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Illinois Country Living

Doug Rye, licensed architect and the popular host of the "Home Remedies" radio show

Energy Solutions

Doug Rye Spreads the Energy Efficiency Gospel
His passion for helping members save energy started in the 1970s

“You can’t make him drink it.” That’s an old saying that well fits my occupation. And speaking of occupations, I’m often asked how I make a living. My response is that I teach folks how to have lower utility bills and a more comfortable house. If my wife is with me, she often says to the person asking the question, “It’s not only his occupation but it’s his passion.”

I spent 23 years as a licensed architect working for the federal government helping provide affordable housing to low and moderate income families. During that period, I came to realize that the monthly electricity bill was a big part of the cost of a home. The electric bill came every month, just like the mortgage payment, and if we were to make homes affordable, we would have to do something about energy usage.

The need to do a better job of building energy efficient homes became evident during the oil embargo of the 1970s. I guess you could say it was then that my energy passion was born. Even our national office in Washington, D.C., began promoting energy efficiency. I was privileged to help write regulations for the entire U.S. to assure that the housing units being financed used less energy than before.

We got deeply involved in the financing of solar water heating systems. That experience taught me that reliable systems were not as easy to obtain as the marketing material indicated. One such building’s roof contained 220 solar panels. It was a total failure in less than 10 years. Live and learn.

As I had the opportunity to teach in more places around the country, I became better known and in more demand. And it became quite clear to me that I couldn’t help the world if I had to stay behind a desk in a federal building. I had a great career in the government, but it was time to move on.

As I prepared my resignation papers, I had to answer the question, “reason for leaving.” I wrote, “To teach the world how to build a truly energy-efficient house.” I thought to myself as I wrote those words, “World, watch out, here I come.”

I would spend many hours teaching a family about energy efficiency. I would show them that energy efficiency would actually make them money every month. They would shake their heads “yes” and smile and I was so happy. Later, I would ask if they implemented those things. More often than not, they shook their heads “no.”

I would actually lie awake at night worrying about that family. You cannot imagine how many times I was told the builders said, “You don’t really need to do all these things.” Well, time has proven that they did need to do all these things, exactly as I said.

Thankfully, many did heed the advice and they are still bragging about their houses (and saving money every month). If you listen to my radio show, you have likely heard these folks call in and share their remarkable stories.

I think all of you would agree that the subject of energy efficiency is at an all-time high.

The electric cooperatives of Illinois and across the country have long promoted energy efficiency efforts. Energy efficiency education is a long-term commitment of the co-ops. In Arkansas, my home state, the electric co-ops started a great new energy education last year with their Energy Efficiency Makeover project. They are doing it again.

As much as $50,000 could be spent on the home (primarily from donations by vendors) to install such items as high energy-efficient windows, cellulose insulation, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and an energy-efficient water heater and other appliances, among other things.

During the next few months, I will show you in detail in this column how we took an average house and transformed it into a super energy-efficient house. The purpose is to teach all of you how you can improve the energy efficiency of your house.

More Information:

Doug Rye, the “Doctor of Energy Efficiency-the King of Caulk and Talk” can be heard on several different Illinois radio stations. Or you can go to his Web site at, e-mail him at, or call 888-Doug-Rye or 501-653-7931. You can also sign up for a free newsletter and order his “how to” videotapes.


© 2016 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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