to be consumed in small quantities after the real meal is finished, he said.