Growing up on a Beaver County farm, sustainability and organic living have always come naturally to Michael Merck.
“I didn’t even know that we were organic farmers and sustainable—there was no definition to it,” he said. “That’s the way you lived—and you can’t live on a farm any other way. It was ingrained in me.”
Today, Merck of Regent Square is bringing those core lessons from his childhood into the city homes of Pittsburgh with his own business, West Penn Energy Solutions. Merck offers consultations and contracting to help home and business owners create more energy efficient living spaces, which in turn creates comfort while cutting back on costs.
Merck and his wife, Jennifer, bought a house on the Edgewood side of Regent Square on Savannah Avenue in 2006. When he couldn’t find any companies to make his home an energy efficient one, he immediately started a business that would do exactly that.
"That’s what gave him the idea because he realized, 'Wow, there really seems to be a need for this,'" she said.
Solar panels are attached to the roof of Merck’s home, giving them a chance to sell back electricity to Duquesne Light on an almost daily basis as the system switches back and forth between the energy from the sun, and the energy provided from the company.
The entire home is completely sealed, equipped with energy star appliances and also uses compact fluorescent light bulbs.
Renovating his own home to bring it up to full energy efficiency was just the beginning of a green energy business that has grown to include more than 50 clients in Pittsburgh.
“He started taking training courses and certification classes to start to build his name and company,” Jennifer said.
West Penn Energy Solutions offers home performance testing, which identifies opportunities for conservation in a building, solar energy installations, home performance contracting and green design and construction. Homes across the country account for 40 percent of carbon emissions nationwide, according to the West Penn website.
Merck said the solutions to creating a more energy efficient home are plentiful.
“The good news is, anyone can look at their electric bill and get a good sense of their usage,” he said. “If you’re considering solar panels, you also should have an energy audit done at the same time because there might be some really low hanging fruit and easy things to do that could reduce your electrical usage by maybe 20 percent. You can spend a couple hundred dollars to save a couple thousand.”
Merck offers a free energy audit for all clients who install solar panels in order to expose the hidden everyday inefficiencies that can be alleviated.
“Often, if people have more than one refrigerator, that second one is about 15 years old and consumes a tremendous amount of energy,” he said. “Also, with light bulbs in the house, if you haven’t updated to 100 percent compact fluorescents, I guess you must be stubborn because it’s so cost effective—it pays for itself in a month.”
Updating insulation also is another project that can cut back on costs. Merck takes a holistic approach to every building, he said.
“Clients also generally experience a quicker payback than what the energy model predicts,” he said.
Merck said he enjoys the new frontier of working in the green energy business, while at the same time, helping people protect the environment.
“You’re investing in yourself,” he said.
For more information visit www.westpennenergysolutions.com.
This story originally appeared on Forest Hills-Regent Square Patch