Drive past Denis and Joan Heather's home near Salmon Creek and you might think they've neglected their roof and let moss take it over. That's not the case. It's a vegetated living roof -- 5,000 square feet of it. And those aren't gas bubbles rising out of the roof, but Solatubes directing natural light inside areas of their home that would require electrical lighting otherwise. Although moss on a roof shortens its life, the Heathers' vegetated roof protects the roof membrane and more than doubles the life of their roof.
The Heathers also have mounted 24 Silicon Energy panels producing 4.2 kilowatts of electricity on the roof. Since installing these alternative energy systems, the couple say they have saved 95 percent on their cooling costs and about 27 percent on their heating costs, not to mention the substantial electricity production and overall savings.
The Heathers' home is just one of nine sites that attendees can visit in Vancouver, Camas, Washougal and Amboy on the National Solar Tour. Homes on the tour are available to visit between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The local event kicks off at 10 a.m. Oct. 5 with a 30-minute information session in the Clark Public Utilities Community Room, 1200 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver. While there is no admission fee, attendees will be asked to purchase $5 maps of the nine sites on the tour. Participants drive to and from the nine locations in their own vehicles.
For a look at the first Platinum LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, home in Clark County, attendees are asked to stop by Dennis and Janice Harvey's house at 11 a.m. There they will hear a presentation and get a comprehensive tour of the energy-efficient home.
The Harvey home is one of three in Clark County to receive the LEED platinum ranking from the U.S. Green Building Council. Platinum is the highest possible rating. The Harveys have opened their home for the solar tour several times. "We like to promote sustainable design and educate people about it," Dennis Harvey said. "Lack of education is the biggest reason people don't take advantage of the solar design and the technology."
Now in its 17th year nationally, the National Solar Tour is the largest solar energy event in the world. More than 160,000 people are expected to visit approximately 5,500 buildings in 3,200 communities. The national event is coordinated by the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society. It takes place annually during the first Saturday in October in conjunction with National Energy Awareness Month.
Local tour organizer John Zagunis of Camas represents Solar Washington Southwest. He said this is the 12th year for the tour in Clark County and he expects as many as 200 people to participate. Zagunis, a solar-installation contractor and owner of ACT on Solar, is a longtime advocate of solar energy.
Tourgoers will learn about solar energy investment incentives that include:
• A $500 rebate from Clark Public Utilities for the installation of a solar water heater.
• A 30 percent federal tax credit for homeowners and businesses, available until 2016.
• State production incentives for installation of photovoltaic modules and electric inverters, up to 54 cents per kilowatt hour generated, up to $2,000 per year.
"Solar systems last at least 25 years and with the state incentives it's possible to install solar today with a payback of eight to 10 years," said Zagunis.
Energy adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to email@example.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.