Denver — Brusque-voiced Burt Riviera doesn't carry every energy-saving product under the sun in his new shop, but paging through his 345-page catalog might give that impression.
The builder and engineer got the idea for starting a retail business that would specialize in energy-conservation devices last November. He was on a national lecture tour, talking about a prototype solar home he built in conjunction with the Solar Energy Research Institute of Boulder, Colo.
"The general reaction to the house was that the concept was great, but where can you buy the equipment," the slim, dark-haired builder recalls, adding, "as a result I realize that I had collected much of the product information that many people were looking for." From there, it was only a small step to the decision to open "the complete energy-saving store."
The store, named "Energy Works," opened in Englewood, a suburb of Denver, only last month. Already there are signs that Mr. Riviera has correctly anticipated a major public need. The first Saturday it was opened, 2,000 people jammed into the small, product-crammed shop. The scene was the same on the second weekend.
While the crush of customers has let up somewhat, behind-the-scenes action at the store has continued at a brisk pace. In the intervening three weeks Mr. Riviera has been busily responding to requests to set up franchises in many parts of the country. So far, arrangements have been finalized for stores in Pittsburgh; Washington, D.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Provo and Payson, Utah; Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyo.; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle.
Mr. Riviera is acutely aware that there are a great many fly-by-night operators trying to make a fast buck in solar and energy conservation by capitalizing on the public's fear. "I have tried to research groups and products as much as possible. If I find out that anyone is making exhorbitant claims, I won't hesitate dropping them," he says.
Even with this cautious approach, the energy entrepreneur has collected an astonishing array of products, devices, and gadgets which, in a multitude of ways, save energy. Those that have impressed Mr. Riviera the most include a wood-fired water heater from Mexico, acrylic store windows that attach magnetically to the inside of existing windows, and thermal shutters, soon to be released by Owens-Corning Corporation, that cut down window heat loss and are less expensive than anything currently on the market.
A random sampling from Mr. Riviera's catalog also includes:
* A solar-powered electric cart for $4,250.
* The Princess Pacific Family Wood Range, $875.
* The Hooter heater that burns waste oil and lists for $980.
* The Super Spear log splitter, advertised as a way to split wood more effectively for $29.95.
* The Sizzle Stick roasting pin that reduces oven roasting time for meat up to 50 percent and costs $12.95.
* Krypton-filled light bulbs that require 10 percent less electricity and have a nearly permanent lifetime. A 53-watt bulb, equivalent to conventional 60 -watters, sells for $2.10.
* The Little Grey Box, a timer for an electric water heater. The box restricts periods when watewr is heated, reducing monthly electricity bills, for
* The Aqua Miser controlled- flow shower head, billed as giving "the greatest shower you can get with the least amount of water." It costs only $12.95.
Perusing the catalog gives tangible proof that rising energy costs are bringing out the inventor in a large number of people and that some of their ideas actually are practical enough to be sold, and used.
"Already I've had a number of people come to me with solid ideas that they've thought about for a year or two, but which they haven't yet gotten all together. This is where a lot of my capital has gone," Mr. Riviera acknowledges.