As Y2K approached and many thought the world might end or would at the very least be extremely discombobulated in attempting to adjust clocks and computers to the new millennium, Biebel reminisces, “We stocked up a year’s supply of food, just in case, and we asked ourselves, ‘Why are we buying food that comes from across the country?'”
So the “localvore” phenomenon, currently taking hold in Vermont and elsewhere, can be an important component of living prudently. And although you won’t find Paul, (company business manager and wife) Kathie or (company vice president and son) Tim spending much time mass-producing organic vegetables, they are closely involved in just about every other aspect of the prudent living movement.
Among these are renewable energy–including solar electric, solar hot water, wind power, geothermal and hydroelectric–and energy conservation, which includes sustainable design, energy audits and building weatherization.
In addition to the website, there is also a companion magazine in the works. “It won’t be just for builders,” says Paul. “It’ll be targeted toward regular people and would encourage living prudently in every category of life.”
“Prudent Living is not like Biebel Builders. Biebel Builders is limited. They can only go so far. Prudent Living can be product-based. It can be franchisable. It can be a Store or a magazine. It’s all based on a movement to go back to our roots and to train and educate Prudent Living contractors everywhere. People’s reaction has been encouraging. It tells me I’m onto an idea. They just shake their head and say there are a thousand different categories of life and each one could use help with living prudently.”
Renewable energy is part of overall building science. Sustainable design is part of Renewable energy.
Sustainable Strategies, Building Performance and Renewable Energy were always meant to be intertwined; not kept separated. When combined together they make the perfect “Triple Play” against traditional methods of construction.
“Tim and I are united. We are home-grown Vermonters who are very practical minded. We don’t want to be aligned with any cultish movements. The funny thing is that by simply applying prudence to everything we do, we automatically contribute in a positive way to most of the grander and more cultish movements that are trying to save the planet. With all due respect, we just won’t pray to the wind gods or the earth or bow down to the sun. We don’t need to. We are way ahead of all that because our audience is bi-partisan and unified and our agenda is pure and simple: to conserve, recycle, reclaim and replenish and to do so, not by national mandate of more regulation and beaurocracy but through education and moral responsibility.”
To see Biebel Builders’ commitment to renewable energy, look no further than the rooftop of their longtime headquarters, located on Route 5, three miles south of downtown Windsor. Actually you can’t see much of the roof. It’s covered with solar panels.
“We have 100 Solar panels,” says Tim, “with battery backup. It provides close to 100 per cent of our electricity. It would be 100 per cent, but we had limited roof space. Last year a tree fell on the power line, about a mile up the road, and we never knew it.”
They are installing a major geothermal heating system at Cedar Hill, a full-service assisted living community just up the road. They also installed a roof-mounted hot water system that provides enough hot water for the 26,000 sf facility. At IVEK Corp., a North Springfield-based manufacturer of fluid pumps for the medical and other industries, they recently completed a 210 kW ground-mounted photovoltaic system that provides all their electrical needs. It is presently the largest private net-metered system in Vermont. In just few years, Prudent Living has installed a large variety of renewable systems on private homes around Vermont, from roof mount, pole mount, ground mount and some rather unique mounts. Biebel’s personal favorite is “off grid or grid-tied off grid compatible”, otherwise known as bi-modal. His home is that way and so is their business location. “I just didn’t like the idea of spending all that money for solar and then not being able to use it if the power went off. Net-metered system do not provide power to the customer. They just send it to the grid and trade kW’s with the utility company. For a few extra bucks, I can have power for my house that comes directly from the sun to my batteries. Who cares if the grid goes down?”
Although renewable tax credit programs seem to vary from state to state, and the funding from year to year, Paul notes that currently an investment of
$50-$75,000 in renewable energy can result in a homeowner getting “almost all of it back in 15 to 18 years, based on today’s fuel cost and incentives. It’s real peace of mind, however, from day one.”
As far as “tomorrow’s” energy costs, who can predict?
We could probably be accurate, however, in saying that they probably won’t go down.
Renewable Energy is “Peace of mind”. It’s not always a budget or payback thing to some of our clients. Some of them are facing fixed income living in a few years and are concerned about their vulnerability to unpredictable energy costs. They are taking money out of their savings accounts and investing it into Renewable Energy instead. Now that’s Prudence!