Bellingham Power House

Bellingham Power House Exterior

There's nothing we love more than building overachieving homes. This remarkable home not only produces enough solar electricity to meet its own energy needs, but it produces surplus power to charge two electric cars.

Nicknamed the Power House, it is the first of its kind in Whatcom County. The home sends power to the city’s electrical grid when the sun is out and draws it during the night or on cloudy days. (Contrary to popular belief, the Pacific Northwest is an excellent place for solar). Averaged over the entire year, the panels will produce more power than the house uses, with enough of a surplus to power two electric cars through on-site charging stations.

The house qualifies for a one-time federal tax credit of approximately $10,500 and Washington State solar production credits of approximately $5,000 a year until 2020.

Perhaps more remarkable than the home’s efficiency is its modest price tag. Shared by two couples and three children, the 2,700-square-foot custom home cost under $150 per square foot to build, significantly less than most other residential construction projects in Bellingham. 

With its airtight shell, structural insulated panel (SIP) construction, numerous south-facing windows and passive solar design, highly efficient heat pump, solar hot water, and a solar PV array using Bellingham-built ITEK modules, this one-of-a-kind house has no electrical bills (other than the monthly service charge for this  grid-tied system) and costs nothing to heat. No oil, natural gas, or other fuels are used. 

This home shows that cutting-edge energy efficiency technology can actually be made affordable by eliminating entire categories of expenses, like heating and gasoline bills. And if one house can be shared by two families, expenses are decreased for both.

Specs

2,700 square feet, co-housing duplex for 2 families, 2 stories, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 3 multi-purpose rooms: loft, rec room and sunroom, semi-covered deck, covered parking, acid-stained concrete slab foundation, radiant-heat floors, exposed beams, Hardie plank & milled cedar siding, metal roof, solar hot water, 9.9 kW solar array, 2 electric car charging stations.
 

  • Powers itself and two electric cars, for net-zero emissions, over the course of a year
  • Uses a 9.9kW photovoltaic system (half power goes to the house, other half powers two cars)
  • Envelope includes structural insulated panels, insulated concrete forms, and 4” foam under slab
  • Heat and hot water provided by a solar hot water collector with an air-to-water heat pump backup
  • South-facing high solar gain triple-pane windows and solar absorbing concrete floors
  • Utilizes the most energy-efficient appliances and lighting available on a budget
  • Collects rainwater for all outdoor water usage and utilizes low-flow fixtures indoors
  • Provides housing for four adults and three kids with enough garden space to feed both families
  • Budget under $150/SF includes all development costs except land (built on an infill lot in the city)
  • Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance is monitoring home for US Department of Energy pilot program
  • Fresh air provided by heat recovery ventilator and earth tube combo system
  • HERS rating is -15