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Posts Tagged: environmentally friendly

Insulation Matters In The Pacific Northwest

Posted On: Filed Under: Heating, Gas fireplace, Insulation, News, Tips to save money 7 Comments on Insulation Matters In The Pacific Northwest

Properly Insulating Your Home Can Save You As Much As
17% On Your Annual Energy Bill

We frequently discuss heating systems, such as furnaces and heat pumps on our website and in our Idea Center. These necessary systems heat our homes in a way that we can physically feel.  However, there is an unsung hero in home warmth and efficiency that just doesn’t get enough credit: insulation. In our wet, cold, cut-you-to the-bone Pacific Northwest winters, keeping heat and cool air where it should be is crucial—and that’s exactly what proper insulation delivers. According to Energy Star, adding insulation can save you up to 17% on your annual home energy bills.

There are four types of insulation available from Washington Energy Services. Each type serves a unique purpose, and they all work together for optimum home comfort and efficiency.

Interior And Exterior Wall Insulation

When you hear the word insulation, this is probably the type that comes to mind. This insulation is installed in the cavity between the interior and exterior walls. This is common in new construction, but in older homes, it is often a retrofit installation. To install, small openings are inserted into the walls for the insulation to be blown in.

Interior and exterior wall insulation act’s as a barrier to the elements. Just as important, it reduces interior heat loss through the wall.

Duct Insulation

If your home has an air-forced heating and cooling system, your ducts act as a thoroughfare to distribute air. Unfortunately, 20 to 30 percent of this air can be lost through the ducts, resulting in energy loss and uncomfortable temperatures. It’s also a safety issue as crawlspaces are dirty and dusty, and these particles can be picked up by the ducts and spread throughout your home.

Duct insulation seals the ducts to stop air leakage, improve your home’s energy efficiency, and help you manage temperatures. It also keeps dust out of the ducts, and therefore, out of the air your family breathes.

Crawl Space Insulation

Believe it or not, most Puget Sound area homes have no insulation in their crawl spaces. While they’re on the outside of the heated part of your home, insulating these areas can have a big impact on your home energy usage because it keeps heat from escaping the home… and money from escaping your wallet.

Attic Insulation

Attic insulation from Washington Energy Services is environmentally friendly, flame resistant, and energy efficient—an all-around win-win. The insulation is cellulose-based and blown in by one of our technicians. We also offer a fiberglass insulation option, which we may recommend based on your unique home.

Insulation may not be as noticeable as your heating system, but it’s crucial to your home’s comfort and energy efficiency. If you know your insulation is lacking, call us for a free in-home estimate. If you’re unsure of your home’s insulation quality or locations, opt for a Home Energy Audit. We’ll identify insulation weak spots, locate opportunities for insulation placement, and show you where you’re losing valuable heat and energy.


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Reasons to upgrade your Seattle home to cellulose insulation

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Whether your home has insufficient insulation or your current insulation has experienced damage due to flooding, pests, or other factors, upgrading your insulation can help you save money and enjoy greater comfort and improved soundproofing in every area of your home. Cellulose insulation is an insulation product made from plant fibers; this insulation is blown into place and can be used to insulate new homes, as well as to retrofit older homes for improved performance. There are several excellent reasons to consider upgrading your home’s existing insulation with a cellulose product today.

Cellulose insulation is environmentally friendly.

Because it is made from plant fibers, cellulose insulation is an environmentally-friendly and sustainable product. Cellulose insulation contains as much as 85% recycled paper by volume, drastically reducing the impact of new insulation production on the availability of natural resources. Furthermore, cellulose insulation requires very little energy to produce, while the local production of cellulose products is associated with lower carbon emissions due to transportation requirements. Despite the fact that cellulose is a natural product, it will still protect your home from smoke and fire if a disaster occurs. Cellulose insulation products are treated for a Class 1 or Class A fire rating, meaning they will not catch fire or spread flames quickly, nor will they produce excessive smoke when heated or during combustion.

Cellulose insulation is energy efficient.

The R-value of your insulation has a significant impact on its performance; the higher your insulation’s R-value, the more effectively it will prevent the transfer of heat or cold through your walls. Dense-packed cellulose insulation has an average R-value of 4.0, which is the highest R-value per inch of any blown-in insulation product; this R-value is also higher than many other insulation options, including fiberglass insulation. The high R-value offered by cellulose insulation means that if you’re planning to upgrade your home’s insulation by choosing a blown-in product to supplement your existing insulation, cellulose is the best insulation for the money you’ll spend on this project.

Cellulose insulation won’t appeal to rodents.

Many home insulation products are laid in bats, which are like solid blankets that hold their shape, even when damaged or removed from your walls. These products leave your home vulnerable to pests, such as mice and rats, which like to burrow into the insulation to create safe, comfortable nests in the hollows left behind. However, because cellulose insulation is made up of small particles that are blown into your walls, it will not hold its shape when disturbed. This property makes it extremely unattractive to rodents, which will not find a place to nest in your home and instead move on, reducing your risk of a rodent infestation.

Are you ready to discover the benefits of upgrading your home’s insulation to a cellulose-based product? Not only will you receive better performance from your insulation, you could quality for a local utility rebate after you’ve made this smart home upgrade. Check out cellulose insulation and other types of home insulation from Washington Energy Services online.

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2015 top home trends for a green makeover

Posted On: Filed Under: Doors, Insulation No Comments on 2015 top home trends for a green makeover


Bright bold rooms

One of this year’s top home trends is to add a blast of color. But can stinky paint really be environmentally friendly? The smell of fresh paint in a renovated home or apartment can bring back memories… of headaches. Traditional interior house paints give off strong airborne chemicals not only while you are doing the painting, but for years afterwards. These are called volatile organic compounds or VOC’s. They are known to cause headaches, dizziness and other illnesses, and contribute to indoor air pollution.

Over the past few years, major paint brands such as Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore have developed lines of “no” or “low” VOC paints. These are water based paints with less than half of the VOC’s of regular paint (0-200 grams vs regular paint at approx. 400). Benjamin Moore’s Natura® paint line claims zero VOCs which would make it the greenest paint. To learn more about VOC’s and find safer paints, go to the handy Greenguard Certification site. GreenGuard helps consumers to “identify interior products and materials that have low chemical emissions, improving the quality of the air”. It is a division of UL (Underwriters Laboratories), the non-profit who tests and certifies US appliances and equipment for safety.


Insulate with plants

Adding insulation to save energy is great for conservation as it is, but that benefit increases when using cellulose insulation. Cellulose is the most eco-friendly insulation because it is made of up to 85% recycled paper.

Instead of harmful chemical fire retardants and insecticides, it is typically treated with borate, a natural compound (from boron), that does the job. Boron is safe and is an essential micronutrient used by plants to enable them to grow and flower. Borates are now commonly used in wood building materials, including decks, siding, furniture, and in this insulation. As an additional eco-benefit, cellulose insulation is “blown in”, literally hose fed into your space, so there is no waste created in the install process.

Insulation being blown in through a hose


Lighting inspired by nature

Decorative fixtures can transform the look of your home. Many designers and lighting retailers highlight natural styles and functional art derived from the world around us. These styles from nature use wood, shells, mica, rattan or wicker, and glass. They are both beautiful and promote the use of renewable materials.

Rattan Lamp for natural lighting

Whether its wall sconces, chandeliers, recessed spot lights or lamps, energy saving can also come from the bulbs you choose. All of today’s bulb choices are more energy efficient than the old incandescent bulb. LEDs are the most efficient at 75% energy savings and also the longest lasting, lighting your way for 25 years. LED light is a different color, and can seem brighter and cooler than the old 60, 75 or 100 watt bulb. Manufacturers now put helpful labels on them such as “equivalent to a 75 watt bulb” but that only refers to wattage, not light color. If you prefer the traditional warmer light of incandescent bulbs, try eco-incandescent light bulbs. These have 28% energy savings vs old incandescent bulbs, but have the same color, sizes and price point.


Recycled or renewable doors

Recycled Fiberglass Door

According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2015 study, replacing your entry door is the number one home upgrade to increase resale value . There are several eco-friendly replacement door options, starting with fiberglass doors. Fiberglass is made of a combination of vinyl, which is a plastic, and silica from sand, which is natural. This makes for a partially green but really strong, long lasting door. One that is ready for our Northwest weather.

Wood is a beautiful, renewable door material but wood doors are not always 100% green. ‘Solid–core’ doors have a fiber composite or non-wood core inside of a wood veneer exterior. This makes the door less prone to warping, but the tradeoff is that the core materials may include chemical adhesives or plastics. ‘Solid-wood’ doors are typically made up of wood panels that are glued together. Recently, zero VOC and formaldehyde free glues, plus water-based insect and rot treatments have become available, increasing the benefit from choosing wood. Rogue Valley wood doors are made from sustainably managed forests, adding an additional layer of environmental conscientiousness.

Looking for a DIY project? Vintage wood doors can be beautifully refinished. Used wood doors with classic hardware can be found at local Seattle resale retailers such as Second Use Building Materials, Earthwise Salvage, Ballard Reuse, and at Re-Store, which is now located in Bellingham.

Washington Energy offers energy saving products and services including insulation and doors. Contact us to learn more.

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10 easy steps you can take towards water conservation

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In Washington State, the snow pack has declined to 24 percent of normal this year. Governor Inslee has declared a state of drought emergency in 44% of the state. While the major municipalities of our state are not reporting problems with water supply, the areas in red below are part of the drought emergency and may be affected.

Washington State Drought Map 2015


With significant fires on the Eastern side of the Cascades and now drought declared in parts of Western Washington, it’s time to adopt new habits. Here are ten of the easiest ways to reduce your water use.

Not your grandmother’s low flow shower head

We recently asked Seattle residents about their water conservation habits, and 65% say they use low flow toilets or shower heads. If those just aren’t on your list, there are many other water saving techniques which can add up over time. Some good habits are:

  1. Limit the run time of the kitchen faucet. When you can soak, you save water.
  2. Have your plumber install an ‘Insta-hot’ instant water heater under your most used sink so you don’t have to run water to heat it up.
Dirty plates in the sink
  1. Despite what your mom said, rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher is no longer necessary. Just scrape off food and newer model dishwashers will do the rest, plus use less water than you will in rinsing. Wait a day and run the dishwasher when it’s full. According to Water Use It Wisely(2), you can save up to 1000 gallons a month.
  2. Look for the eco-friendly label when purchasing appliances. Consider EnergyStar labeled high efficiency washing machines which can save up to 20 gallons of water per load. What EnergyStar is for appliances, WaterSense is for faucets, shower heads, toilets and more. WaterSense is part of the EPA, and certifies water conserving appliances. Just replacing one old model toilet with a low flow toilet can save you up to $200 per year in water bills and you’ll do your part for conservation. There are also rebates where WaterSense and our local water utilities have joined together.
    Shower Head
    While many of the first low flow products were too low and not enough flow. The manufacturers have learned and improved. The latest low-flow shower heads from the top names like Kohler, Moen and Waterpik get high marks for providing a good shower experience(4).
  3. Test your toilets for leaks and/or get a home plumbing inspection. Toilet leaks are one of the top water wasters. DIY TIP Toilet leaks can be easily checked by dropping a few drops of food coloring into the tank. If the water in the bowl turns color, then your flap is leaking and needs to be replaced.

Outside water management ideas

    1. Xeriscape landscaping is the trend towards landscape design requiring little or no irrigation or maintenance. While this is popular in arid climates, a northwest version utilizing native plants and shrubs can eliminate the need for watering. Success is a combination of good design, where plants are arranged to benefit from the flow of water across the property, and hardiness, since our plants have to endure both drought and abundantly wet weather.
  1. If landscaping is not your thing, consider not watering your lawn in the summer. Northwest lawns naturally turn brown and hibernate in the summer and while that won’t look lush, it’s not actually dead. The lawn will green right up at the first fall rains in September.
  2. Set a timer inside or use a hose timer when watering in the summer to remember to move the hose or turn it off. Save by not killing plants with over watering and keeping your water bill in check. Hint: plants are over watered when the leaves turn yellow.
  3. Consider rain barrels to support garden water use. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. Our local hardware stores have them and can demonstrate proper use. Check with your water utility for offers and rebates on irrigation and water collection devices.
  4. On hot days, ice cubes can be a form of drip irrigation for hanging baskets, planters and potted plants.

There are many other ways to save water. Share your favorite with us.

Washington Energy has expert plumbers who can help with plumbing inspection and repair. Call 24/7 at 800-398-4663 or contact us online for help.

Find additional resources at Washington State Department of Ecology.

(1) http://www.ecy.wa.gov/drought/index.html

(2) http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/14/science/californias-history-of-drought-repeats.html?_r=0

(3) http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/the-best-lowflow-yet-high-pres-94173

(4) http://wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/?view=list

(5) http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19900408&slug=1065353

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How are our green habits?

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Green Habit Infographic

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Teaching kids to be energy savers too

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Sharing a great resource

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!


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.

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How green is a Seattleite?

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How green is a seattleite infographic?














































































How green is a Seattleite? – An infographic by the Green Team at How green is A Seattleite?

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5 great ways to celebrate Earth Day in Seattle

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1. Schools are a great place to celebrate Earth Day.

All around the world schools are planning educational programs in sustainability for that day. In the US, EarthDay.org is sponsoring a green schools campaign improving the facilities, food, even the schoolyards themselves. The Earthday.org website is the official location for all things Earth Day. Educators can log in to get involved. They’ve tracked over a billion “acts of green” and you can get in the action locally.


2. Don’t be idle-ing.

We’re not talking about vegging out on the couch watching TV, we mean idling your car. If you are going to be waiting more than a minute, turn it off. Contrary to the old urban legends, restarting the car does not burn more fuel than leaving it idling. In fact idling for 10 seconds wastes more gas than restarting the engine! And for every 10 minutes your engine is off, you will prevent one pound of carbon dioxide from being released. Every year, idling cars and trucks product over 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide. This green action is easy… kick the idling habit.

cars idling

3. Clean the air in your home, starting with the basement.

Even with the windows closed, air does flow through your house, coming from the unconditioned spaces, such as attic or basement, into your conditioned space where you live. This air can bring in contaminants such as molds, bacteria, and allergens, and also chemical compounds (VOC’s) from paint cans, weed killers, and other things stored there. While the true way to improve air quality is to air seal your home, one step in the right direction is getting rid of unused products to reduce those compounds. A nice Earth Day clean-up of the basement could include donating those extra cans of paint and chemicals, or store them in a detached garage, away from the main part of your house. (Always observe temperature storage instructions on products).


4. Watch the water.

Water is a precious resource and while we have had a lot of rain lately, we see how the rest of the Western US is suffering. A plumbing inspection can pinpoint potential water leaks in your home, which avoids problems later, reduces your water bill and saves resources.

water leak

5. Check out local news for a list of Seattle area earth day events to participate in or contact your local park.

Most of the larger parks have activities going on, so don’t be afraid to get out there!


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5 easy green holiday ideas

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1. Buy locally made presents.

Not only do you get to support your neighbor’s business but things that are made locally don’t have to be transported from the other side of the world. Less transportation equals less carbon emissions.

2. There are several Christmas tree options that are greener than cutting one down.

Getting a tree with a root ball that you can replant is more common now than in past years, and many garden centers will have them. Just replant it when you are done, and it will clean carbon dioxide from the air for many years to come. And if you can’t fit it into your yard, some stores, such as Swanson’s Nursery in Shoreline, work with organizations who have sites for replanting.

Or for a little more radical approach, combine having a lit tree with lighting your home exterior to save energy. Just decorate a tree that is already outside of your house but visible from your living room or family room window. At night, it will shine right in. Then create fun decorations and recycle them after the holidays.

In addition, choose LED light strings as they use 75% less electricity than conventional ones and emit less heat. That way you can out-shine the neighbors AND save energy.

3. Stock your party with eco-friendly liquors and foods.

You may already shop organic but did you know there are “green” spirits. For those who imbibe, they can create an organic holiday cocktail with certified organic vodka, rum or gin and some organic juices. An online search of “organic vodka Seattle” will point you to several local distilleries (so you can get credit for idea #1 too!).  Even national brands now have organic options, for example, American Harvest, an organic vodka from the makers of Grey Goose.  (And of course, drink responsibly).

4. If you are giving toys or electronics that are battery powered, also give a rechargeable battery and charger kit.

This saves money on batteries and hazardous waste in landfills.  And give the gift of a power strip with new computers, TVs, games or audio systems. It’s easy to save electricity by turning the strip off when not in use.

5. EnergyStar.gov (the Department of Energy) says this is a big time of year for home appliance purchases.

Are you getting a washer/dryer set for someone special? (Yourself!). Choose appliances that are EnergyStar qualified, as they are engineered for energy savings. Some EnergyStar appliances may cost more upfront, but will save enough energy to be worth it over their lifespan.

Washington Energy Services wishes you the happiest and green-est of holidays. We carry the best EnergyStar qualified heating and window products and will be here 24/7 if you need assistance, at 800-398-4663.


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Urban legends of green living

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Legend # 1

Turn down the thermostat and you’ll use less energy.  Do you keep temperatures low in winter and endure the chill to save energy and money? If your home has significant air leaks, lack of insulation and lack of duct sealing, you will just lose what little heat you are requesting from your heating system, and it will keep running and burning fuel to keep up. While this may save a tiny bit because you are not forcing it to reach higher temps, you’ll spend it on sweaters to wear in the house and hot cups of coffee to warm up.

Green living tip

You’d save more money and be more comfortable if you insulated and air sealed the house, and put in a programmable thermostat so you reduce the heat while you are not home. Sealing air holes around vents and electrical penetrations, duct sealing and insulating properly can save significant energy (some estimates are up to 40%). And programmable thermostats now can be controlled by your phone while you are away. Then you can be cozy when you want to be.

Legend # 2

Riding my bike is the best way to reduce my carbon footprint. Do you limit your use of a car to save greenhouse gases? While cycling to work does limit your vehicle emissions, according to EnergyStar (the conservation arm of the Department of Energy), “the energy used in the average house is responsible for twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as the average car.” The more energy you use at home, the more our highly polluting power plants need to produce, increasing the amount of greenhouse gases. (Source EnergyStar.gov).

Green living tip

While you’ll get in shape cycling and save a little on emissions, the place to reduce your use is at home. EnergyStar recommends the following steps: Use energy saving windows and HVAC systems, maintain those systems (including caulking windows and having tune ups for your heating appliances), and insulating and sealing your house, plus see # 3 for more.

Legend # 3

I have installed EnergyStar certified products in my home so I must be using less energy. EnergyStar sees it another way. While modern appliances from washers and dryers to furnaces use far less energy these days, people have been using far more electricity from all of our plug in devices. This is why total energy use by homes in the US has not decreased. Some estimates are that this “phantom power” use by appliances and electronics can be up to 10% of our total energy.

Green living tip

Unplug. The average home has up to 10 appliances plugged in, in the kitchen alone! Many are drawing some electricity to power clocks, standby lights or indicator lights (to tell you they are off!). One of us has this in our kitchen: toaster oven, microwave, food saver, coffee maker, mixer, electric can opener, range, dishwasher, garbage disposal, overhead lighting, ipod docking station, and refrigerator = 12!. Add all the phone chargers that stay plugged in when not in use, computers, TVs, game consoles, cable box, hair dryer, electric toothbrush, water heater, and it adds up to a significant amount of excess power use. Do an experiment and try: turning lights off when you leave the room, and plug non-core appliances and computers into a power strip that you turn off when you are out, and you should see a difference.

Legend # 4

We don’t waste water because we never let water run (eg: in the sink while washing dishes or before a shower). For most homes, the biggest culprit wasting water in your house is the toilet(s). If it was made before 1994, it’s not a low flow toilet. One of us here at Washington Energy has a 1926 toilet using 7 gallons of water each flush. That’s about 42 gallons a person per day. Most toilets from the post-war period to the 80s used between 3.5-5 gallons per flush.

Green living tip

There are inserts that can fit some units and hold back a gallon of water each flush, but if you want to save significant amounts of water, you’ll need a modern toilet with 1.6 gallons per flush. These will pay for themselves quickly as your water use will decrease. Some of the WaterSense certified toilets we install have significant local utility rebates, up to $80.

Legend # 5

‘All natural’ equals ‘good to buy’. Are you looking for certain words on packaging when you make a purchase decision? The words natural, green, eco-friendly, or biodegradable are not regulated or based on any standards. (Organic is regulated, and certified organic is inspected.) Biodegradable means it will degrade “someday” which covers almost everything, technically even nuclear waste.

Green living tip

Buy something because it’s the best product for you, and be cautious if basing a purchase decision on these un-regulated words. And right now, genetically modified foods used as ingredients such as corn starch or soy protein are not required to be labeled either, so do not assume that “natural” means it’s not in there. There is no strict definition of what makes a natural food.


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