Empowered Energy Solutions finds hot market for rapid residential audit program
By Dennis Moore
March 25, 2010 (San Diego) – Saving money while converting to green energy sources is viewed by many consumers as both desirable and a necessity in this day and age.
At the forefront of this movement is Empowered Energy Solutions, a Solana Beach, California based business that is helping homeowners county-wide save money from day one on sustainable, energy efficient projects for their homes, offices and commercial buildings, from small restaurants to huge factories. One of the company’s diagnostics was on a building that previously had an annual electric bill of $11.5 million a year.
“Right now in San Diego, thousands of homes are running inefficiently, wasting their owners’ money,” Ted Torre-Bueno, president and founder, told East County Magazine. “Dollars spent on energy efficiency have the highest return on investment and in effect, are free for the homeowner and for the community. If we can reduce power use, we save on utility bills and help eliminate the need for new power plants in the future.”
Dan Belsky and his wife, Sue, a metal sculptor/artist, wanted their East County residence to be more efficient, comfortable, and affordable to operate without paying more than they could afford. A solar-only solution would have been too costly and there wasn’t room to install a big solar system without encroaching on their garden.
After conducting an assessment, Empowered Energy Solutions created an optimized project for their home by combining energy efficiency measures such as insulation, weatherization, efficient lighting, pool pump replacement, and other improvements to reduce their overall usage. This made it possible for a smaller solar array to eliminate the couple’s remaining utility bill, creating a “net zero” home.
With the correct financing, projects such as the Belsky home makeover can be cash-positive from day one, saving home and business owners hundreds or thousands of dollars a month in utility bills and replacing these payments with a much smaller loan payment that goes straight into the value of their building.
“We started working with Empowered because we wanted to save money, and we could help the environment and save money at the same time, so much the better. What we didn’t expect was all the other benefits,” Belsky said, praising the company’s whole-house approach.
“Because they took the time to understand all of our usage, they figured out that we could save money by converting our old electric dryer to a new natural gas dryer," Belsky continued. "They identified a lot of things like this – where we could save power first so that they could install the smallest system possible instead of the biggest they could get away with. This was really important to us because I have a beautiful garden and I wanted to be able to tuck the solar system away out of sight and they made that possible. They also tackled our lighting, which wasn’t easy because as an artist, lighting is very important to me and it has to be just right. This is where they really differentiated themselves because they kept working with us…until it felt right, and it does. Another great thing is that they actually improved the house; by doing all those things to save energy they made it more comfortable as well,” he added. “When we first started this project they told us that their method of looking at the whole building and really understanding it would make a big difference – that we’d get better results – not just cheaper but better – than if we just installed solar. Having been through the process, I have to say that I agree.”
Going green and saving money is a major trend nationally and in California. The federal government has bought into this concept, awarding San Diego County $5.1 million in federal stimulus funds for energy projects. “This grant will fund projects that will save money and the environment by conserving energy at County facilities and encourage green building practices in the community,” said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob.
Recently, California lawmakers approved a bill doubling the amount of solar power that can qualify for “net metering,” or the idea that customers get credit for excess power that they put onto the grid—up to five percent of what’s used on the hottest summer day in the areas served by the largest for-profit utilities. Torre-Bueno says working with Empowered Energy Solutions will save consumers money right away, not a year from now or five years down the road, but as soon as their energy conservation project is complete. Within a few weeks to a few months they’ll be paying less every month that they currently pay for utility bills, he added.
Building on the Recovery Through Retrofit report presented by Vice President Biden, Empowered Energy Solutions has announced the new Rapid Residential Audit program, designed to save homeowners money on utility bills through reduced energy use and renewable energy. The Empowered Rapid Residential Audit program consists of a free, comprehensive energy use audit and an optimized proposal for energy-saving upgrades for qualified residential customers and business owners.
“We are the only company in the world that can do this,” says Torre-Bueno, noting that the company utilizes patented software. Homeowners receive a report of problem energy waste areas and a list of simple solutions to plug leaks and reduce or eliminate their power bills, including installation of solar PV and/or hot water heating.
In about two hours, a Rapid Residential Audit seeks out areas of energy waste in the average home, including poorly sealed windows and doors, inadequate insulation, lighting inefficiencies, phantom loads from appliances and lifestyle habits that result in higher power bills. Additionally, the Empowered Energy Solutions audit examines water use to come up with a plan to reduce water use both inside and outside the home. The homeowner then receives an optimized proposal that details the efficiency upgrades with the best financial return on investment.
The Recovery Through Retrofit report presented by Vice President Biden, and implemented by Empowered Energy Solutions, aims to:
• Provide American Homeowners with Straightforward and Reliable Home Energy Retrofit Information: Consumers need consistent, accessible and trusted information that provides a reliable benchmark of energy efficiency and sound estimates of the costs and benefits of home energy retrofits.
• Reduce High Upfront Costs, making Energy Retrofits More Accessible: Access to retrofit financing should be more transparent, more accessible, repayable over a longer time period and more consumer-friendly.
The Empowered Rapid Residential Audit Program presents homeowners with a simple, easy-to-read report detailing ways they can save on their utility bills as well as be able to fulfill Vice President Biden’s recommendations.
The office setting at Empowered Energy Solutions typifies the laid-back, but confident nature of Southern California—a breezy open-air showroom a block from the beach. Though the concepts are cutting edge, the company is not new. Empowered Energy Solutions traces its roots back 32 years, founded as “Distinctive Builders,” a contracting business that prided itself on a sterling record with no consumer complaints filed.
Behind the scenes is a talented leadership team.
Ted Torre- Bueno has broad experience as a manager in a number of time-critical and intense settings. He has worked in the construction trades running crews, in Hollywood as a 1st Assistant Director, scheduling and running film sets, and in the video game industry as a project manager. He has also started his own company to provide energy audits and has practical experience as a field energy auditor and building inspector.
Dr. Jose Torre-Bueno, Ted’s father, is CEO, Chairman of the Board and vice president of research and development for the company.
Jose Torre-Bueno received a Ph.D. from Rockefeller University in physiology, specializing in energy metabolism and heat transfer. He founded and later sold American Innovation, a medical instrument company that made the first color image analyzer in biomedicine. He has been the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Clarient, a leading developer of cancer diagnostics and managed the technical and IP aspects of several merger and acquisition deals for Clarient. About a third of all breast cancer cases in the US are diagnosed using algorithms he developed. A prolific inventor, he has over 40 issued and pending patents. These include a pending patent on using advanced mathematics from the biomedical field to optimize the energy improvements to a building-- the core of Empowered Energy Solutions’ proprietary technology.
Practicing what he preaches, Dr. Torre-Bueno also designed and built two advanced sustainable homes for himself.
Together, the Empowered Energy Solutions team now aspires to help homeowners and business owners throughout our region achieve reductions in both energy usage and expenses – proving that going “green” can result in “green” savings on your utility costs.
For more information, visit www.empoweredenergysolutions.com. Click the ad (above right) to receive a special free energy audit for qualified East County Magazine readers.
Dennis Moore is a member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild, a writer and book reviewer with the East County Magazine, and he has written for LifeAfter50 Magazine in Pasadena, California, and the Baja Times Newspaper in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. He is also the Book Review Editor for San Diego WriteWay. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.