Category Archives: Green Homes

Save Money…Be Comfortable!

Automatic thermostats can lower your monthly utility costs while conveniently regulating your comfort by adjusting temperatures on your heating and cooling systems. These can be particularly effective in homes with zoned systems where you live in one area during the day but sleep in a different zone.


There are programmable thermostats available at home improvement stores that can make the adjustments for specific times during the day and specific days of the week. They’ll allow you to override the setting when needed without tampering with the programming. They’ll even remind you to change your filter.


An exciting development is the Wi-Fi enabled thermostat that allows adjustments from any Internet connection such as computer or Smartphone. Imagine how convenient it can be to change your temperature from the car before you get home.


Reasonably priced under $100 for most models, it makes it easy to recapture the cost of the thermostat quickly. Most of the thermostats are designed for do-it-yourselfers; however, you can always have a heating and cooling professional install it for you.

Labor Day Chore: Pacific Northwest Home Buyers & Sellers – DANGER!!!

Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and toxic. It’s called the “silent killer” in homes because some victims are not even aware that the deadly condition exists.


Homeowners must be concerned about unmaintained furnaces, water heaters and appliances that can produce the deadly gas. Other sources could include leaking chimneys, unvented kerosene or gas space heaters and even exhaust from cars operating in an attached garage.


The Environmental Protection Agency suggests the following to reduce exposure in the home:



  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted
  • Install and use an exhaust fan vented to the outdoors over gas stoves
  • Open flues when fireplaces are in use
  • Do not idle car inside garage
  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up central heating systems annually


There can be many symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning that can resemble other types of poisoning. Headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and feelings of weakness or fatigue are a few of the most common symptoms. Lower levels of exposure may be mistaken for the flu.


Roughly half the states have laws regarding carbon monoxide detectors in homes. Regardless of the requirements, what person would want to put their family, guests or themselves at risk for something so deadly? The devices can be purchased for as little as $20 and plugged into the wall like a night light.

Wasted Water…

A typical household uses 185 to 300 gallons of water a day and the majority of it goes down the drain from the toilet and the shower. Updating your commodes will serve as a conservation effort while lowering your water bill.

Today’s toilets use less water, prevent staining and resist clogging better than the older toilets and you might be surprised at how easy they are to install. Replacements generally cost from $100 to $300.

Toilets made in the 1950’s used, on average, seven gallons per flush. Compare that with one that only uses 1.6 gallons per flush and it’s a big saving. Multiply by the times a toilet is flushed in a year and the number of toilets in your home and it will save a lot of water.

Gallons of Water Saved in a Year with 1.6 gpf
Age of Toilet Gallons Per Flush Flush 3 times a day Flush 5 times a day
Prior to 1950’s 7.0 5,913 9,855
1960’s 5.5 4,271 7,118
1980’s 3.5 2,081 3,468
After 1994 1.6 – –

Watch this video to see how easy the project is done and even if you decide to hire a plumber, you’ll have a better understanding of how it works.

Tour Bellingham’s Award-Winning Green Home!

Bellingham now has a new award to add to its list! The Holcomb House in Bellingham’s Fairhaven neighborhood, built by Aiki Homes, won 2010’s Green Home Award in the Western Washington Custom Home category.

Built and certified using a Built Green checklist, the Holcomb House competed against other green homes from Western Washington, all designed for health, safety, energy efficiency, and sustainability.

Criteria for judging green homes included energy performance, materials used, low impact to surrounding enviroment, construction techniques, craftsmanship, design, and minimal construction waste generation, according to the Herald.

To tour the Holcomb Home at 1123 17th St. in Fairhaven, make sure to mark your calendars for a free tour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, May 16.

New Pacific Northwest Homes: 10 Must-Haves

Steve Kerch recently wrote that Americans are buying smaller houses today than they used to, and while they’ve decided there are certain luxuries they can live without — home theater rooms, for example, there are several “classic” amenities that remain popular among new homebuyers. Pacific Northwest homes are no exception. According to consumer experts at the International Builders Show, buyers are now looking for architecture based on spaces and not necessarily room use, and homes that are designed “green” from the very beginning.

According to Carol Lavender, president of the Lavender Design Group in Texas, “What we’re hearing is ‘harvest’ as a home theme — the feeling of Thanksgiving. It’s all about family togetherness — casual living, entertaining and flexible spaces.”

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That said, here are 10 things that are must-haves in new homes today:

1. Large kitchens with an island remain some of the best investments, as this is where people want high-quality appliances and furnishings.

2. Kitchens that open to a family dining area.

3. Home office/study.

4. Main-floor master suites are becoming ever-more popular, especially with empty-nesters.

5. Outdoor living room.

6. Master suite soaker tubs are still a luxury item that homeowners are willing to spend on.

7. Stone and brick exteriors, rather than stucco and vinyl.

8. Energy-efficient appliances.

9. Community landscaping is becoming more popular than clubhouses, etc., as residents look for more green spaces.

10. Two-car garages are a must, though three-car garages are still popular in higher markets.

To find your perfect Pacific Northwest home, call me, your expert Whatcom, Skagit, Island and San Juan County real estate agent! Let me take the guesswork out of locating a Northwest home with all the right amenities at an affordable price.

Photo courtesy: Nancy Hugo

Conduct your own energy audit for your Northwest home!

Here are some ways to make your Pacific Northwest home greener and less expensive…

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Do-it-yourself home energy audits are a great way to save money and reduce your carbon footprint… best of all, it’s free! Here’s a list we found over at The Daily Green that will help you find the easiest and most effective ways to save some cash and the environment.

1. Open your energy bill and really look at it. Bills are fairly high up there on the list of mail we don’t like getting, but energy bills especially can hold helpful information about when you use the most energy, and how much you’re paying. Once you review costs each month, you’ll start noticing patterns that can be helpful in reducing your overall usage during peak months.

2. Find air leaks in your home. If you’ve got air leaks, you’ve got an energy efficiency problem (reduced by 5-30% per year). Where to look? Places where two building materials meet (corners, chimneys, where pipes or wires pass through walls, along the foundation). Check the insulation in your attic and make sure it’s still in good shape (not crumbly or compacted). Make sure your water pipes, furnace ducts, and exterior walls are all insulated appropriately so you keep the Pacific Northwest winter out, and your cozy heat in.

3. Check out your heating and cooling. Check furnace filters (which usually need to be changed every month or two during winter months) and change them if dirty. Clean dust and dirt from central air conditioning and vents. Close vents in rooms you don’t use often — no need to heat an empty room.

4. Swap out energy-hog appliances for less wasteful models. For about $20, you can get a handy little device called a Kill-A-Watt. It plugs into any outlet, and when you plug in your appliance, the Kill-A-Watt will tell you how much energy this appliance uses — and more importantly, how much this appliance is costing you per month. Not a bad little household helper.

If you find an appliance that’s costing you an arm and a leg to operate, you should consider an upgrade to a newer model that’s Energy-Star certified.

6. Unplug it! EIGHT PERCENT of our annual electric bills are due to electronics that are plugged in, but not turned on, such as TV’s, stereos, cell phone chargers, etcetera. Unplug it if you’re not using it, or, for best convenience, plug regularly-used items into a power strip and simply switch it off when items aren’t in use.

7. Examine your lighting. High-wattage bulbs can easily be switched out for CFL’s, which are cheaper in the long run and often are subsidized by Puget Sound Energy via an instant rebate at several Northwest retailers. Start with the bulbs you use most often and work your way down, so you’re not overwhelmed at the initial investment. Get rid of halogen lamps, which consume loads of energy. Outside, motion detectors can work wonders for your energy usage, since the lights are only on when someone is around.

8. After make changes, take another look at your bill in a few months. If you’re not seeing much of a difference, it may be worth it to take a second look, or hire the pros to come out and find what you may have missed.

Conducting your own energy audivt may not be your most exciting Saturday of all time, but it will pay off, both for your Pacific Northwest home and your wallet. To find Green Homes in Whatcom County, contact me or view featured Northwest Green Properties.

Photo Credit: CL

Green Update: Pacific Northwest Named a Surprising Place for Solar Power

daisiesThe Daily Green recently posted an article discussing the benefits of utilizing solar power. Though recent economic troubles have slowed the transition to more earth-friendly power sources in businesses and homes in The Pacific Northwest and the rest of the U.S., TDG says the future is still bright for alternative energy.

Though solar power is extremely popular in places like California and Florida for obvious reasons, research out of Seattle-based Cooler Planet suggests that, while major factors such as availability of sun, social and political values, income and local incentives impact the number of homes using solar power, there are also some big surprises in the mix.

At the top of their list of surprises: Washington State, where — let’s face it — the lush green landscape is gorgeous, but sunshine isn’t exactly the main draw.  “While the Evergreen State does have a concentration of progressive, tech-savvy and green-leaning folks in the Seattle area and Bellingham, it’s interesting to note that interest in solar power is still fairly strong in rural areas and, to a lesser extent, the eastern part of the state, where incomes are much lower.”  People are catching on to the fact that the benefits of solar power aren’t limited to the sunniest locales.

If you’re interested in a greener home, keep checking back for our Green Updates each month here at LiveInThePacificNW.com.  Also, if you’re ready to make changes, but not sure where to start, check out Cooler Planet.  Their goal is to match interested homeowners and businesses with a network of pre-screened green professionals, and their services are free.  “Over time, we aim to provide you all the tools and resources you need to reduce the carbon footprint of your home, your business, and your life.”

Feel free to browse our Pacific Northwest Green Home listings on our Pacific Northwest Real Estate website!

Other helpful links:

Green Updates

The Daily Green

Cooler Earth

Whatcom County Recycles – Here’s How You Can, Too!

sanitary-service-company-(ssc)_logoMany of you are probably aware of how to recycle things like aluminum cans and glass bottles – with curbside recycling common in Whatcom County, most of us are conscious of what goes into our garbage cans each day.

In our part of the Pacific Northwest, however, there are more recycling options than ever before, and some of you might be throwing away things that you don’t have to!

Here’s a helpful list of common household recyclables & reusables you may not know about, from a recent spread in The Bellingham Herald:

APPLIANCES – Large broken appliances can be recycled at Appliance Depot at 802 Marine Drive, Bellingham, 360-527-2646, or at Bellingham Appliance Center in the Birchwood neighborhood, 360-714-8102.

Small broken appliances such as microwaves or toasters can be taken to ReLectronics in the Lettered Streets neighborhood at 1000 C Street, Bellingham, 360-734-1235.

BATTERIES – Rechargable batteries can be taken to the Disposal of Toxics Facility in the Birchwood neighborhood, located at 3505 Airport Drive, Bellingham, 360-380-4640.

Alkaline batteries can be recycled at Walmart in the Guide Meridian neighborhood, 360-647-1400, or the Western Washington University Bookstore on High Street in Bellingham.

CELLPHONES – Donate cellphones with chargers to the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Center at 1407 Commercial Street in Downtown Bellingham, 360-671-5714.

CLEANING SUPPLIES – Recycle new or partially-used cleaners at the Disposal of Toxics Facility, at 3505 Airport Drive, Bellingham, 360-380-4640.

COMPACT FLUORESCENT LIGHTBULBS (CFLS) – Unbroken CFLS can be recycled at Home Depot located in the Meridian neighborhood for free at the orange bins inside the store. 420 Telegraph Road, Bellingham, 360-715-0090.

COMPUTER HARDWARE (LCD MONITORS, LAPTOPS, TOWERS) – ReLectronics accepts computer hardware for free at 2422 E. Bakerview, Bellingham, 360-734-1235. Non-LCD monitors are charged a $15 fee. They also accept computer accessories such as mice, keyboards, etc.

All computer hardware can be recycled at Safe and Easy Recycling in the Mount Baker neighborhood at 4131 Hannegan Road, Bellingham, 360-715-3279.

EYEGLASSES – Leave old pairs of glasses at LensCrafters in Bellingham’s Bellis Fair Mall, and they’ll donate them to international clinics. 360-676-5665.

FORMAL CLOTHING – Donate used formal clothing to the Downtown Bellingham YMCA, which provides prom dresses for low-income students. 1026 N. Forest St, Bellingham, 360-734-4820.

FURNITURE – The Arc of Washington State will pick up furniture in good shape for free at your door. 360-671-3344. Other options include the Assistance League of Bellingham (360-738-2803), Goodwill (360-738-0483), Salvation Army (360-733-1350), Value Village (360-733-2333), the Second Chance Thrift Store in Lynden (360-318-9333), and Project Hope Chest in Lynden (360-354-4673).

HOUSEHOLD ITEMS – Many household items, including clothing, bedding, and kitchen items, can be donated to the following second-hand places: Goodwill (360-738-0483), Salvation Army (360-733-1350), Value Village (360-733-2333), the Second Chance Thrift Store in Lynden (360-318-9333), and Project Hope Chest in Lynden (360-354-4673).

Northwest Center also has donation bins located all over Whatcom County. Go to www.nwcenter.org for more information.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS – Broken, used, or new instruments can be donated to Created to Worship, a music store located in Downtown Bellingham at 901 W. Holly St, Bellingham, 360-756-2043.

PLASTICS – Save mixed plastics (Ziploc bags, grocery bags, Saran wrap, plastic hangers, etc.) in a 30-gallon garbage bag and drop off at Sanitary Service Co (SSC – located in the Columbia neighborhood) for a $5 fee. 1001 Roeder Ave, Bellingham, 360-398-2025.

Also recycle grocery bags and Ziploc bags (rinse & cut off the zip-top) in the bins at Whatcom County Haggen or Wal-mart stores.

PRINTER CARTRIDGES – Recycle old printer cartridges for free at ReLectronics, 2422 E. Bakerview, Bellingham, 360-734-1235.

SHOES – Soles 4 Souls is a non-profit organization that accepts gently worn shoes and gets them to people in need all over the world. Visit www.soles4souls.com to learn more.

TELEVISIONS – Broken TV’s can be recycled for free at Safe and Easy Recycling at 4131 Hannegan Road, Bellingham, 360-715-3279.

TOWELS – Trim snags  and donate your clean worn towels to the Whatcom Humane Society. 360-733-2080.

10 Ways to Prep Your Pacific Northwest Home for a Greener Winter (Part 2)

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Remember, “Green” Doesn’t Mean “Expensive”!

In many cases, changing your Pacific Northwest home for the greener isn’t very expensive, and will actually SAVE you money in the long run. Here are a few more ways to make your Pacific Northwest winter a warmer, less expensive one, with minimal investment of time and money:

6. Exchange your regular lightbulbs for Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs, or CFL’s, which consume 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than traditional lightbulbs. In some cases, Puget Sound Energy offers an instant rebate when you buy your lightbulbs through certain Northwest Washington retailers (such as Costco), making them even more affordable!

7. Get a programmable thermostat. They’re a small investment that will make a HUGE difference in your heating bill, making sure you’re not heating your home when no one is around.

8. Take a few hours on a Saturday to fill those air leaks around your windows and doorways. We don’t often think about it, but leaks are like a window cracked open all winter long.

9. Use water wisely: insulate your water heater, install efficient shower heads, and put aerators in your faucets to heat water efficiently and use it more conservatively.

10. Weatherize your older single-pane windows or replace them with double-pane energy efficient windows. Though replacing them is a significantly larger investment, they’ll save you money long-term and energy tax-credits can help.

Help for Pacific Northwest Home Sellers

If you’re a homeowner looking to sell your Pacific Northwest home, we can help! Our Free Pacific Northwest Home Evaluation will give you the informative tools you need to make your home greener and more attractive to home buyers. Contact us to receive a Free Pacific Northwest Home Sellers’ Guide – let us help make your home-selling experience an enjoyable one!

10 Ways to Prep Your Pacific Northwest Home for a Greener Winter (Part 1)

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Those of us lucky enough to live in Whatcom County sure enjoyed our lengthened summer courtesy of September’s gorgeous weather, but it’s mid-October now and blustery Autumn is here! All you have to do is look outside your window at the bright red and yellow leaves, and you know Winter isn’t far off (and with it, winter heating bills)!

Pacific Northwest communities are known for their commitment to greener living, and there’s no better time to think about “greening” your own Northwest Washington home than Autumn. You can make small, inexpensive changes now that will yield big benefits all through the colder winter months, and you’ll be doing Mother Nature a big favor, too.

Small Changes Make a Big Difference in Your Whatcom, Skagit, Island, or San Juan County Home!

Here are a few tips from the “Stuff Your Mother Always Told You” category (and they’re free):

1. Make it a habit to turn off the lights when you leave a room.

2. Put on a sweater or slippers when you feel cold, rather than immediately cranking up the thermostat.

3. Unplug phone chargers, etc., when they’re not in use. Even idle chargers consume energy when they’re plugged in.

4. Wash your clothes in cold water. There are some great earth-friendly cold-water detergents in the organic/natural foods section of nearly any grocery store.

5. Eat food that’s in-season. Often you can find these foods locally-grown at your farmers market.

Check back later this week for more great Green Winter tips in Part 2!