Namasté Solar harnesses the power of respect


This is the Sanskrit meaning of namasté in Namasté Solar’s name.

And just like the word – a traditional greeting of respect that recognizes the interdependence of all living things – Namasté Solar’s goal is to show the earth, the community, their customers and employees respect not only through increasing use of solar power, but in how the business is run.

Blake Jones, Ray Tuomey and Wes Kennedy founded Namasté Solar in 2005 after Colorado voters approved Amendment 37 requiring energy companies to glean a certain amount of electricity from solar by 2015, says Dan Yechout, sales director.

Xcel Energy’s Solar* Rewards program launch in 2006 ignited Namasté Solar’s business.

Today, it is the most experienced Colorado-based solar company, having installed more solar projects in the state than any other company. Its primary market is the greater Denver/Boulder area, though it has done business as far north as Fort Collins, as far south as Colorado Springs and, occasionally, on the Western Slope. In addition to its main office in Boulder, Namasté Solar has been working from its LEED-certified office in Denver for the last 1½ years, as that’s where most of its customers are.

But Namasté Solar’s founders didn’t want to just run a business – they wanted to set a higher standard of respect not only for the earth, but for their customers and their employees.

So they recently established Namasté Solar as an employee-owned cooperative, which now has 40 co-owners and 22 cooperative candidates/employees. In the cooperative structure, all candidates are given the opportunity to purchase a share in the business and invest in Namasté Solar’s future.

All co-owners have a voice in what happens at Namasté Solar, from the company rebranding to the bi-annual company retreat agenda. They also vote on who will serve on the company’s internal board of directors, which occasionally makes decisions not well-suited to a companywide vote, Yechout says.

Salary ranges are tight, everyone has access to the company’s financials and, instead of paying commission, all the co-owners enjoy profit-sharing, he says.

“We think it’s good for us, but it’s really great for the customers,” Yechout says. “Whether it’s selling or installing, all of us co-owners have a vested interest in making sure you’re happy with our product and service.

“Having happy customers in the end is always the goal,” he adds. “We’re always going to go the extra mile for the customer in the end, and this has really paid off for us.”

Namasté Solar also shows respect to the community by being the first solar installer in the nation to offer a solar grant program, he says. It dedicates 1 percent of its annual revenues (regardless of profit) toward its corporate social responsibility plan, which includes solar grants, sponsorships and in-kind donations to local nonprofit organizations. The solar grant program gives long-term energy self-sufficiency to these organizations and enables them to reallocate their annual electricity savings, instead, to support direct program costs, Yechout says.

Namasté Solar also seeks to “walk the talk” through its own facilities and operations: its Boulder building was certified as LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council when it was remodeled 2008; its fleet of vehicles includes mostly hybrids or those that run on biodiesel; and the company has a zero waste program and partners with Eco-Cycle on zero-waste initiatives.

To ensure that home and commercial building owners can afford solar service, Namasté Solar not only provides a wide price range of solar panels from which to choose, but it is now offers a residential lease program so that homeowners do not have to come up with a large upfront payment to install a solar array.

But with the Colorado Legislature increasing the percentage of power generated by solar in 2007 and 2010, Namasté Solar’s co-owners have a certain amount of job security.

To learn more about Namasté Solar, visit; call (303) 447-0300; or e-mail

Colorado's home prices remain steady through 4Q 2010

Colorado’s real estate market stood its ground through the end of 2010, according to the Federal Housing Finance Authority’s House Price Index.

Colorado’s house-price change of -1.03 percent from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the last three months of 2010 earned it a rank of 10th out of 51 on the index. The nation as a whole saw home prices decline 3.95 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared with the same period of 2009.

While none of Colorado’s metro statistical areas were ranked among the top 20 for house price appreciation, most of their house prices remained steady compared with metros nationwide through the end of the year.

Boulder remained among the top 100 metro statistical areas for its price appreciation of 0.06 percent, it dropped from 53rd in the third quarter to 87th in the fourth.

It also fell three places to the fourth-highest rank among Colorado metros, falling behind Pueblo, which saw home prices climb 1.05 percent from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2010, ranked 38th; Greeley, which ranked 57th with an appreciation of 0.53 percent; and Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, which ranked 80th with prices appreciating 0.12 percent.

All but one of Colorado’s metros stayed well out of the bottom 20 except for one: Grand Junction’s home prices declined 8.68 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared with the previous year, earning it the rank of 299 out of 309.

Here’s a look at how all of Colorado and its ranked metro areas’ change in housing prices in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared with change in housing prices nationwide:

Surveys find Colorado is both 'safe' and (somewhat) 'secure' from natural and employment disasters

Recent surveys show that not only is Colorado one of the best places to make a living, but you can do so in relative safety.

According to Sustain Lane, Colorado ranks eighth among the nation’s states for safety – at least in terms of the number of natural disasters since 1953, as reported by Yahoo! Shine.

Rhode Island ranked first, followed by Utah and Colorado neighbor Wyoming. Texas took the top slot for the state with the most natural disasters, followed by California and Oklahoma.

Here’s a look at the top 10 safest states in the union:

But the fact that you are unlikely to experience a natural disaster while living in Colorado is likely not enough reason to move or remain here: it’d also be nice if you could support your family and then some – right?

According to Yahoo! Finance, Colorado also has that going for it, too. Using data from, Yahoo! Finance reported that Colorado is No. 9 among states where you can not only find a job, but find one that pays enough to cover the expenses and taxes and have a little leftover. pulled unemployment rates, average wages, tax rates and cost of living from all 50 states and found the best and worst states in which to make a living.

Here are the top 10 of each:

Where is money hiding in your home? Find it when you’re spring cleaning

When you finally get around to spring cleaning your home but then are tempted to quit before the job’s done because it just is too much, perhaps this thought will keep you going: there’s cash in that junk!

According to Kiplinger (as reported by Yahoo! Finance), people often throw away cash – or, at least, items that could bring them cash if they were handled properly.

Here’s some items you should snag if you come across them while in the midst of spring cleaning:

Receipts – More specifically, health care receipts. While most companies require all receipts eligible for Flexible Spending Account claims turned in by March 15, some give to as late as June 15. And while you’re going through those receipts, grab any you can use to claim tax donations such as those for charitable donations or job-hunting expenses, if you itemize.

Gift Cards – If you come across unused gift cards but won’t use them for yourself or give them to someone else, check out gift card exchange sites such as Gift Card Granny or Plastic Jungle, which purchase gift cards for a percent of their value.

Electronics – When the electronics you just bought become outdated in the next few weeks, don’t throw them away. Instead, you can sell them on, which buys computers and accessories, game systems, MP3 players, digital cameras, satellite radios and GPS devices.

You may also consider exchanging them through companies that allow you to trade older items for credit, such as the Apple Recycling Program or Hewlett-Packard offers a similar trade-in program if you buy a new HP or Compaq product first.

Donating your electronics may not have immediate rewards, but you can reap the tax deduction if you itemize. The National Cristina Foundation will take your used computers, software and accessories and find them a new home, helping provide computer training to the less fortunate. Old cell phones can be donated through

Lastly, do your part to save the earth by recycling your electronics through programs like those offered by Best Buy, or try out your local to find them a new home.

For more information on donating and recycling electronic goods, including how to safely and completely wipe all your personal information from them, visit the EPA's eCycling home page.

Jewelry – With the price of gold topping $1,400 an ounce as of late March, silver nearing $40 an ounce and platinum reaching $1,750 an ounce, now is the time to part with jewelry you don’t wear often and lacks sentimental value. But before you ship them off to or similar gold buyers, check out auction houses, estate buyers, and jewelers to find and compare offers. You can also find an appraiser via the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers.

Clothing and accessories – Go shopping in your closet for items to sell at a secondhand store. Typically, clothing will resell for just a quarter or a third of the original retail price, but handbags may sell for up to half the original price tag. If you sell to a consignment shop, you'll have to wait until your item sells before collecting any money.

Call your choice secondhand store or check its Web site before you head in, as you may need to make an appointment to peddle your wares, and you’ll want to make sure your items are in season, in style and fit in with the shop's other offerings. Your items should be clean, stain-free and neatly folded. But if you can't profit from your apparel, consider donating it and claiming the tax benefit.

Books, music, movies and other miscellaneous items – Your first medium of choice for selling these items is the Internet, such as eBay, which will charge a fee but allow you to reap most of the profits. If you have enough items or they will bring in enough cash, you may enlist an online auction helper such as iSold It. Other sites to try: Amazon Marketplace, Overstock and Craigslist. If you're trying to sell furniture, use Craigslist or your social network to find local buyers who can swing by to pick stuff up themselves (just be safe). Of course, there’s the old-fashioned way of selling your used items: garage or yard sales.

Early spring sales show promise of new life in housing market

If you compare March’s real estate statistics for Boulder County with March 2010, you might think things are worse off than they really are.

But if you recall that at this time last year, the first-time and move-up tax credit was bringing potential home buyers out of the woodwork, you’d understand what an unfair comparison that is.

However, compared with the last year without a tax credit influencing sales – 2009 – March 2011’s home sales are improving, says Ken Hotard, vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor Association.

Sales of single-family homes, 212 in March, exceeded the 193 sold in March 2009, though the 75 condominiums and townhomes that sold in March fell below the 87 sold two years ago. Compared with February, single-family home sales were up from 158 and condo/townhome sales increased from 54.

In March 2010, 272 single-family homes sold and 119 condos/townhomes sold.

“We’re basically continuing the trend we’ve seen in recent months,” Hotard says. “We’re showing good improvement over 2009, but we’re still not matching the 2010 numbers when we had the tax credits in place.”

The condo/townhome market continues to struggle, thanks to an excess supply for the demand that’s out there, he says.

While the current market stats aren’t reaching stimulus-level activity, the single-family market is showing increased sales and price stability month over month, Hotard says.

“We’re getting a little of that spring bump and hopefully that’ll continue,” he says, noting he is hearing from area Realtors that listing activity is more brisk, though inventory is not increasing evenly across submarkets.

Average and median sales prices on single family are continuing to improve throughout the Boulder market, much in part to the fact that the area didn’t experience inflated prices in the early 2000s, he says. The current prices reflect the real value of homes in the Boulder area markets.

Hotard says another positive sign that will impact the market in time is an improvement in local communities’ sales and use tax receipts, which shows “potential improvement” in consumer confidence and spending.

However, he says, “the drags that are still out there. The overall economic health remains weak, and while job growth is improving, it’s not at a pace to significantly reduce unemployment.”

Tight credit, the national debt and talk about requiring 20 percent down to obtain a mortgage are adding to the uncertainty people have about the real estate market, though, in the end, lenders will adopt more reasonable qualifications for lending, Hotard says.

On the bright side, new home construction went up 7 percent nationally in March, he notes, which means homebuilders are expressing more confidence.

“There certainly could be pockets in certain market areas where increasing the supply of new housing makes sense,” Hotard says.