Helping Bellingham win a $5 million energy prize

What if you could have a more comfortable house, save on your monthly water and energy bills, have more advanced, longer-lasting appliances and help your community win $5 million dollars? Well, you can! The Bellingham community is one of 50 small cities across the nation taking intelligent energy use to the next level through its participation in the $5 million dollar Georgetown University Energy Prize competition. Over the next two years, energy used in residences, schools and city buildings will be measured in all 50 cities, and the communities with the best plan and energy-saving performance will be in the running for the $5 million prize. More importantly, everyone can improve their lives with more advanced ways of using energy.

Every Bellingham household needs to get on board to make at least one improvement to how we use energy. Resources to help you along are available from The Community Energy Challenge, Puget Sound Energy and Cascade Natural Gas. There are programs to help consumers of all income brackets use energy more wisely. Many rebates and incentives are available.

There are lots of things you can do: replace old appliances with energy efficient models; improve your home’s insulation; switch to the latest LED lighting; and use energy wisely! Using less water also helps, since it takes energy to treat, heat and pump water. We’ve compiled information on these and other remarkable incentives on the project web site.

Swapping out incandescent lights for long-lasting LED bulbs can save you $100 a year on your electric bill, or as much as $1,500 over the lifetime of the bulbs. The quality of modern light bulbs has improved dramatically, providing for a range of tones that match your needs. And better yet, you can get a full set of new lights for nothing if you sign up for a free HomePrint energy improvement assessment from Puget Sound Energy.

If you are replacing an old clothes washer, refrigerator, or toilet, look for newer models that save energy and water. Appliances marked with the “Energy Star” label use less energy and are available in the usual stores. They often pay for themselves in a few years. Cascade Natural Gas will also give you free energy savings devices.

Heat pumps are modern ways to heat a home. They are incredibly efficient, quiet and save consumers hundreds of dollars each heating season. Bellingham contractors are installing more of these than ever. Better insulation and airtight walls means fewer drafts and lower gas or electric bills. For modest cost, you reap large dividends.

Did you know that “vampire loads” like chargers or TVs draw power even then they are not being used? Puget Sound Energy is making available to any customer a smart energy strip for only $10 — it costs $30 in stores.

Our energy utilities, universities and colleges, community organizations, municipal government and schools are working together to save energy and win the prize. But we need everyone in Bellingham to do their part. Over the next two years, you will hear about programs to help you save energy. We want everyone to know that there are easy and inexpensive ways you can help right now.

Bellingham has been a national leader in adopting green power and has helped pioneer successful, cost-effective delivery of energy and water efficiency services. Join with your neighbors to maintain this leadership, reduce your monthly bills, and help us win $5 million for Bellingham. For more information on the campaign, to get energy efficiency tips and to learn about rebates and incentives, see cob.org/energyprize. Or follow the campaign on Facebook at facebook.com/guepbellingham. To learn more about the national prize campaign, see guep.org.