Comments on: Going Green Can Be Easy and Even Put Some Green Back in Your Wallet! The EPA Blog Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:58:31 +0000 hourly 1 By: Bill Swietlik Thu, 07 Apr 2011 12:13:59 +0000 Hi Norm! Yes, it is. I have been working here in Washington, DC at EPA since 1988. I can be reached via e-mail me at

I can readily remember back to the cold winter weather in Maine. Those one to two week stretches in January when temperatures never got above 0 degrees F and the tires on my car, if I didn’t drive it everyday, would develop frozen flat spots due to the weight of the car on the rubber.

Looking back, many of the homes, apartments and even the dormitories were poorly insulated and very energy inefficient. I can only imagine how much energy we wasted back in those days — and how uncomfortable were were. I have often thought about moving “back up north”, but I am not sure I could tolerate the cold weather once again. Regardless, if I did, I would first want to find a very well constructed and insulated home to live in, or even better, attempt to renovate and make “net-zero” an older existing home. Lots of insulation and passive solar, in my mind, would be critical to having a comfortable home back up north. Or better yet, it would be really fun to attempt to build a new “Passivhaus”. I am not sure one has ever been attempted in Maine. But by visiting the PassiveHouse Institute, USA website at
maybe we would find that one or more have been built by now.

By: Mike Mon, 18 Oct 2010 20:17:14 +0000 Hopefully we’ll be able to save some more once this HomeStar Legislation passes:

By: Stephen Mon, 20 Sep 2010 05:00:36 +0000 Check out green flooring

By: Norm Dougherty Tue, 06 Jul 2010 14:21:21 +0000 Hi Bill- I’m wondering if you are the Bill Swietlik that graduated with me from the University of Maine in 1973? Regardless, thanks for your efforts in reducing energy costs with a common sense approach- we can use all the help we can get up here in Maine! Norm

By: Kristine Sat, 01 May 2010 00:14:11 +0000 Good job on the energy savings. Going solar is definitely a great way to live green and save money :)


By: Libby Rollins Mon, 15 Mar 2010 17:25:10 +0000 Wow thanks for the resource! I’m looking to buy a house, and I can use all the helpful hints I can get about saving money (while saving Earth)!
Libby Rollins

By: Andy Rogers Fri, 05 Feb 2010 08:38:16 +0000 It’s nice to see the Energy Star rating system being relatively widely used throughout the world now. A few years ago it was more or less restricted to a few countries. I’ve used the Energy Star Yardstick tool and found it really handy. You do need to have your energy usage records on hand to use it, if you’re no good at record keeping it might be difficult. I may be missing something but there seems no provision for wood fuel. I just thought for the sake of accuracy it maybe should be included. I guess though that using wood for fuel is soooo inefficient that it’s been omitted from the calculations(?)

I do feel guilty I have wood heating :( I can’t remove it though – I’m an avid DIY renovator, renovating my own home and I’m intent on really aspiring to live off the grid

By: Bill Swietlik Wed, 03 Feb 2010 21:20:07 +0000 Jack:

Thanks for your feedback. Learning and implementing good building science is critical for anyone working in the home building – energy efficiency field. You are a step ahead of many others! Good work.

The EPA Greenhomes website has a picture on it of a yard that was renaturalized. See:
and the first picture under Landscaping and Lawn Care is my eastern sideyard that I renaturalized years ago.

Before renaturalization, there were about four large oak trees and nothing but planted lawn underneath in the area you now see in the picture. All the understory vegetation, shrubs and small trees you see in the picture are renaturalized growth.

My wife decided to ring the area with a short wall of field stone.

The second picture in the same section, showing a large maple tree with some grass mulch around the bottom of it extending out about 3 feet, is the beginning of another renaturalization area in my western side yard. I will be taking pictures of this area in sequence to show progress as I expand the area. The picture you see was taken this past summer. By December, the mulched area was increased to an area about 40′ x 30′ as I gradually built up mulched leaves and grass clipping to expand the area and kill off the grass. In expanding the mulched area I was able to use every leaf I raked up this fall for the mulch and didn’t do any bagging of any leaves! (I do have a gas powered leaf vacuum that does a great job mulching the leaves.) Once this new renaturalization area is complete (double its current size), I have decided to accelerate the understory plant growth in the mulched area by planting native vegetation to support wildlife.

Once this is done, I will have eliminated another 25% of my lawn forever!!

By: Jack Brown Sat, 16 Jan 2010 19:13:31 +0000 Nice job on the energy savings. I just completed a course with Everblue Energy in Baltimore for BPI Certification and it’s amazing what I’ve been doing as a contractor that is simply bad building science. The devil really is in the details on insulation, air sealing, and home ventillation. If anyone else is interested, I would recommend their class at the University of Baltimore.

Bill, What does renaturalization look like for your lawn? It would be great to post pictures of the before and after. My wife thinks a natural lawn is one run a muck . . . I hate mowing the lawn so a natural lawn would have great benefits in my mind.

By: Bill Swietlik Mon, 04 Jan 2010 17:39:10 +0000 Julie:

I did my own energy audit so I do not have any recommendations for someone to use. However, there are two resources that may help you from ENERGY STAR. First is the ENERGY STAR Yard Stick tool which will get you started by identifying the most common energy problems in your home. The Yardstick tool is easy to use and is at:

The second resource is a listing of ENERGY STAR partners, some of whom might be good at conducting energy audits. This may give you a listing from which to make some calls to raters or auditors in the No. VA area. This listing is at:

A good home energy audit will cost $150-$550 depending on how much is done and how big or complex your home is. At a minimum, you should get a blower door test with an air infiltration/leakage investigation. A “leaky” house — one in which air infiltrates easily– is one of the most common problems with older houses in our area.

Good luck!