Browsed by
Category: Striving to Live Green

Ideas, tips and resources for living green and minimizing my carbon footprint.

Rebates for Seattle Area Home Owners!

Rebates for Seattle Area Home Owners!

The City of Seattle offers a number of rebate programs designed to encourage homeowners to make improvements that will increase their homes’ energy efficiency.

Here are a few:

•laundry appliances – $50-$250

•water heaters – $500

•heating/cooling systems – $100-$1200

•windows – $50/window

•insulation – up to 50% of project cost

•showerheads – in-store discounts

•LED lighting – in-store discounts

Get details and rebate forms online at:

Professional home energy audits are often available for free or at reduced prices through the City of Seattle and from Puget Sound Energy. Energy Star is another source of helpful information and resources.

If you’d rather conduct your own, here’s where to download a PDF with instructions for doing just that.

You can also contact a Home Energy Advisor by phone 206-684-3800, or e-mail:

Find even more rebates at


How and Where to Get Financing for Home Energy Efficiency Upgrades

How and Where to Get Financing for Home Energy Efficiency Upgrades

Ever heard of an EEM (energy efficiency mortgage) loan? Making your home more energy efficient may reduce your utility bills for the long term, but paying for the upgrades upfront can be a challenge. EEM’s can be one source.

Another potential source of funds is a traditional HELOC (home equity line of credit). Check with your bank, credit union or mortgage servicer for details and rates.

There are a number of financial institutions with programs specifically designed for financing energy efficiency upgrades. These are often called EEM loans (Energy Efficiency Mortgages).

Homeowners can take advantage of EEM’s to either finance energy efficient improvements to existing homes, including renewable energy technologies, or to increase their home-buying power when purchasing a new energy efficient home.

Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union, Craft 3, and Umpqua Bank are just three financial institutions you can check out for EEM’s and similar loan programs.

If you’d like ideas and information about the variety of energy efficiency projects you might want to take on, consider attending The Northwest Green Home Tour on Sunday, April 28th and 29th. This is a multi-location event and free tickets are available (though a $10 donation is suggested). For a location map and more detailed information, go to:

Solar panels becoming a common sight

Solar panels becoming a common sight

Have you noticed how many homes in West Seattle neighborhoods are sprouting solar panels on their rooftops?

Here are some reasons the City of Seattle gives as to why you might want to consider investing in a solar electrical system for your home.

  • Solar electrical systems are safe, reliable, pollution free and use the sun as a renewable source of energy.
  • The option of connecting to the utility grid allows you to earn energy credit when you generate more power than you need.
  • Federal tax credits and state renewable energy production incentives offer additional financial benefits for owning and operating a solar electrical system.

FAQ’s about solar energy systems:

How much does it cost?

Cost depends on a number of factors, but for conventional systems mounted on a sloped roof, a typical 3,000 watt system would cost $15,000-$24,000 installed. Local solar electric providers can give you estimates and bids. Financing may be an option to help spread out the initial costs.

Is solar electricity a good investment?

Unlike electricity purchased month to month, solar electricity comes with an initial investment but not monthly charges. You’ll have lower electric bills, but the initial expense of installing a system may be jarring.

More info at

Posted October 31, 2015

Have you spotted new home design trends for 2013?

Have you spotted new home design trends for 2013?

home design trends

Home design trends come and go — that’s why they’re called trends — and it can be fun to see how quickly you recognize their arrival.

Here are a few home design trends that author, Barbara Ballinger, believes will be coming into vogue this year.

  1. Automated control systems for the various electronics in your home. Systems are becoming easier to use and more affordable all the time. You can remotely turn on your furnace, security system, lights, media, etc. with a press of a button or two.
  2. Outdoor living spaces such as kitchens and living rooms. In days gone by, screened porches were quite common. Then they went out of style in favor of decks and patios. Now they are having a come-back and are much more comfortable and versatile. The outdoor bbq grill is getting an upgrade, too, often under cover or screened in with comfortable tables and seating.
  3. While not exactly a home design trend (more like a backyard design trend), home farming gives new accessibility to organic foods. Small, raised backyard garden beds require less stooping and bending, are more manageable with limited time, and are often more attractive than traditional gardens. Watch for the emergence of backyard ponds, as well, for raising fish fit for the dinner table. (I’m not sure what animal rights activists will have to say about this, however.)
  4. As fewer homebuyers see a need for formal living rooms, “TV rooms” are re-emerging. Less dark and less stark than the media rooms of recent years, this newer style of “family room” provides comfortable, casual space for a variety of activities.
  5. Tinted neutral paint shades are replacing whites and beiges. Accent walls are more muted, while still providing a pop of color.
  6. Dual-purpose furnishings are becoming popular both for economic and space reasons. As MacMansions become less common and baby boomers start downsizing, use of living space becomes a bigger priority. Sofa beds, ottomans that double as storage space, tables with drop leaves and kitchen islands on wheels can all save space and money. Clunky, chunky, overstuffed furnishings are likely to be disappearing as well.
  7. Remodeling has become more common than room additions since the economic downturn of the past few years. Kitchens and bathrooms remain the favorite spaces for updates and face lifts. When planning the remodel, homeowners are more likely than ever to favor the use of sustainable products and materials for countertops and flooring. Low VOC paint products are also in demand, as they emit fewer harmful fumes and are considered less harmful to the environment. The website can be a helpful resource in this regard.
  8. Efficient systems for managing water and energy are also on the top of many lists as a means of stretching the household budget. Low-flow shower heads, dual-flush toilets, solar panels and gray-water systems can all translate into worthy investments.
  9. Lastly, architectural designs are beginning to take into account a wider age-range of homeowners. Forward-thinking home designs incorporate wider doorways for wheelchairs and walkers, low counter heights in some bathrooms and higher counter tops in others, grab bars that double as towel racks, and even elevators in multi-level homes. All are features that will help homes remain suitable for occupants of varying generations.

How many of these home design trends appeal to you? Have you spotted some we’ve missed?

Appliance rebates and home energy audits available from City of Seattle

Appliance rebates and home energy audits available from City of Seattle

Did you know that Seattle City Light offers home energy audits for $95 to City Light customers living in single family homes? The City contracts with certified independent auditors who will visit your home and conduct a thorough assessment of its insulation level, leakiness and heating system efficiency. The auditor will leave you a report, specific to your home, with suggestions for energy-efficient upgrades, their estimated costs and the potential benefits to you and the environment.

Appliances make up about 20 percent of your home’s electricity use. Seattle City Light’s appliance rebates can help you upgrade to more efficient models – saving you money and electricity for years to come.

If you plan on buying new appliances (e.g. refrigerator, clothes dryer, water heater) any time soon, be sure to check the City of Seattle’s rebate program. You may qualify to get money back on selected models and even free pick-up and removal of your old appliances.

Rebate amounts vary, but here are the maximums:

Refrigerators: $50

Clothes Washers: $100

Heat Pump Water Heater: $500

Ductless Heat Pump: $1500

Refrigerator/Freezer Recycling: $30 plus free pick-up and removal of your old unit

You can download rebate forms and instructions from the Seattle City Light website.

A “Single” Christmas

A “Single” Christmas

There is no doubt about it. Christmas for a single adult (i.e. one who is not in a committed relationship) with no kids is vastly different than Christmas for other adults. Not better or worse, just different.

In my case, I am single and childless by choice, as well as by circumstance, so my perspective is different than someone who longs to be a spouse and/or parent. In some ways, I feel I have the best of both worlds. As an aunt, I have the option, rather than the obligation of being around children at Christmastime. I am able to control the pace of my holiday activity, keeping it as simple or hectic as I choose.

I suspect I was a late bloomer when it comes to figuring out how to enjoy the holidays. For years, I focused on the holiDAY, December 25th. (You will note that I am not attempting to be politically correct here. I celebrate Christmas, so that is my point of reference.) I eventually realized that that mindset created tremendous pressure for Christmas day to be perfect, which it rarely was. When I shifted my focus to the variety of fun events leading up to Christmas, I enjoyed the entire season rather than just a day.

Since I have a December birthday, celebrating it with friends and family is part of the holiday tradition for me.

Other local events I look forward to each year are the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition; the Argosy Christmas Ships; various Santa breakfasts; ACT Theater production of A Christmas Carol; the carousel at Westlake Center; the Snow Train to Leavenworth, and; our family Christmas Eve gathering. With all these heart-warming events, our family Christmas day gathering comes as a capstone, rather than the central focus.

I certainly feel less emphasis on gift-giving as a single person, and the gifts I do give are more often “experience” gifts such as event tickets. This is especially true with my nieces and nephews. They get so many gifts from grandparents, parents, and Santa that I think many get lost in the shuffle. As much as children might want to see lots of presents under the tree, I do believe there is a saturation point, after which they become desensitized.

Giving “experience” gifts also fits with my personal values around trying to live green.

What about you? What holiday traditions do you enjoy most? If you are single, do you feel it affects your enjoyment of the holidays one way or the other?

However you celebrate, I hope you experience the joy and peace that is available to us all.

Is your water heater a ticking time bomb?

Is your water heater a ticking time bomb?

Hot water heaters are something we tend to take for granted until they start leaking or fail altogether. Once that happens, we are likely to grab the yellow pages or hop online to find the nearest plumber who can come right away. (Unless you are a renter, in which case you will call your landlord. There are upsides to renting.)

The life expectancy of the average, conventional water heater is 10-15 years (longer, if you make a habit of draining it annually).  So if yours is nearing the 10-year mark, you could save yourself money by researching  your options before it fails. The original installation date should be written on the outside of the tank.

There are several types of water heaters. Your options will depend somewhat on the fuel source in your home, i.e. electric, natural gas, or liquid propane gas.

Storage tank water heaters are the most common type and usually hold 30-80 gallons. The correct size depends upon the amount of space you have, the number of people living in your home and the recovery rate you require. Recovery rate refers to the number of gallons the tank can heat in an hour. No one likes a cold shower.

Before you buy, check the Energy Guide label on the tank to determine the energy efficiency rating. High efficiency tanks cost more at the outset but are designed to save you money over time and are kinder to the environment.

Tankless (aka on-demand) water heaters heat water as it is needed rather than storing hot water in a tank. Water is heated by passing through a series of coils. They are available for electric, natural gas and propane fuel sources but the electric models offer far less benefit in terms of energy efficiency and cost savings. (A better alternative for electric water heaters is to add a timer that will shut off the power to the tank at specified times when you know hot water will not be needed.)

An upside of tankless heaters is that they take up much less space. A downside is that they typically provide a lower volume of hot water — an average of 3.5 gallons per minute — so are less useful if you need hot water from more than one location, such as running the dishwasher and washing machine at the same time.

Solar hot water systems may be more common than you think. Over half a million have been installed in single-family homes in the United States alone. Solar hot water systems are typically installed on roofs and often look like skylights. Sometimes considered to be an expensive proposition, it is worth noting that the cost of installing solar panels declined by 30% between 1980-1990. Further price drops aren’t likely to be as dramatic, but the cost will surely continue to decline as demand increases.

Still inclined to ignore the condition of your current water heater? Then consider this. If your tank fails, it’s likely to cause damage to everything around it (especially flooring and dry wall), so you may end up having to replace/repair more than just the hot water tank.

How old did you say your tank is?

Note: although several links in this article are from the website for Washington Water Heaters, this is not meant as an endorsement of that company’s products or services.The links are offered as a source of general product information only.

Find Energy Star Products here.

Urban farmers and surplus fruit in Seattle

Urban farmers and surplus fruit in Seattle

 Attention urban farmers (intentional, or not)! Since yesterday’s post about how to donate the surplus fruit from your trees, I came across another option. Barter!

Crop Swap is a new website that facilitates trading between “urban farmers” and it’s not just limited to fruit. Trades can involve things such as eggs, flower bulbs, vegetables, etc.

Here is a link to a story about Crop Swap on the website.

41 Legs Urban Farm in Seattle’s Madison Valley neighborhood is a somewhat similar venture. I haven’t been able to locate much information about 41 Legs — including whether they strictly sell or also barter — but it is a group of at least 3 urban farmers who grow vegetables, raise chickens, ducks, rabbits and a pig! They have a page on Facebook, but not their own website (yet).

On a related note, has anyone else noticed how common it is becoming to find that your neighbors are raising chickens? Recently I have detected at least 3 new coops within a half mile radius of my house. (Roosters are not allowed, by the way, for obvious reasons, but I don’t think that message is being heeded much.)

Perhaps the increase started in August of 2010, when the Seattle Municipal Code was revised to allow city residents to raise up to 8 chickens per household. For a layman’s translation of the ordinance visit the website. Seattle Tilth is another local organization with a mission to “inspire and educate people to grow food organically.”

Here’s a link to another story on a site called, about a young woman by the name of Nina Finley, who turned her early interest in farming into a reality in her city home.

Whether it is fueled by a desire for eating healthier foods or a need to stretch the shrinking dollar, it seems there is an ever-increasing interest in urban agriculture. Or perhaps farming is just in our nature and we find ways to get back to it even when living in the city.

What about you? Any desire to grow vegetables or raise chickens?


Small homes offer big advantages

Small homes offer big advantages

Small home for sale!

Have you ever considered the big advantages to owning a small home?

In my first conversation with new clients looking to buy their first home, we always discuss their list of needs and wants (aka “must have” vs. “prefer”). This includes everything from  number of bedrooms and bathrooms to commute times and neighborhoods.

I am always interested to hear how much square footage my buyers would like. Most first-time buyers who are native to this area (whether a single person or a couple without children) estimate that they need at least 1000 sq. ft. of living space. Recently, however, I started working with a young couple who is moving here from Honolulu, Hawaii, where the price of real estate is significantly higher. They are used to living in such small spaces that 1,000 sq. ft. seems like a McMansion to them!


Living in a small home allows you to…

  1. Prevent back injuries (yours and your friends). Right from the start, moving into a small home costs less. You can rent a smaller moving truck and hire fewer helpers because it takes less time to move fewer belongings.
  2. Thumb your nose at the tax assessor. Personal property taxes are based on the combined value of your home and your lot. All other things being equal, the market value of a larger house is more than the market value of a smaller house, so the tax bill on a small home is less.
  3. Hire a maid.  It costs less to clean a smaller home; maybe you can afford a house cleaning service!
  4. Economize on flooring. Owners of small homes can often take advantage of bargain prices on flooring materials by shopping for remnants of hardwood, carpet, tile, etc.
  5. Avoid ladders. Most small homes are a single story, making it much more feasible to paint both interior and exterior walls yourself without risking a fall from a ladder. It’s also cheaper to hire a professional to paint your small home for you.
  6. Save on utility bills. It costs less to insulate, heat and cool smaller spaces. Consider using electric heat which eliminates the costs associated with furnace and duct work maintenance and allows you to heat just the rooms you are using.
  7. Spur your creativity. Smaller spaces inspire inventive ideas for maximizing every square inch of your home. Consider building a loft to take advantage of unused ceiling space. Or turn your stairs into drawers!
  8. Curb accumulation. The phrase, “Where would I put it?” will regularly run through your brian. When you have less space to fill, you tend to buy less stuff.
  9. Feel more secure. Smaller homes generally have fewer access points, i.e. doors and windows, so the bad guys can’t get in as easily without being seen/heard.
  10. Save travel time. Yes, it does take more time to walk from one end of a large home to the other and one floor to the next. Those seconds add up more quickly than you think, especially if you are running late!
Those are my Top 10 reasons for owning a small home. And here’s a bonus reason. Small homes are cuter than large homes!
If you are thinking of buying a small home, navigate to my Prudential Northwest Realty website where I have set up an automated small home search from various parts of metropolitan Seattle.
And here is a link to information about a terrific small home that is for sale in the Westwood neighborhood of West Seattle. (It happens to be my listing.) Call me today for an appointment to see it in person. 206-708-9800.


Recycle Roundup

Recycle Roundup

Technology is (mostly) wonderful, but what can you do with all those gadgets, appliances and electronics once they are obsolete or no longer functional?

On Sunday, April 29, 2012 from 9A-3P, you can take them to the Fauntleroy Church parking lot at 9140 California Ave SW in West Seattle where they will be accepted for recycling — free of charge — by the non-profit organization 1 Green Planet.

This “Recycle Roundup” is a great and very popular annual event, so expect to see a long line of cars waiting to drop off their unusable items.

Here is a sample of the kinds of items they accept:

A/C units

Answering machines

Calculators & adding machines

Computers, including monitors, keyboards, mother boards, modems, and speakers

Fax machines


Satellite TV equipment

VCR players




and so much more!

For a complete list, go to 1GreenPlanet’s website.

Although the service IS free, keep in mind that 1 Green Planet is a non-profit organization that depends upon donations to provide these services. Please consider giving a donation when you drop off your items.

Now, Share this and help spread the word!