September 29, 2008 / 10:28 AM / 9 years ago

Green Living: Old sailors never die, they just go green

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Rear Admiral Brad Mooney once hunted for sunken submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. Now he has switched his attention to shallower waters.

Mooney recently helped oversee the installation of solar heating in the swimming pool at his retirement home in Texas, as part of a growing number of retired people taking action to tackle environmental concerns at home and get others involved.

It was the first of what is expected to be many initiatives from a Green Task Force set up by the 77-year-old admiral, who has co-opted nine other senior citizens at the retirement community near Austin where he lives with his wife, Jay.

Mooney, former Chief Oceanographer for the U.S. Navy, then its head of research, has a great deal of expertise he can turn to. His colleagues' backgrounds include chemical research for a major energy company, senior management roles in gas and oil exploration, and a ex-senior vice president of an oil company.

"They know much more about technical matters than I do," Mooney said.

The impetus behind the Green Task Force was a meeting Mooney attended at the Department of Energy in Washington, which spurred him to get cracking on immediate projects.

"I saw the manager of the home and asked if we could set up the task force," he said. "I look at the green programs for the most part as security," said Mooney. "Without these green programs the security of the Earth is going to be at risk and the security of the country (America) is going to be at risk"

There is also an element of personal survival.

"If the cost of energy goes up then our monthly costs in the retirement home go up," he said.

Mind you, the average resident of the Querencia retirement home is better equipped than most elderly people living on fixed incomes to deal with energy price rises. The fees, which cover a wide range of services and amenities, are based on the size of the residence.

Annually, prices begin at $29,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, and 90 percent refundable entrance fees begin at $300,000. Querencia is owned and operated by Senior Quality Lifestyles Corporation (SQLC), and currently has over 200 residents on its 38 acre site, where apartments range in size from 825 to 2,375 sq ft (221 sq meters).

And that has led the Task Force to their next mission - There are a lot of windows at Querencia, 8,800 sq feet to be exact, and Admiral Mooney has won the agreement of Querencia's owners to cover them all with solar film to reduce the heat from the sun and thus cut the need for air-conditioning.

Solar film "is adhered to the interior surface of the window glass" said Dan Venet of CHB industries, a solar film consulting and installation company. "It also reduces heating bills because it does better insulate the windows."

Some solar film is tinted or reflective, and this "darkens the interior and also has an aesthetic impact on the building," said Venet.

"There is now a new line of clear solar window film being adopted by museums and commercial building owners. It blocks up to 55 percent of sun's heat and because its clear you don't have to upgrade interior lighting."

The solar film at Querencia will cost about $4.75 per square foot, but it can cost up to $18.

The next step for the task force is to investigate the exact benefits and payback period of the solar pool heating (which cost about $13,000) and the solar film.

These are not bleeding heart environmentalists, but hard-nosed corporate managers.

"We have a lot of very bright people and they have got a lot left in their brains to give and rather than having them sit around in a rocking chair they seem very pleased to help," said Mooney.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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