Thinking green at Houston expo

HOUSTON Some of the things you'll see are practical for everyone while others are geared toward builders. But if you want to learn more about environmentally friendly products and going green, Reliant Center is the place for you this weekend.

You know about hybrid cars.

"I go to Austin and back on a tank of gas and that's only 10 gallons," said hybrid owner Karen Cook.

But a hybrid semi truck?

"It was sitting on a quarter of a tank and when I drove it 300 miles from Dallas down to here," truck driver Everett Shelby told us. "The truck did not use but half of that quarter."

While few Houston consumers are going to run out and buy a big rig, they might be interested in getting a few compact fluorescent light bulbs, if they can see some savings.

"We've sold about one hundred million CFL's and so far we are saving customers $3 billion over the life time of the bulb," said Lisa Elledge of Wal-Mart.

The Green Consumer Expo at Reliant Center opens to the public Saturday. The idea is to teach Houstonians how green can save the environment and money too.

"I have been in houses that are energy efficient houses here in Houston where people have cut their bills by doing home improvements by 20% or more," said Houston Mayor Bill White.

Mayor White wants everyone to go at least a little green. He says this show can give consumers specific ideas on doing that.

"This is going to be an education for a lot of people, but more than that a chance for people to cut down on their energy bills," he said.

There are some things working against the green movement in Houston. Some improvements can be expensive, $12,000 for solar panels, $6,000 dollars for some kinds of solar water heaters and our humid climate is not always conducive to green building.

"What we are trying to do in this conference is become leaders in our industry by overcoming technological difficulties by taking in to account humidity and trying to learn how to deigns green building," said Adele Houghton of the Green Consumer Expo.

Consumer can get ideas too.

"You can do stained bamboo that look likes hard wood, you can also do natural bamboo," said Tiffan Wong of New Living.

Some ideas are already in your house and just need to be added to.

"What you can do is start with an inverter and add panels," said Craig Overmiller of Texas Solar Power. "But there is certain amount of panels you need to start out with to make the inverter work and that's about 12 panels."

The average home owners need about $14,000 to go solar, but you can get tax deductions and some cities pitch in to cover the cost. Builders are increasingly going green and the expo brings together architects and construction firms pushing to improve energy efficiency here in Houston.

"What we are trying to do is educate our profession on technology and design practices and design practices for green building in the hot and humid climate along the coast," Houghton said.

The fact is some of this stuff is out of the price range for some people, there are solar powered hot water heaters that cost thousands of dollars and solar panels that will cost you thousands to install, but you can also find information on radiant heat barriers and green energy providers.

There expo opens Saturday morning and is free to the public. You can avoid the $8 parking fee by taking METRO.

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