Significant Energy Savings Without Spending a Lot of Money

D.C. couple on a tight budget tries for ‘net-zero’ power on fixer-upper home

The Washington Post, July 16, 2015. Image credit: Antranias

Patrick Hughes and Amy Sticklor began their do-it-yourself approach in fall 2013, shortly after purchasing their first home in Washington’s Atlas District. Instead of replacing big-ticket items such as the aging furnace and boiler (both of which still have a few years of service left in them), they slashed their energy usage in half with less than $500 in insulation, new lighting and other equipment available at the average hardware store or online.

Updates alone made it possible to run their entire 952-square-foot, two-bedroom home for several months of the year without exceeding the amount of energy produced by the solar array they had installed on their rooftop. Their utility bills have plummeted. In environmental terms, meanwhile, Hughes says the couple have saved 1,238.5 kilowatt-hours of power by lowering their energy usage alone. That’s equivalent to planting 22 tree seedlings that would remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over 10 years or driving 2,033 fewer miles.

It was crucial to reduce their energy usage to make it feasible to run the house on no more than the energy that can be produced by the relatively small 2.2 kilowatt solar array installed by San Mateo, Calif.-based solar power provider SolarCity.

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