The Puget Sound area's mild, maritime climate makes this an ideal spot for drastically lowering home power consumption. According to a recent study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the average energy bill for a typical single-family American home is approximately $2,200 per year. But, with these tips and smart choices, many homeowners in our area can come very close to completely eliminating their home energy bills.
1. Lower your home's requirements for heating, cooling and lighting.
This means carefully sealing and insulating the "shell" of your home. A typical house leaks 475 cubic feet of air per minute (CFM), enough to fill a hot air balloon in less than three hours. Today's most efficient homes leak only 68 CFM.
2. Invest in energy saving appliances and furnishings.
Properly placed high-performance windows let in the warming rays of the sun in the winter, are shaded in the summer and can provide natural ventilation. Another energy saving choice is water-saving appliances and ultra-low showerheads in bathrooms. Hot water equals energy down the drain so this is important for reducing energy usage. Once you have lowered your energy usage as much as is practical for your family and your lifestyle, the next step is efficient equipment and systems.
While it may not be feasible to replace all systems and equipment immediately, you can make small changes that help. Next-generation LED bulbs are 75 percent more efficient and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. A recent study found that Americans will likely save a total of $265 billion over the next 20 years just by switching to LEDs. And when you are thinking about replacing appliances, remember that not all refrigerators, dishwashers and washing machines are created equal - even those bearing the Energy Star label. Really compare models and brands to find the most efficient models that can meet your needs. It really does pay to be picky.
3. Start generating your own energy.
This is not actually as daunting as it might sound. And while home-brewed energy comes in many forms, solar is the most practical in the Pacific Northwest - even with our often gray skies. According to Bloomberg New Energy, the price of solar panels has plummeted in recent years. And as for our gray skies, Seattle City Light notes that Seattle receives more sunlight than Germany, the world's leading solar market.
A great way to learn even more about energy-saving features is to see them in person. Mark your calendar for the Northwest Green Home Tour, April 26th, where you can walk through newly constructed and retrofitted homes that have undergone extreme energy makeovers. The tour, presented by Built Green and the Northwest Eco Building Guild is free to the public and a wonderful way to see the latest in energy saving up close and personal.
The Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties provided information contained in this article. For more information or to find a qualified professional, visit Master Builders.