It may soon cost you more to heat that big swimming pool |

It may soon cost you more to heat that big swimming pool

Jeremy Heiman

Aspen and Pitkin County are considering building-code changes that would place additional renewable energy requirements on some new homes.

The proposal would require owners of new homes to pay a one-time fee to compensate for the energy used by their outdoor amenities, such as heated pools, large spas or snowmelt systems in driveways. The money would be spent on energy improvements for community buildings, such as schools and affordable housing projects.

The proposal, called the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program, was developed by the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) and the building department. Public hearings will be held in about two months on proposed revisions to the building code.

As the building code is presently written, new houses must have insulation and mechanical systems that provide a high level of energy efficiency, and must conform to an energy budget on a per-square-foot basis. The energy to melt snow or heat a large pool or spa must come out of the energy budget for the home, unless 50 percent of that heating energy is provided from a renewable energy source at the house.

Renewable energy produced on-site might be either a solar hot water system or a solar photovoltaic (electricity generating) system. Since the present code was revised, wind-generated electricity has become available, raising the question of whether wind power could be used to meet the code’s renewable energy requirement.

The new proposal was presented Wednesday by CORE’s Randy Udall and Chief Building Official Stephen Kanipe to City Council members and county commissioners.

Under the proposal, the energy consumption of snowmelt systems, pools and spas would be capped at 20 percent of the total energy budget for the house. The fee, paid by owners when a building permit is issued, would pay for off-site production of the energy the amenities would use for 20 years.

CORE is recommending that the fee collected for a 500-square-foot snowmelt system be $9,000, the same for a large spa, and $12,750 for a 1,000-square-foot swimming pool. The money could be used for installing energy-efficient lighting in public buildings, installing solar hot water systems in affordable housing projects, small hydroelectric projects, or for photovoltaic systems at public schools.

Controlling excessive energy use is important, Udall said, because energy production and consumption are the cause of major environmental problems such as atmospheric carbon.

“When you give a utility company a dollar,” Udall said, “it buys 14 or 15 pounds of coal and burns it. That puts 30 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

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