Inspiration to go green on display this weekend

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FALMOUTH — An open-house tour this weekend promises to be a showcase of energy efficiency and an inspiration to homeowners looking to reduce their energy bills by incorporating green building techniques.

Sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association as part of the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour, the 2009 Green Buildings Open House features more than 90 structures in Maine, more than a dozen of them in greater Portland.

According to Pam Lester, spokeswoman for NESEA, the organization began in the 1970s and most of its members – including about 70 in Maine – are in some aspect of the building profession. The purpose of the organization is to help educate people on how to use renewable and sustainable energy, she said.

Though many of the houses on the tour are new construction, Lester said people can make “green” changes to existing homes, as well, adding anything from a rain barrel to solar panels. And whether in the market for a new, energy efficient home or considering a retrofit, visitors to the open house can come away with ideas and resources to turn their wish lists into responsible energy conservation, she said.

“Thirty-two percent of the tour hosts indicated that attending a previous tour was the motivating factor behind their decision to invest in renewable energy systems for their own home,” Lester said.

And in the next two years, 38 percent of visitors to last year’s open house are expected to retrofit an existing home with sustainable features, she said.

Three houses in Falmouth and three in Scarborough will be open to the public this Saturday, as well as two in Freeport, two in North Yarmouth, and one each in Portland, South Portland and Topsham. Systems that will be featured include solar panels and hot water collectors, co-generation heating/electricity systems, wind turbines, composting/low flow toilets, radiant floor systems, energy efficient wood stoves and geothermal heating systems.

The open house gives visitors a chance to ask homeowners for advice and for more details about the process of “greening” a home. Open house tours will be given between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, Saturday, Oct. 3. Most sites are free, though some guided tours may charge. A complete list is available on the NESEA Web site,

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or