February 26, 2006 in City

Energy-savings top draw at annual home show

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Holly Pickett photo

Insulated Building Materials owner Lorna Hamilton answers questions Saturday about SmartBlocks at the Spokane Home & Yard Show, which concludes today at the Spokane Fairgrounds.
(Full-size photo)

If you go

Last day

The Spokane Home & Yard Show continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. Cost: Adults $6; children younger than 12, free.

A recent snap of cold weather and high heating bills have combined to boost business for Terry Simioni, who installs radiant-heat floors in the Spokane area.

His booth at this weekend’s Spokane Home & Yard Show was a busy place. Pushing warm water through pipes beneath the floors of a home is a time-tested and efficient way to heat homes.

“Water is the best way to move energy,” he said. “The big question for people is ‘Can I afford it?’ ”

The answer, increasingly, is yes. Radiant heat has long been a popular choice for the well-to-do. After all, it can cost about double what a traditional furnace forced-air heating system does. Yet higher heating bills with no retreat in sight have more and more homebuilders researching and buying heated floors.

“We’re just swamped,” Simioni said of his business.

Though it may take 10 years of energy savings to pay for radiant heat over a traditional heating system, radiant heat can add strong value to a home, like a nice deck or modern kitchen.

The choice is so solid that Habitat for Humanity homes are built with radiant heat, including 21 going up in Spokane County this year.

While water features like waterfalls, ponds and hot tubs offered the splashiest displays at the four-day show, booths touting new or tested energy ideas are drawing many of the 25,000 people who are attending the four-day event at the Spokane County Fairgrounds.

Ed and Lavina Pomranky’s booth showing walls made of plastic foam and concrete was swarming with people.

“People want these things,” said Ed Pomranky at his ICF Specialties Inc. booth. “The demand from the public is there, now we just have to get contractors to try something new and better.”

The walls are more expensive on smaller homes compared with traditional lumber-framed homes, he said. But the cost differences narrow the larger the home.

Energy usage is dramatically less and can begin delivering savings immediately.

Other booths with an eye on energy efficiency include those selling windows and better ways to heat water. People installing solar panel systems in their homes can qualify for a tax credit this year.

New technologies and alternative energy sources are once again in the national spotlight. President George Bush last week spent time traveling and talking about a wave of new products that can make homes better equipped to save on heating and cooling bills.

Simioni spent hour after hour answering questions, handing out business cards and giving in-depth planning talks to prospective customers.

Public awareness that some of these energy saving ideas are within the financial reach of average people is sparking interest as never before, making this an exciting time to be in business, he said.

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