Tag Archives: orcas island

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).

Install a Chimney Cap

Tim Hance with All Islands Home Inspections shares a video of an uncapped chimney at a recent home inspection. In the past, chimney caps weren’t installed because people used their fireplaces all day/night as a source of heat; the constant updraft prevented water intrusion becoming an issue. Today, that’s not the case for most homeowners, so it’s really important to install chimney caps to prevent water intrusion that can lead to expensive damage. Thanks for watching!

Originally posted 2018-10-24 13:26:14.

Orcas Island Home Inspection Discovers Improperly Installed Roof Coverings!

Tim Hance with All Islands Home Inspections discovers improperly installed roof coverings at a recent home inspection on Orcas Island. Without sufficient eave overlap, the underlying fascia trim, sheathing, and rafters are vulnerable to water and insect damage. Water and insect damage were presenting in many areas of this particular home. A qualified roofing contractor will likely advise the installation of a metal drip-edge flashing detail, installed under the roof coverings and overlapping the wood fascia board to help prevent water and insect damage; a roofing contractor may also want to improve the roof covering overlap/overhang as well.

Originally posted 2018-08-27 13:55:50.

Video: Remove vent caps above roof

Plumbing vent caps are installed during construction to pressure test the drain-waste-vent plumbing system before it’s filled with water and used regularly. Once the test is passed (e.g., the pipes hold pressure and don’t leak), these caps are supposed to be removed to ensure proper drainage within the home. This vent cap was discovered at a 1999 home on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. Surprisingly, I call this out all the time. If the vent has been abandoned, the cap is appropriate; but this usually isn’t the case. Usually, the plumbing contractor forgets to get back on the roof to remove caps. So, if you see caps, I’d remove them if the pipes aren’t abandoned.

Originally posted 2018-08-08 09:48:57.

CUT TRUSSES in Garage!

Tim Hance with All Islands Home Inspections recently discovered unconventionally constructed trusses in a garage that have been cut at a home inspection on Orcas Island. Cutting trusses is expressly NOT ALLOWED as it can, and likely will, lead to structural settling and failure over time. In this case, the roof plane showed clear evidence of settling/sagging when viewed from the exterior; when I went inside, it was clear why the roof was settling. With an appropriate snow load, or with time, some of these trusses will likely crack and fail. In this particular situation, repair was difficult because the trusses were cut to accommodate large garage doors; the recommended interim solution was to install intermediate posts and beams, in the middle of the garage, to properly support the roof and allow for vehicle access and egress.

Originally posted 2018-07-16 16:53:14.

“Fogged” windows

“Fogged” windows, or windows with condensation between glass panes, are commonly discovered at home inspections.  From my perspective, it’s a cosmetic issue because the condensation between panes isn’t a water intrusion issue for the home’s health itself.  Sure, you’ll lose some thermal efficiency when the window panes lose their seals, but it’s somewhat negligible in the grand scheme of things.  In my experience, Realtors are about 50% successful in negotiating replacement of “fogged” windows in real estate transactions. The Seller typically takes the stance that the “fogged” windows were obvious when the offer was made.  The Buyer, on the other hand, may take the position that (a) they didn’t notice the “fogged” windows or (b) they had no idea what it would cost to replace.  If you have a significant number of fogged windows, replacement adds up quickly. Standard “fogged” windows typically cost $300-$500 each to replace; contractors can usually pop-out the old glass pane and install a new one, without having to encumber trim and siding elements.  These pictures were taken at a recent home inspection on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands.

Originally posted 2018-07-13 17:01:13.

Moldlike Growth in Attic

At a recent home inspection on Orcas Island, I discovered plywood sheathing in the attic that was stained with a mold-like growth. This typically, almost always, indicates an insufficient ventilation or elevated moisture issue within the attic. Vents could be restricted, vent ducts may be discharging into the attic, or the interface between the main home and attic may need to be better sealed. In any event, a contractor needs to first resolve the underlying cause of elevated moisture and make necessary repairs. The mold-like growth is then typically remediated with a mildicide and then painted with mildicide paint to encapsulate historic mold growth. I recommend tinting the paint TAN because white or black mold growth will be obvious if it returns (e.g., you’ll see it on tan paint). If the attic is forever tan, you know the issue has been addressed satisfactorily. Because most home buyers want this issue addressed prior to closing, and remediation can be expensive, I recommend peeking into your attic on an annual basis and dealing with any apparent mold-like growth sooner than later if noted.

Originally posted 2018-07-02 09:49:43.

AFCI Breakers

AFCI breakers, common to newer homes, provide added protection to homes in the event of an arc-fault. AFCI stands for “Arc Fault Circuit Interruptor.” If there’s an arc fault, the AFCI breaker “trips” the circuit, turning off power to help prevent the possibility of an electrical event or fire. The video above explains how to best test AFCI breakers to ensure they’re working properly. Technically, manufacturers typically recommend testing these breakers every thirty (30) days. If they don’t “trip,” replacement by a qualified electrician is advised.

Originally posted 2018-06-01 09:09:55.