Planners expect a population boom of 4 million people in the Pacific Northwest during the next two decades. Such growth — along with increasingly gadgetized homes containing multiple large-screen TVs, several computing devices and even plug-in electric cars — will net a 1.4 percent boost in demand for regional electricity.
Any energy savings must come from energy-conserving buildings, better home weatherization, more energy efficient lighting and appliances, as well as improved heating and cooling systems. Given these improvements, regional planners forecast saving 5,900 average megawatts of energy during the next 20 years — enough to serve nearly 4.3 million Northwest households for a year.
And all this starts with greener homes.
For the 36th year, the Building Industry Association of Clark County is opening up custom homes that increase comfort and energy efficiency to Clark County residents. This year's NW Natural Parade of Homes, which is currently under way, features 25 luxurious homes around the county, including several energy efficient homes.
The event offers two tours and runs through July 28. The five homes featured in the Felida neighborhood range from 3,400 to 4,700 square feet. This is the third time the event has been held in this area.
The rest of the 25 homes are scattered around the county. Among them are several energy efficient homes built by New Tradition Homes and Quail Homes. Visitors to these homes can learn the energy savings benefits of the Energy Star and Earth Advantage programs.
Energy Star is a program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It aims to help consumers save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and programs. Earth Advantage, http://www.earthadvantage.org, provides builder training and services to create better buildings and independently certifies homes exceeding Energy Star specs.
Energy Star certified homes don't just offer better energy efficiency, but increase living comfort and lower maintenance costs as well. According to the Energy Star website, http://www.energystar.gov, its certified homes deliver approximately 20 percent savings on annual utility bills, saving consumers thousands of dollars in maintenance cost during the years they occupy a home.
New Tradition Homes built two Energy Star homes for the tour featuring ductless heat pumps, Energy Star appliances, windows and lighting. Both offer Rinnar tankless water heaters for endless hot water and water-conserving bath and shower fixtures.
To assure Energy Star and Earth Advantage homes are energy efficient, an independent certified home energy rater must run on-site tests on the homes to make sure they are well-sealed and that heating and cooling doesn't escape from the home — and that no excess moisture seeps in.
Energy Star certification requires the rater work closely with the builder throughout the construction process. Together, the rater and builder determine the needed energy-saving equipment, construction techniques and type of conduct required for the on-site diagnostic testing and inspections to document that the home is eligible to earn the Energy Star label.
Because the Energy Star homes on the tour are built to green building standards, all construction waste was recycled. Outside, the homes are landscaped with native Northwest plants and the roofing contains a minimum of 40 percent recycled content.
Parade of Homes tickets are $12 and children younger than 12 enter for free. For more information on this year's Parade of Homes or to find special discount days, coupons and exact tour dates and times, visit http://www.ClarkCountyParadeOfHomes.com or call the BIA at 360-684-0933.
Energy adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.