Tag Archives: energy efficiency


Vermin damaged and displaced insulation under homes is commonplace and a frequent discovery during the home inspection process.  Ensuring that insulation is properly attached to the underside of the home will take care of gravity displaced insulation.  Maintaining a proactive pest control regimen will help prevent vermin damaged insulation.  Check with your local utility provider before reinsulating as they may be offering attractive rebate incentives.  

If you have questions or comments about home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).   

3 Questions: Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO)

Every month, we seek to bring our readers insight from the worlds of home construction, home repair, and home maintenance straight from local Northwest Washington contractors and organizations in a segment we call “3 Questions.” Yep, you guessed it: we ask three questions, and these experts answer them. This month, we learn about energy efficiency issues with Krista Bouchey, communications specialist with Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO). 

Q1. Utility companies often offer attractive rebate incentives for improving energy efficiency. Can you tell us about some of your current incentives? 

OPALCO offers an extensive list of rebates, including super-efficient ductless heat pumps, windows, insulation, appliances, and EV charging stations. We also have a great program called Switch It Up!, which offers on-bill financing for some of these energy efficiency projects, including fiber to your home. These projects save members money, increase comfort, reduce carbon usage, and drive up the value of their homes. 

Q2. Is it easy to apply for a rebate, and how often do the rebate incentive programs change? 

Our rebate applications are super easy: apply online at www.opalco.com/rebates or email energysavings@opalco.com. The rebate program gets updated each year (January), but most of the same rebates are available each year. There are also two “fuel switching” rebates: one for ductless heat pumps and an EV charger incentive that rewards switching away from fossil fuels. These rebates are available as funds last each year.  

Q3. Does it make sense to install solar on my home? 

For those who have a good location, putting solar on your home can help offset the cost of energy use, but we recommend a solar assessment to determine the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of your site. There are many different factors to consider, including orientation to the sun, shading/tree trimming, the type of roof you have—as well as cost, maintenance, and return on investment. Another option is to purchase a piece of OPALCO’s next Community Solar project: the payback is faster, and you don’t have to manage the equipment on your property. Participants get credits on their monthly power bill based on the solar production of the project—you can invest a little or a lot and offset your energy use. We expect to have a project coming out in 2021—stay in the loop by emailing solar@opalco.com

BONUS Q: Do you have a favorite energy efficiency story or lesson you can share? 

We’re super inspired by the cool projects our members are doing. This is one of my favorites: https://energysavings.opalco.com/the-most-family-an-efficiency-oasis-on-orcas-island/ 


Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO) is a member-owned, non-profit cooperative utility providing energy services to San Juan County since 1937. Delivered to the islands by way of submarine cables, our mostly hydro-electric power is generated by Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). OPALCO distributes energy to 20 islands in the archipelago and employs approximately 50 people in the county. Co-op member-owners elect a seven-member Board of Directors, who set policy, rates and direction. Elections are held each year prior to our Annual Meeting. The OPALCO wholly-owned subsidiary, Rock Island Communications, provides broadband Internet services in San Juan County. For more information, visit https://www.opalco.com/

A big “thanks” to Krista for her responses!
If you have questions or comments about energy efficiency issues or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

Save money by insulating your attic hatch

Did you know that insulating and weather-stripping your attic access hatch, like that pictured here, can be one of the most cost-effective strategies for significantly improving the thermal efficiency of your home?  In fact, I understand that you can lose 30-40% of heated air through hatches that are neither insulated or weather-stripped.  Think about that, 30-40%, it’s a HUGE number!  For a small investment (less than $20), you can save hundreds of dollars annually.  It’s a no brainer.  This picture was taken at a recent home inspection in Burlington, Washington.

Attic insulation upgrade issues

We all want our homes to be more energy efficient.  And, with attractive rebate incentives from local utility providers to improve attic insulation, there’s little reason to not jump on board.  In fact, priority #1 should be to air seal and insulate the attic.  Why?  Because hot air rises.  You want to keep it in the house.

A few issues I commonly run into when inspecting older homes that have recently installed attic insulation are concerning.  The most common is for insulation to be blown in around everything, including furnace flues.  Clearance requirements vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but at least one (1) inch, free-and-clear, is required of all.  Insulation in contact with the chimney flue is a safety hazard and is all too commonly discovered.  The second issue I discover is blown-in insulation completely restricting the roof’s soffit vents.  By restricting attic ventilation, you run the risk of elevated moisture and humidity in the attic area.  This can lead to moisture and insect related issues, together with the real possibility of structural problems down the line.  The insulation contractor should install baffles (typically card board or styrofoam), designed to keep insulation away from the underlying soffit vents, and allow for free and unrestricted ventilation of the roof system.

So, yes, please have your attics insulated and brought up to prescriptive levels (typically R38).  But, ensure that your contractor does it right and keeps your home safe.  The simple installation of a sheet metal protective shroud around the chimney flues and soffit baffles will keep your home safe and properly functioning.  Plus, you’ll enjoy substantially reduced heating bills from the increased insulation!

Ten mistakes people make with heat

Opening up Floor Vent HeaterWant a little straight talk on saving money and energy? Don’t believe all you have heard about ways to improve efficiency and lower heating costs. Steve Graham, Networx, says, “Even with a constant flow of information about energy efficiency, homeowners make major heating mistakes that end in higher electric bills and larger environmental footprints.” Here are 10 of those errors, with the cause and effect of each decision.