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Sustainable Home Tour: Information on energy efficiency, environmental responsibility

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Greg McMurray says his red Tesla Roadster is a good conversation starter for discussions about the ways people can conserve energy, reduce their carbon footprint and better manage their resources. The electric-powered car will be at McMurrays house during the Sustainable Home Tour. Rarely a day goes by when Greg McMurray’s red Tesla Roadster doesn’t spark a conversation with a complete stranger. The striking sports car is a rare sight and made even more interesting by the fact that it’s powered only by electricity.

“I drive it around Lake Oswego, and almost every day someone will ask me, ‘What is it? How fast does it go?’” McMurray said. “And eventually we get around to talking about what we’re going to do about this monster we call the environment.”

The car is just one part of a lifestyle McMurray has groomed around conservation and environmental responsibility. He’s looking forward to continuing the conversation during the Oct. 17 Sustainable Home Tour, when Murray’s solar-powered home will be one of four in Lake Oswego and West Linn featured on the tour.

Folks visiting Murray’s home at 4745 Oak Ridge Road in Lake Oswego can learn how Murray’s adapted a house built in 1985 to be sensitive to the environment and create its own energy through rooftop solar panels. They’ll also get to see the car and its owner, a man who is always ready to talk about the many ways people can conserve energy, reduce their carbon footprint and better manage their resources.

“It has become a passion for me,” McMurray said.

The 2015 Sustainable Home Tour is presented by the City of Lake Oswego Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB), the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network (LOSN) and the Resiliency Organization of West Linn (ROWL).

It is designed for folks to gather information about ways they can adapt their homes to be more sustainable and energy efficient.

“Most of the homes that are involved have had solar systems in place for a while,” said Mary Ratcliff, SAB co-chair. “These homeowners can tell you the costs involved in putting these systems in place and what the return has been on that investment.”

Along with McMurray’s home, three West Linn homes are featured on the tour:

Owned by Curt and Joy Sommer, the home at 18490 Lower Midhill Drive features a five-kilowatt solar system that has reduced their energy bills to almost nothing for nine months out of the year. It also has a rain-barrel system for collecting rainwater for plantings and a front-yard garden for producing food.

Eric and Stephanie Cha’s home at 22790 Oregon City Loop has a rooftop solar system, upgraded windows, improved insulation and a high-efficiency wood-burning fireplace insert — all designed to make the home more comfortable and cut down on energy use.

The Jackson family home at 6555 Artemis Lane includes a rooftop system that was installed on a “pay as you go” agreement. The family’s monthly payments didn’t start until their system was on the roof and making power. The homeowners will share details of the agreement and speak of the savings and benefits they’ve enjoyed since having the system installed.

“We want to provide more information about the ways people can make changes to their lifestyle to become more environmentally conscious,” Ratliff said. “How can we use less water? How can we save on energy use? We think people are interested in learning how others have done that successfully.”

While the use of solar power is a common thread in the four homes on the tour, Ratliff said information about all sorts of ways to save on energy and lessen environmental impact would be available at the home stops.

For McMurray, it’s a chance not just to show off his show-stopping sports car but also to share some of the ideas he’s put into practice for years. Whether it’s been strategic planting, water conservation or installation of a solar system that will have paid for itself in less than 10 years, McMurray is always looking for ways to lessen his home’s impact on the environment.

“We’re not perfect here. We had an energy audit that showed we were leaking heat like mad, but then we slowly came around.”