At last, a home: Carei focuses on self sufficiency

Darin Carei tilts up a solar thermal panel designed for heating water as he sets up for the Home Improvement Expo at Two Rivers Convention Center. Carei, 52, is the president of EnergyWise Companies, which merged with Atlasta Solar Center in July. Carei wants to improve everyone’s quality of life.



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Darin Carei tilts up a solar thermal panel designed for heating water as he sets up for the Home Improvement Expo at Two Rivers Convention Center. Carei, 52, is the president of EnergyWise Companies, which merged with Atlasta Solar Center in July. Carei wants to improve everyone’s quality of life.

Darin Carei with Atlasta Solar Center at work in his office.



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Darin Carei with Atlasta Solar Center at work in his office.

Darin Carei shows off the Atlasta Solar Center at 1111 S. Seventh St. in Grand Junction. Carei, who spends plenty of time connecting with people, learned a sobering fact as a general contractor: Buildings consume more energy than transportation or industry — “I read that 70 percent of our energy is being consumed by buildings,” Carei said.



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Darin Carei shows off the Atlasta Solar Center at 1111 S. Seventh St. in Grand Junction. Carei, who spends plenty of time connecting with people, learned a sobering fact as a general contractor: Buildings consume more energy than transportation or industry — “I read that 70 percent of our energy is being consumed by buildings,” Carei said.

Darin Carei is the president of EnergyWise Companies, which was founded in 2008. Carei oversees many avenues that lead to improved energy efficiency, but the ultimate goal is to lower costs for homeowners.



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Darin Carei is the president of EnergyWise Companies, which was founded in 2008. Carei oversees many avenues that lead to improved energy efficiency, but the ultimate goal is to lower costs for homeowners.

Darin Carei strings his company’s banner across a frame as he sets up the Atlasta Solar Center booth at the Home Improvement and Remodeling Expo at Two Rivers Convention Center.



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Darin Carei strings his company’s banner across a frame as he sets up the Atlasta Solar Center booth at the Home Improvement and Remodeling Expo at Two Rivers Convention Center.

QUICKREAD

John Mok-Lamme, a longtime friend of Darin Carei, bumped into Carei several years ago at a gas station. As they chatted, Mok-Lamme mentioned a project he’d envisioned — one that eventually became Sojourner’s Christian Fellowship — and for which he was fund-raising.

Carei said, “‘I’ll give you $2,000’ and then he drove off,” Mok-Lamme recalled.

So, when Carei called several months later with an idea to partner with area churches in buying previously owned manufactured homes, fixing them up and making them available for families with low incomes, “I remember thinking it if was anybody else I wouldn’t take the meeting, but he gave me $2,000 so I had to,” Mok-Lamme joked. “But really, he’s an out-of-the-box guy and he’s always about seeing people move toward self-sufficiency.”



Of basic human needs fulfilled — a big drink of water, a stomach full of food, a clean set of clothes — it could be argued that a roof overhead offers the most complex emotional fulfillment. For all the platitudes about home being an attitude rather than a place, there’s tremendous security in sturdy walls to keep out the rain.

Home may be a state of mind, but it’s also a safe place to sleep, a haven at the end of the day, a necessity for a healthy, happy life.

Darin Carei is passionate about home: making it lasting and energy-efficient, helping secure it for others, establishing it as a pillar in a self-sufficient life.

Carei, 52, is president of EnergyWise Companies, which offers among its services consultation on energy-efficient building and design, energy audits, Energy Star rating, general contracting through Senergy Builders and, with the July merger with Atlasta Solar Center, solar sales and installation.

During the workday, home is a place that efficiently keeps the cold out and the power bills low, that will stand for decades, that doesn’t stomp an enormous carbon footprint. “Take responsibility for your impact” — it’s painted on the wall inside the showroom at EnergyWise’s new location at 1111 S. Seventh St.

During Carei’s off hours, though, home is more about belief: that everybody should have one, that he’s been blessed with abilities and resources and it’s his responsibility to share them, that no goal is too lofty if it means more people have a safe, secure place to live.

“Darin’s passion is self-sufficiency,” said longtime friend John Mok-Lamme. “He’s all about the hand up, not the hand out, seeing people move toward self-sufficiency.”

His passion stems, in large part, from his faith in God, said his wife of 26 years, Tammera. But it also stems from walking through this world with a sense that people are connected and have a responsibility to look out for each other. And it stems from a commitment to the home he found in the Grand Valley.

Originally from southern New Jersey, Carei met a girl when he was a student at Rutgers University. She moved to Grand Junction and he followed, and when she returned to New Jersey he stayed here, enrolling in Mesa College to study economics.

As part of his studies, he interned at the Energy Information Office, helping to publish the Solar Directory and organize the Solar Home Tour. That planted a seed that germinated for decades, because the road was winding on his way to energy-efficient building.

First, it was his passion for cars, particularly British ones (yes, they are notorious for breaking down; yes, he’s heard all the jokes). He went to work for Metric Motors, which he eventually bought and renamed Metric Automotive Inc. He ran that business until 1994, when he sold it and it eventually became Rocky Mountain Subaru.

At that point, with a wife and two young kids, he returned to Mesa to finish his degree while also operating an art gallery and a specialty auto finance company. In 1997, he became a partner in Grace Homes Real Estate and Construction.

As a general contractor, he built more than 1,500 homes and learned a sobering fact: buildings consume more energy than transportation or industry — “I read that 70 percent of our energy is being consumed by buildings,” Carei said.

“I started to think there has to be a better way. I got really interested in energy consumption and energy efficiency and the science of efficient building.”

EnergyWise Companies was founded in 2008, and as its president, Carei oversees many avenues that lead to increased energy efficiency. As consultants, EnergyWise is certified to give Energy Star ratings to homes and buildings, using technology that includes infrared imaging.

But even before that, Carei and the rest of the EnergyWise team consult on blueprints and at each step in the construction process, with the ultimate goal of increasing energy efficiency and lowering costs for homeowners. It has taken some careful explaining, since a common perception is that energy-efficient building costs more.

“But I think people appreciate an energy efficient home in the long run,” he said. “Energy efficiency is a cost that has the fastest return on your investment.”

And ultimately, it’s about having a good home, because everybody deserves one. He and Tammera bought their first one together on the corner of G Road and Seventh Street when he was 28 because “home ownership was a priority for us from the very beginning,” Tammera said.

“I do think home ownership is a stabilizing factor in our society,” he explained.

On the road to home ownership is establishing a safe and secure home. In that vein, he served as board chair of Homeward Bound of the Grand Valley, a board member of Grand Valley Catholic Outreach and Housing Resources of Western Colorado and as a co-founder and board chair of Karis Inc.

Karis was built on the experiences of the Faith Foundation, a Christian nonprofit group that Carei founded and that fundraised for human services efforts in the Grand Valley. One such effort was an idea to buy previously owned modular homes, refurbish them and make them available to families with low incomes, which resulted in nine homes in Candlewood Park.

Karis is the engine behind The House, a place for homeless teens where they not only have a safe place to stay, but get help accessing education and resources.

“Before The House, they were taken to DYS and that’s not the place to be taken if you have serious decisions to make,” Carei said. “It was years of searching and fundraising to get this going, and it’s truly by God’s grace that it exists.”

It is a home for teens that otherwise wouldn’t have one, and it underscores the importance of the security and joy that home can provide. Carei goes to his own home each night, the home he and Tammera were able to build, to daughter Summer, 14 — son Bryan, 24, and daughter Jessica, 26, have their own homes now — to a life of work and entrepreneurship, of big ideas.

He goes home, and that means a lot.

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