Conservation & Efficiency

The very best form of renewable energy is the energy that you don't use. It's a good idea to consider how you can conserve energy and make your home more energy efficient before installing a renewable energy system. Conservation means using energy more carefully, through changing your actions and habits. Putting on a sweater while turning down your thermostat, or turning lights off when you leave a room are good examples of energy conservation. Efficiency can be achieved by switching to appliances that consume less energy, insulating your home, or driving a hybrid vehicle. Before you invest in a solar energy system you should do as much as possible to reduce your consumption through conservation and efficiency improvements.  

We highly recommend two tools that can help you keep track of how much energy you use.  

The Energy Detective™ (TED) is a whole-house electricity metering system that allows you to see how much electricity your home uses in real-time and daily or monthly increments. You can see what you are consuming in Watts, or what you have used over time in kilowatt hours or dollars. Installation involves placing clip-on current measuring sensors on the main wires bringing power into your home, wiring the meter into a single circuit breaker and mounting the meter inside the main panel. The remote display communicates with the meter through an electronic signal that is sent through the house wiring. You simply plug the display into a receptacle in the house and it receives metering information from the current sensors in the electrical panel.  

The Kill A Watt™ meter is a device for measuring power and energy requirements for one 110V device at a time. You simply plug the device into the Kill A Watt and plug the meter into the wall. The meter shows Watts, Amps, Volts, Hz and kWh since the load was plugged in.

Here are some links to local reasources that can help you on your way to conservation and efficiency:

Orcas Power and Light Cooperative (OPALCO) offers residential rebates for appliances, weatherization (insulation, retrofit windows and air sealing), and heat pumps through BPA's Energy Efficiency Program. They can also help you learn more about how your home is performing. OPALCO's Building Performance Analysts will assess your home and help you identify where and how you could be saving energy.

Sage Building Solutions utilizes the green building and building science knowledge of founder Doug Poole. Sage has built strong relationships with OPALCO and the local energy community with its commitment to bringing the energy load of our community down. Sage offers a Home Energy Assessment in which they look at your home as a complex system, then run a series of diagnostic tests that verify ways to make your home more comfortable, healthy, energy efficient and green.

The San Juan Islands Conservation District has recently partnered with OPALCO to accelerate efforts in the community to expand energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy use. Their Energy Program encompasses a Home Energy Retrofit project. To learn more about how to take advantage of this program, please contact them at or 378-6621.

And in recent and exciting news, San Juan County was just selected to advance to the quarterfinalist round of the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a $5 million incentive competition to reduce energy consumption. The San Juan County Energy Plan, a key component of the competition, is being developed in collaboration with the Energy Leadership Team and Islands Energy. The plan will be a comprehensive, county-wide plan that encompasses municipal buildings and operations, school facilities, and residential energy use. The goal is to significantly reduce energy use, promote renewable energy, and keep electricity costs low for islanders. This effort is facilitated by the San Juan Islands Conservation District and sponsored by OPALCO. To learn more about the Georgetown University Energy Prize and to track the competition's progress, visit