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Counting carbon calories in home audits: Audit results spur LA councilman to diet off 2,000 pounds

Carol and David Casas show off their energy-saving appliances, such as the high-efficiency refrigerator. The Casas family last month participated in a Cool Los Altos energy consumption audit.

This is the second in a series of articles tracking the home carbon consumption of Los Altos City Councilman David Casas and his wife, Carol.

The findings are in, the report is out and recommendations for improvement are being implemented at the home of David and Carol Casas after an energy-consumption audit Feb. 27.

Spurred by an offer from Cool Los Altos, a local environmental group, David and Carol agreed to evaluate where they stood in energy consumption and implement ways to reduce their appetite.

They "are doing pretty well, compared to the average household," said Margie Suozzo, a Cool Los Altos member.

Before the February audit, Carol said they had remodeled the kitchen with new appliances, replaced the washer and dryer and installed a tankless water heater. A new trend in hot-water systems, tankless water heaters produce hot water as needed as opposed to pre-heated hot water sitting in a furnace tank losing heat.

"So the things they have already done, are currently doing and plan to do – alone are a good example for the community," Suozzo said.

Based on recommendations from auditors at GreenNow USA, which conducted the Casas family's energy analysis, Carol and Dave, son, Scott, and daughter, Paige, are adopting a new energy diet based on David Gershon's book "Low Carbon Diet: A 30-Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds" (Empowerment Institute, 2006).

"We've committed to reducing 2,000 pounds of carbon each year," Dave said.

Scott, a Los Altos High School student, will reduce his car rides to school from five to four a week by riding his bike or walking. He is now responsible for checking the cars' tire pressure.

Carol will research fluorescent lighting systems and contractors, and Dave is in charge of getting electronics equipment onto power strips dedicated to switches.

Entertainment centers can be major sources for leaking electricity and are one of the biggest wastes in energy consumption for all households, according to Kate Latham, GreenNow audit team leader.

The Casas family's home was no exception.

"Electronics are notorious for having large phantom loads," Latham said. "Adding up all a household's phantom loads is a significant amount."

Plugging electrical components into a power strip attached to an outlet dedicated by a light switch will save energy from draining away, Latham said.

Carol said the family is relegated to five-minute showers, no more bottled water, eating one vegetarian meal each week, reducing garbage waste and composting and using reusable containers and grocery bags.

Dave is less than thrilled with another recommendation: Carol said the family will cut red meat from their meals three times each week, a number she reached with Kacey Fitzpatrick, founder of Cool Los Altos.

"She (Carol) and Kacey were negotiating back and forth with my life," Dave said.

The carbon-diet experience has been an eye-opener for Carol, who said the experiment started as Dave's project as a Los Altos councilman to serve as a role model for the community. But as a real estate agent with Intero, Carol said everything she has learned about green homes can help her clients as consumers' demand for sustainable housing increases.

Some homes for sale are green-points rated, and Carol said she's excited to translate that for clients.

"It's been an awesome experience," she said. "Education is key. You don't have to redesign your life."

In the meantime, Dave said a comparison of last May's PG&E bill with this May's bill will help determine if the carbon diet is working for the Casas family.

"I can't wait to be weighed and measured," Carol said.

Contact Mary Beth Hislop at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

photos by joe hu/ town crier

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