Couple’s home a shining examle

Part of Saturday’s National Solar Tour, it's the only one in Clark County with platinum certification for energy efficiency

By Courtney Sherwood, Columbian freelance writer


photoDennis Harvey opens an energy-efficient window, chosen because of its ability to reduce heat loss.

If you go

• What: Tour of solar panel-equipped houses.

• When: Orientation from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday; tour continues until 4 p.m.

• Where: Pick up a map in the Clark Public Utilities community room, 1200 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver. Maps are only available from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

• Cost: $5

• Information: 360-834-0674 or http://nationalso...

When Dennis and Janice Harvey decided to move to a single-level house, they started looking for something eco-friendly — with solar panels, good insulation and an efficient use of resources.

“We couldn’t find it,” Dennis Harvey said. “So we decided to build.”

The house he ultimately designed was more than just a little eco-friendly. With solar panels on the roof, a windmill in the yard and energy efficiency informing every decision from floor to ceilings, the Harvey’s Washougal home is the first to achieve LEED Platinum certification in Clark County.

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the U.S. Green Building Council’s measure of environmental impact. Platinum is the highest possible designation, signaling an efficiently built project that minimizes use of water and energy. Only 45 houses in Washington have been certified LEED Platinum.

It’s not for everyone, Harvey acknowledges, but he hopes that his home might inspire people to consider smaller improvements when he opens his doors Saturday as part of the National Solar Tour.

The tour, which involves 5,500 homes and buildings across the country, aims to shine a light on energy efficiency — including solar power.

John Zagunas of Solar Washington Southwest, who is coordinating the eight Clark County homes in the tour, said he hopes that participants come away with an understanding that environmental homes are within reach.

“Dennis’ approach to solar and energy efficiency is pretty expensive,” Zagunas said. “But you can live with solar cheaply.”

Harvey declined to say how much he has spent on his house.

Though solar panels and wind turbines are flashy, many homeowners can significantly shrink their environmental impact with less visible changes to a house’s “envelope,” Zagunas said.

Home-energy audits can identify whether old windows, insufficient insulation or leaky ducts may be leading to wasted energy.

After addressing those problems, Zagunas suggests that cost-conscious homeowners consider solar hot water systems. They can cost $6,000 to $10,000 when professionally installed — less for do-it-your-selfers — and Clark Public Utilities offers $1,000 rebates for solar water heaters that meet its requirements.

The National Solar Tour begins with a 10 a.m. orientation at the Clark Public Utilities community room, 1200 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver. Maps of participating homes will be available for $5 during the orientation. Homes will be open until 4 p.m.