All posts by Washington Energy

10 Remodels That Will Make Your Pets Happy

For many people, pets are more than just faithful companions. They’re family, and when the current layout of the house isn’t ideal for the pets trying to live there, it may be time to make some adjustments.

For some, these changes will involve large renovations, and for others,small alterations to the layout of a particular room will do the trick. If you’re thinking about making some changes to your home that your pet will love, consider the following suggestions.

But first, take note: Remodels are messy and can even be dangerous for many animals, so if you’re doing anything bigger than a small addition, be sure to arrange a safe place for your pet to stay during the heavy work, so he or she can stay safe and healthy throughout the construction.

1. Pet doors

Cat walking through a pet door

Perhaps you already have one of these, but if you don’t, there are now energy efficient options. You certainly don’t want your pet to run away, but certain types can allow them to enjoy a measure of independence, and a “doggy door” might be just the thing. These can be added to existing doors or built right in when buying a new door. Good quality ones have a tight seal to keep the cold out when not in use.

You could also consider adding pet-sized entrances to your indoor rooms. If you’re pet lives in the laundry room, it won’t be able to open the door for itself if you forget to open it before your leave. An indoor pet entrance is extremely convenient for any room your pet needs to get access to.

2. Feeding nooks

If your pet truly is one of the family, he or she might need a place to eat undisturbed. A corner in the kitchen may seem like a good spot, but it’s all too easy to knock over your pets’ water or food bowl, which creates a mess and wastes food.

Instead, set up an area in your designated pet room where the food and water bowls will be out of the way. For example, you could cut a small nook in your island and place the bowls on the floor there;or stash them in a low drawer that you can open when it’s time to eat.

3. Pet-friendly furniture

Dog sitting on a chair

If you truly love animals, you probably spend time cuddling with your pet on the sofa. And if that’s the case, one consideration might be furniture that can handle the traffic.

Look for sofas and chairs that have washable slip covers so it’s less of a challenge to keep them clean and free of pet fur. Also, furniture with durable fabrics that claws won’t be able to penetrate.

If your beloved companion is a rabbit, you might want furniture with metal legs rather than wood, so your animals won’t use them as gnawing or scratching posts!

4. Ductless heating

You want your heating and cooling systems to be energy-efficient, but you also want your animals to be comfortable throughout the day and night, even when you are not home. In order to make that happen, take a look at ductless heating.

This allows you to keep each room of the house at a specific and separate temperature, which is perfect for your pets, since some may require cooler temperatures than you, and others may prefer a warmer temperature in order to be content.

5. Pet room/nook

Cat in a Basket

Many family pets will adopt a sleeping area in your home, whether you want them there or not. . They deserve their own space, whether you designate a room just for them or a nook they can call their own.

Either way, you can make some significant improvements to that area in order to give them a comfortable resting spot beyond the typical pet bed or scratching post. You might provide an indoor doghouse complete with house structure to give puppy that feeling of his own secure space. Or provide a window sill extension with a cat bed for kitty. This gives them height off the floor, which cats equate with safety.

A pet area is a great way to let your pet know how much he or she is loved.

6. Light dimmers

Pets have a specific sleeping pattern they observe in order to stay healthy. For many, that can involve sleeping off and on throughout the day.

Keeping the lights on all day long can interrupt their sleeping pattern. Turn off any lights you’re not using, and consider adding a light-dimming or timer system to your current rooms so you can have the light on while you need it, but your pets can also get the rest they need.

7. Resilient flooring

A pet’s kingdom is the floor. Yet carpets are not necessarily the best flooring option for a pet, since they are easily snagged and stained.

For easy care, remove carpets and stick with hard-surface flooring. Many pets, especially dogs, actually prefer to rest on hard surfaces during the day because they tend to be cooler to the touch (or paws!).

That will also keep your carpets from getting suffused with hair, while at the same time providing a cool place for your pet to relax.

8. Washroom

Most pets aren’t big fans of bath time. But maybe they wouldn’t mind it so much if they had their very own washroom.

For small and medium-sized animals, you can set up a laundry sink with a hose. That way, you don’t have to bend over in a bathtub — or worse, use your freezing cold outside hose to wash your pet.

During warmer days, create an outdoor bath area just off your patio. Simply hook a shower head with a hose to your hot water heater and host your pet’s bath time outside.

9. Food storage

Though your pet would probably be happier if you let it eat out of the kibble bag all day long, that’s very unhealthy. The trick is to provide you with easy access to the pet food while at the same time protecting your critter from overeating.

Design a specific place where you can store animal food safely. For example, you could use a trashcan drawer.

10. Disguised litter box

You don’t want kitty to be forced to use the litter box outside. At the same time, you also don’t want it smelling up the house.

Serious pet parents have created a litter box that’s disguised as a small powder room off their garage. Add a kitty door and use high-quality cat litter to keep the room as nice as possible.If you’re not inclined to go that far and you do use an indoor litter box, consider incorporating a Guardian air PHI air cleaner into your furnace. This uses UV to kill germs and odors throughout your house, and will remove pet odor from the air.

You want your pets to be the happiest they can possibly be, and with each of the above remodels, this becomes more possible. But you don’t want to sacrifice energy efficiency in the process.

For questions or concerns with regard to how to integrate energy efficiency into your pet-friendly remodel, contact us today!

How Are Our Green Habits?

This Earth Day are you a shining green example or a greenhorn when it comes energy efficient habits at home and in your community?  In our semi-annual Northwest Energy Survey, we asked homeowners about their green practices, and findings released this month reveal respondents’ top practices, where they’re lagging as well as community and generational differences.

Green Habit Infographic

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11 Ways You Might Not Have Thought of to Save Energy

Some people don’t turn their heat on until the first snow hits in November. Others have been known to drape their freshly washed clothes on their furniture in the winter instead of putting them in the dryer.

These are just a couple of the strange things people do to conserve energy, though it’s certainly a laudable goal to try to save energy and lower their costs.

If you’re hoping to conserve energy around the house and save more money, you might be interested in knowing about some of the unique things people around the world are doing to conserve energy and keep more cash in their wallets.

1. Biking to work year-round

Bike to Work to Save Energy

People who bike to work in sleet or shine may seem crazy, especially if their bike commute lasts more than 30 minutes. But the decision to bike daily and leave the car at home can save you as much as $1,000 a year. Plus, the reduction in car use will significantly shrink your carbon footprint, and you can enjoy the good health and fitness that comes with the exercise.

2. Updating appliances every few years

Maybe you’ve heard your grandmother say: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” It’s a good motto for many things, but when it comes to appliances, that may not be so true.

Every few years the EPA comes out with a new set of standards for Energy Star-rated appliances because as the technology continues to progress, appliances become ever more energy-efficient by the year. People who buy new appliances as they improve will continue to save, especially if they’re smart and sell the used appliance to help pay for the new one.

3. Covering windows with plastic

Have you ever visited someone’s house and noticed there’s plastic over their windows? It may not look very lovely, but it’s a pretty smart way to save energy, at least as a temporary fix.

Outside air can leak into your home through old window caulking, so you have to run your heat and air conditioning more constantly. The plastic helps to keep air outside where it belongs.

That being said, it should be treated only as a temporary solution. If there’s air coming in through your windows, you probably need new insulation, windows, caulking, or all three.

4. Requesting an energy audit

Energy Audit

The word audit never sounds like good news, so if a friend tells you he’s having an energy audit done, you might think he’s crazy. Actually, an energy audit is a very smart move.

An energy auditor will examine your home to understand and diagnose your comfort, energy use and health issues. Things like rooms that are too cold or stale air and high utility costs. They perform testing of your house, insulation, structure, ventilation, air leakage, utility bills and more, seeing how your house uses and loses energy. Then they provide prioritized list of what you can do to change that.

5. Replacing all windows and doors

Windows and doors have a single purpose in the home, and they last forever, right? Wrong. Old windows and doors can let in so much air that they cause your energy use to skyrocket.

New windows and doors are among the best changes you can make to your home if you wish to improve its overall value. You’ll also see a nice investment return at an average of $300 per year on utilities for window replacements alone.

6. Moving lamps away from the thermostat

Has a friend ever suggested that you should move your television and lamps away from your room air conditioning unit or thermostat? Heat sources such as lamps, if placed near your thermostat (for central air) or AC unit. , can significantly increase the demand for air conditioning, which raises your energy waste. In the winter it can create the opposite effect, telling the thermostat that your house is already warmed up, when you are still freezing.

7. Setting air conditioning at 78 degreesAir Conditioning 78 degrees

It may feel a touch on the warm side at your friend’s home, but it may be worth the relative discomfort. If you set your air conditioning at 78 degrees instead of 72, you can enjoy an average savings of 10 percent on your utility bill.

There other affordable ways to keep it cool, such as running a ceiling fan or drinking ice water. You can save money and stay cool at the same time if you use your imagination.

8. Microwaving meals

It might be true that baked potatoes don’t taste quite as good when they’re cooked in the microwave as opposed to in a regular oven, but your lower utility bill may add to the taste.

Turning the oven, especially during the summer not only costs you more in energy to power the oven, but also in your cooling bills, since the oven heats up the house. A microwave consumes far less energy and can save you hundreds when it’s hot outside.

9. Unplugging devices after each use

The cost of leaving a computer on can cost you $75 per year alone in utility charges. This doesn’t count the other appliances and electronics you leave plugged in all day long. It may feel like a hassle to have to unplug every electrical outlet in your home repeatedly, but you won’t regret it when the bills come rolling in.

10. Buying LED bulbs in bulk

Did your friend just put a giant box of LED light bulbs in her Costco cart? If you want to enjoy energy and cost savings on your lighting, just follow her lead.

Incandescent light bulbs are one of the biggest energy wasters on the planet. They use only 15 percent of the energy they consume, and the rest converts to heat, which is useless for you.

LED light bulbs not only direct most of their energy to lighting instead of heating, but they also have a much longer life span than incandescent bulbs, which means you can save on both your purchases and your utility bill.

11. Planting trees

Trees aren’t just meant outdoor decoration. They can also lower your heating and cooling costs.

A tree planted strategically to shade your window without blocking the view can help to reduce your utility bills, because it will reduce the amount of sunshine and wind that permeates the window. A well-placed tree can also help raise your property value.

Though some of these ideas may sound strange, they can save you big. And they aren’t the only moves that can help increase your energy efficiency. For more information on how you can save on your heating and cooling bill, contact us today.

 

Can we still boast our iconic Seattle weather? Hot summer trends and 2015 forecast.

Belltown Neighborhood Cherry Blossoms
Cherry blossoms in full force a month before their average bloom date. Photo taken in the Belltown neighborhood, downtown Seattle on March 8th, 2015.

On January 26, we set a new record high temperature of 63 degrees, and have had one of the warmest winters on record. (source) What’s next in the forecast? We live in a place known for its iconic rainy weather. Should we be changing our definition of Seattle? If you look at the trends expected for this summer, it might seem so.

Number of 80 Degree Days per Year

Washington Temperature Chart

The Weather in our area is getting progressively warmer, from 20 days over 80 degrees in 2010 to 45 days over 80 last year. That’s more than double the number of hot 80 degree days!

In 2014, 61 of the 73 days between the first day of summer and Labor Day were above 75. That means 81% of the summer it was over 75 degrees!

Do you remember where you were when it was 105 degrees in 2009? It was unbearably hot, but did you know that we also hit a high of 96 in 2014 and 93 in both of the two years prior. We’re having more peak heat – up near 100, more often.

The National Weather Service predicts another above average temperature summer for us in the Northwest this year. Here’s their forecast. The darker orange in the chart below means above average heat.

Three Month Temperature Chart

While the rest of the country is blasted by cold, our warmer weather is not expected to stop any time soon. No wonder more people are choosing heat pump or air conditioning systems in our area. Washington Energy Services provides energy efficient air conditioners and heat pumps to help keep Seattle cool. For more information or special offers, click or call 800-398-4663.

 

Source: http://www.komonews.com/weather/blogs/scott/Seattle-sets-twin-records-for-warmest-February-winter-on-record-294516031.html

Are there now Federal Energy Tax Credits for 2014?

Yes! It’s true. After telling us that the federal energy tax credit days were over, the government decided in January of 2015 to allow them for some products installed in 2014. No word on 2015.

If you did some energy upgrades like high efficiency heating, cooling, insulation, windows, doors, a boiler or a tankless water heater in 2014, this free money could be for you!

Only the most energy efficient products can quality for federal tax credits. Here’s a short list, and the full details can be found at EnergyStar.gov. Contact your tax preparer or the IRS to determine your complete eligibility.

What is a federal energy tax credit? This is a credit you can take against taxes owed on your 2014 federal income tax form. The IRS previously had a restriction about how many of these credits you can take. We did not see anything published about that this year, so be sure to ask your tax preparer.

What is the amount of the 2014 tax credit? (source: energystar.gov)  

  • Windows/Doors: 10% of material cost up to $500, windows have a max of $200. Excludes installation portion of cost. Must be EnergyStar rated. (All of ours are).
  • Insulation/Sealing: 10% of material cost up to $500, excludes installation cost.

 

HVAC & Water heater system requirements to qualify:
Air Source or Ductless heat pumps $300: HSPF >= 8.5, EER >= 12.5, SEER >= 15
Central Air Conditioning $300: SEER>= 16; EER >= 13
Gas, Propane, or Oil Water Boiler $150: 95% AFUE or higher
Gas, Propane or Oil Furnace: $150: 95% AFUE or higher
Advanced Main Air Circulating Fan* $50: uses 2% or less of furnace’s total energy
Gas, Oil, Propane Water Heater $300: EF >= 0.82 OR a thermal eff. 90%.+
Electric Heat Pump Water Heater $300: EF>=2.0

 

This can be an added bonus on top of the great energy savings and comfort you can expect when you upgrade your heating, cooling, and water heating plus exterior products. If you are a Washington Energy customer, we can provide you with any product information your accountant requires for this tax credit.

*An Advanced Main Air Circulating Fan is an efficient fan, or blower motor which blows the air that your furnace heats up through the duct system. Requirements : Must use no more than 2% of the furnace’s total energy.

Teaching kids to be energy savers too

Sharing a great resource

Save Energy Eco Friendly

Kids can be energy superheroes. It doesn’t only happen in the movies; your little ones can help save a big world challenge one house, backyard, school or community at a time.

When we started to research an article on teaching children about energy saving, we discovered Energy Star Kids (the kids’ website from Energystar.gov, Department of Energy). We were so impressed by this site we thought we’d stop writing and just share the link with you.

It’s an easy-to-use and interactive site, with games, education and ideas for how kids can contribute, along with fun facts that might surprise adults too. There is also a great link for parents and teachers to get lesson plans and activity books. Perfect for Earth Day!

Click the image below to find out more!

energy star kids interactive site

If the link does not work paste this into your browser: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=kids.kids_index

Washington Energy Services provides EnergyStar products and conducts Home Performance with Energy Star home energy audits. Call 800-398-4663 for more information.

Enumclaw Home Gets New Wood Windows: Before & After Photos

Wood Clad Windows

This lovely home is tucked away in the beautiful natural surroundings that Enumclaw offers. The unique steep angles defined by the A-frame home allows the windows to be the star of the show. There are many window materials to choose from (vinyl, fiberglass) but the style and location of this home called for the rich and traditional look of earthy wood windows.
Enumclaw House

Glass Failure and Leaky Windows

See the murky glass in the windows? That’s what happens when the glass fails creating leaky windows -and a leaky bank account come energy-bill time. When windows begin to leak the moisture from outside air gets in. That can give your house a stuffy and stale feeling even when it’s a nice day outside. Advances in glass-making and glass-coating technologies mean that replacing your windows can instantly increase the comfort in your home and save you money. Plus, visually you’ll see the difference new glass can make after upgrading.

wood clad windows

window replacement in enumclaw

Hiring a Contractor

If you’re replacing your windows but also looking to change the function, add more windows, expand the size of a window etc., you can consult a window or replacement professional to get estimates on cost and work involved. Our crews never cut corners just to get windows in faster. A quality window installation is important to us so your windows will stay strong for years to come.

front

During the Project: Side by Side Photo of the Difference

In these photos you can see in real time the side by side comparison that the new windows make. On the left are the new wood glass windows with the old windows on right.

wood windows

enumclaw wood window replacment

 

More Before and After Photos

 

porch

Final After

Wood Window replacement home in enumclaw

For more information about these energy saving projects, please contact us at 800-398-4663 .

Top of Your Wish List for 2015 – What you told us!

Thanks for sharing your home energy saving wish lists with us in our recent survey. We heard from over 300 people and 85% said they had at least one energy saving project on their short list for this year.

Top Ten

And the # 1 energy saving project for 2015 is…Upgraded Windows or Doors, with 13% of you selecting that answer. Closely followed by Water heater upgrade and Efficient heating & cooling.

In order, drumroll please… your top 10 energy saving wish list projects of 2015 are:

1. Upgraded windows or doors

Energy efficient windows and doors with LowE glass do more than save on your utility bills. They enhance overall comfort, protect furniture from harmful UV rays and make the place look great.

wood door replacement

 

2. Water heater upgrade

Water heater efficiency has been steadily increasing but if you are not home, you are still wasting energy keeping water hot in the tank. A tankless water heater can save 15% of your cost to heat water and saves space too.

tankless water heater upgrade

3. Efficient heating & cooling

Twenty years ago a brand new gas furnace was 80% efficient. Today’s gas furnaces are 98% efficient, an 18% savings in energy use. Heat pumps can also dramatically lower heating costs, especially for electrically heated homes.

Bryant Thermostat for Furnace or Heat Pump

4. LED lighting

LED bulbs use 80% less energy and last 25 times longer than a standard bulb, making them the most efficient on the market. EnergyStar says changing out 15 standard bulbs for these will save up $50 per year on your electric bill.

energy efficient seattle home

5. Insulating & sealing

Leaky ducts, air leak spots and low insulation let heat flow out of the house, leaving it drafty, cold and costly to heat. Not as sexy as new windows, this improvement packs an energy saving punch.

insulation installation

6. Home energy audit

We’ve saved our customers an average of 21% on their energy costs by performing a home energy audit and then taking steps to improve their home performance. Plus it’s cool science!

audit with infrared gun

7. Solar panels

Gaining in popularity, even in cloudy Washington State, some estimates say solar can cut electric bills between 50-90%. State rebates and incentives can help payback for the upfront expense.

solar panels on seattle home

8. Rain water collection and use

Save money and energy providing rainwater to your garden. Your plants will like the fact that it’s not chlorinated and you will always have an emergency water supply too.

seattle rainwater collection

9. Water saving plumbing fixtures

Saving water is only going to get more important as the century goes on. When you replace an old high flow toilet with a new low flow one you can reduce water use by 20% and save up to $200 per year.

plumbing fixture in kitchen

10. Native plant landscaping

Native Western Washington plants require less water once they are established than non-native plants reducing water usage. Some Washington native plants:

washington state native plant landscaping

For more information about these energy saving projects, please contact us at 800-398-4663 or visit us at booth 613 at the Seattle Home Show. 

And don’t miss out on this month’s special financing offer for your window, door, water heater, heating & cooling, or insulation project. 

Source: WES Home Wish List Survey, 2015 (responses under “other” were each less than 1%).

Wish List Survey

 

Serving our Community: Washington Energy supports disabled veterans and RallyPoint/6

At Washington Energy, our mission is to enhance the quality of everyday home life for our Puget Sound neighbors.  Naturally, this includes creating more comfortable, energy efficient homes through our primary services, but also giving back to our community through our WESCare program.

Rally Point Six

RallyPoint6 Opening in Lakewood Washington

About a year ago, we got a phone call from RallyPoint/6. They were an organization starting up in Lakewood with a mission to be the largest one-stop resource center for transitioning service members, National Guard and reservists, veterans and military families in Washington State.

Plumbing Services

Volunteer Plumbing Installs

At that time, RallyPoint/6 had a problem that we could solve, so we stepped in. They needed bathrooms plumbed for their new facility and with our commitment to donate our plumbing services to help disabled veterans, this was right up our alley. Our journeyman plumbers volunteered and got the sinks and toilets there piped in, installed and running. See the project. Ever since then, we have enjoyed a great relationship with RallyPoint/6, and appreciate them bringing us opportunities where we can provide our plumbing services to deserving veterans.

Veteran Harold Roberts

Veteran Harold Roberts

One recipient was Harold Roberts. The 92-year-old Purple Heart veteran of WWII and his wife were living in a house that had no hot water for six months.  That’s way too long to be boiling water on the stove. We were glad that RallyPoint/6 found out and gave us a call. We gave him a new water heater and fixed his plumbing. We were proud to put a smile on his face.

 

 

 

We are passionate about supporting our troops and thanking those who have served.  As an extension to our community volunteer work to support veterans, Washington Energy is also actively seeking to hire veterans for various positions including installers and service technicians.  More information on employment opportunities can be found on the Washington Energy website.

At Washington Energy, we look forward to our continued support of RallyPoint/6 and our country’s veterans.

Simple Prep List for “Northwest” Winter

While the rest of the country prepares for big snow storms, here in the Northwest we need to get ready for our version of winter. Rain, wind and ice are on their way. Already this season we’ve seen power outages from downed trees, spin out auto accidents from icy roads and flooding. While those of us who live on flood prone rivers could write the book about flood prepping, even a condo in the city can experience house flooding.

ice trees over downed power lines

Thinking about disaster is never fun, and it often hits the back burner, so if time is limited just start by taking this short list of basics to the store. Stock up yourself or use it to create a great holiday gift for someone you love.

Condition Prep List
Winter Driving Chains & instructions for putting them on*
Snow shovel and ice scraper in the car
with space blanket
Check tire tread. Consider winter radials if you travel over the passes.
Have your insurance card in the car, especially if you have emergency road service coverage.
Winter Sidewalks Rock salt is environmentally safe and melts ice on driveways, sidewalks and front steps.
Flooding
(non-river)
Check gutters to clear debris and ensure they direct water away from the foundation of the house.
Clear drains, a much city flooding comes from clogged drains.
Add weather stripping to doors to prevent water from coming in under them.
Test sump pump to ensure it is working.
Seal walls in basement with waterproofing compounds.
Power Outage Consider getting a gas powered standby generator or another alternate heating source.
Stockpile wood now for fireplace/stove.
Long burning safety candles
Batteries for the flashlight.
Keep car fueled up as power outages disable gas pumps.
Trim or remove trees on your property that could fall on your house or power lines.

Safety first! Never use portable generators or barbeques in the house – they produce lethal carbon monoxide. You can’t smell it and it can kill you.

Learn more about preparing for disasters at www.ready.gov. Washington Energy is here 365 days a year to help you stay warm and dry this winter. For more information on standby generators, or for plumbing and drain cleaning, give us a call at 800-398-4663.

*Note: chains are not recommended for use on some models of all wheel drive vehicles. Consult your auto maker.