Archive for the ‘General’ Topic

Saving Energy with Compact Space Heaters

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

OPALCO space heater

The Envi compact space heater

The heating season is here and we want to stay warm! Space heaters can be an excellent supplemental heat source for keeping warm without running up your electric bill. The idea is to heat the space you are in, rather than the whole house, and choose a heater best designed for that space.

Electric space heaters have been deemed safest for indoor heating, and can be broken down into two types: convection and radiant heaters.

Convection heaters contain a sealed heat transfer liquid, such as oil, that is warmed by an electric heating element. Often they have fans that help circulate the warm air in a room. They are very energy efficient for heating a larger room for a short period of time.

Radiant heaters reflect heat using an infrared technology, and are most effective in smaller spaces for a short period. The best heaters on the market use a combination of convection and radiant heat. These space heaters are referred to as panel heaters. They blend approximately 80% of the convection technology with 20% of radiant. They are highly energy efficient and warm larger spaces quickly and quietly.

When selecting a model, pay extra attention to the wattage.  Energy saving models use 400-600 watts (3-5 cents/hour), depending on the size.  Some commonly used space heaters can use up to 1500 watts (or 13 cents/hour) to operate!

We have received excellent member feedback for the American built Envi wall mounted heater. These are commonly installed in bathrooms and bedrooms where it keeps the area a consistent, comfortable temperature.  Here are some benefits Envi heaters offer:

Safe – the Envi has a cool-to-the-touch exterior that is barely above room temperature.  The built-in thermostat allows the unit to turn off when a comfort level is reached.  The Envi heater also has an enhanced thermal cut-off that quickly shuts down the heater if the air vents are blocked. It is made from crack-resistant materials that make hairline cracking a thing of the past.

Healthy & Quiet – Using a pure convection design, the Envi operates without moving parts and distributes air without the use of a fan. It is hypoallergenic and will not circulate dust or allergens, or dry out the air. It is completely silent and also features an auto dimming power light.

Simple & Stylish – The Envi installs on your wall in minutes using a simple 3-step process. No hassle – just warm air delivered by a slim, sleek and stylish heater – only 2 inches thin.  It can be ordered online, with a few options, including hard-wired, or plug-in to a wall outlet.  It can also be paired with a programmable external thermostat.  This is a great option for a bathroom, as you can set it to warm the bathroom before you get up in the morning, and then ease back during the day, while you’re away.

EconomicalEnvi High-Efficiency Whole Room Electric Panel Heaters are $139.95.

To learn more about the Envi heaters, visit  For other efficient wall-mounted heating options, you may also want to check out and


Big Savings on Heat Pump Water Heaters

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Water heaters are one of the biggest sources of energy consumption, second only to energy used to heat your home or business.  Over the past few years, a new type of water heater, using Heat Pump technology, cuts water heating energy use by about 60% compared to standard electric storage water heaters.

If you’re thinking about replacing your water heater, or want to reduce your energy usage, now’s the time to consider a heat pump water heater.  Now through December 3rd, 2014, you can save a total of $700 on the price of a new GE GeoSpring Hybrid Heat Pump water heater.  This includes a $400 instant rebate at the time of purchase and a $300 rebate from OPALCO after installation.

A conventional electric water heater costs about $440 a year to heat water for a typical home.  It can cost even more, depending on the size of home and family and water use habits (baths versus showers, etc.).  In the same home, with a heat pump water heater,  it would only use $167 in electricity – a savings of $272 per year, or over $3,000 over the lifetime of a typical water heater. If your water heater uses propane, the savings should be even greater.

To find out if a heat pump water heater is right for you, click here for helpful tools and resources.  To learn more about the rebates, see information on the OPALCO rebate and the GE rebate, then check out the water heaters at Sears, Lowes, or any of these dealers.  Make your best deal, and once installed, fill out and submit the OPALCO rebate form to receive $300 cash back.

Check out the GeoSpring water heater website to learn more about how heat pump water heaters work, locate a dealer, and calculate savings.  Here’s a helpful video that explains how the GeoSpring water heater works.

Great Turnout at the San Juan Energy Fair!

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

The first Energy Fair hosted by Islands Energy and OPALCO was a great success!  Visitors at the May 17th event received free energy kits, attended conservation workshops, and engaged in lively conversations with a variety of contractors to learn more about solar panel installations, home energy upgrades, financing programs from Islanders Bank, and electric vehicles, to name a few.

OPALCO Energy Savings Specialist Elisa Howard and MORE Committee member Peter Risser welcome guests at the San Juan Energy Fair on May 17th.

Amy Saxe and Elisa Howard from the OPALCO Energy Savings team enjoyed the chance to chat with members one  on one about our efficiency rebates, home energy audits, local energy generation, and the benefits of LED bulbs.

Some in attendance also participated in solar home tours organized by the M.O.R.E. Committee (Member Owned Renewable Energy).  Kids made door draft stoppers and participated in an energy fact “treasure hunt” for a chance to win prizes.

If you missed this one, please join as at the upcoming fairs on Lopez Island (Saturday, May 31st) and Orcas Island (Saturday, June 7th) from 10am to 3pm.

Due to limited availability and anticipated demand, reservations for the Home Energy Conservation Workshop and the Solar Home Tours are recommended. To reserve a spot, please call the Conservation District at 360-378-6621 or email to pre-register.

How Clean and Green is the Electricity that OPALCO Delivers?

Friday, August 17th, 2012

OPALCO is contracted with Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to secure the lowest cost, most reliable power for our member owners. Each year, BPA reports on the fuel mix—the various sources of electrical generation—that were delivered to us for distribution. The 2011 fuel mix report shows that our fuel mix was 97% greenhouse-gas free with more than 90% of our power being generated by clean and green hydro-electric turbines. Greenhouse gases are those that absorb and emit radiation within the thermal infrared range. The process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect, which contributes to global warming.

The components of the fuel mix vary from year (see this year’s detailed report) due to the availability of wind power and Columbia Generating Station (nuclear energy), which shuts down every two years for refueling and routine maintenance. Additionally, from time to time BPA requests Columbia Generating Station reduce power due to current or expected high water levels in the federal hydroelectric system.

The other components of the fuel mix represent less than 3% of the total generation and include (in order of prevalence): coal, natural gas, biomass, waste, petroleum, landfill gases, solar, co-generation, geo-thermal and other.

What about all the member-owned renewable energy (MORE) generated locally by OPALCO members? There are more than 80 members who generate their own power and are interconnected to OPALCO’s grid. The total kWh annual production is over 200,000 kWh compared to the total co-op annual consumption of about 200,000,000 kWh. However, with the promise of higher rates tied to load growth in the near future, everything we can do as a co-op to reduce our load—every kWh we can avoid using through efficiency and conservation or that we generate ourselves—will help us to shape our own energy future.

What will you do to be more efficient and avoid kWh use in your home or business?

Vote for Energy Efficiency

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

OPALCO’s 75th Annual Meeting on the ferry is coming up on Saturday, May 5th. Ballots have arrived in each members’ mailbox and absentee ballots are due by May 4th – an option for online voting is new this year. Why should you participate? As Co-op member-owners, you have the power to elect the Board of Directors who are responsible for policy making – including what kind of programming and budget are committed to energy efficiency and conservation. In a co-op, it’s one member: one vote. Your voice counts. Please take a moment to read about the candidates and exercise your power to vote. The Annual Meeting will be a special affair this year in celebration of OPALCO’s 75th Anniversary. Hope you’ll join us. In any case, check out the historical timeline, annual report and galleries of stories, photos and videos online at Have an OPALCO story or photos of your own to share? Post them on our new Facebook page (Orcas Power & Light Cooperative) – and be sure to tell your friends!


Friday, April 6th, 2012

Continuing the theme of WIND POWER, one of our members sent in this link to an amazing new art project that shows, in real-time, the surface wind speeds over all of the United States.  Surface wind data comes from the National Digital Forecast Database.  You can zoom in on the map to see more detail.

Follow this link to the project

While You Were Enjoying the Holidays –

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Congress decided to temporarily halt the enforcement of new light bulb efficiency standards. Here is one article on the subject from Electric Co-op Today.  What does this mean for you?  You will still be able to buy a 100 watt incandescent light bulb in 2012, but why would you?

The High-Stakes Math Behind the West’s Greatest River

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Hydro-electric power makes up about 83% of the energy that OPALCO delivers to its members on 20 islands in San Juan County. That hydro power comes from the Federal Columbia River Power System: dams like the Bonneville and the Grand Coulee on the Columbia River. Managing the dams and the flow of water and power is a series of complex equations. Check out this article (due to be published in Forbes Magazine on November 7th) for a in-depth look at how our hydro system works.

OPALCO Studies Broadband Expansion

Friday, September 30th, 2011

What Role Should OPALCO Play to support the ongoing community effort to make higher-speed, more reliable broadband available in San Juan County?
partnering with emergency services and public safety providers, the Economic Development Council and other stakeholders in the County to study how county-wide access to broadband (high-speed internet) services would benefit our members. Please watch for a green survey postcard in the mail that asks for your input on what role OPALCO might play in this important community effort. Infrastructure expansion would improve our public safety network from dispatch radio communication, broadband access and enhanced 911 services to the potential for better cellular services. OPALCO’s fiber is already serving the County, the Sheriff’s Office, fire departments, libraries, medical centers and schools as well as some small businesses. With some additional investment, OPALCO could extend the fiber network to serve members in most of San Juan County.

Please  take a minute to complete the postcard survey (in mailboxes in mid-October or pick up a copy at your OPALCO office beginning 10/17) and return it to OPALCO by October 28th. Of the surveys received on time, ten names will be drawn to receive a $100 bill credit as our thanks for helping us with this important research.

Read the full article online.

UW Professor’s Curiosity Lands Him $500,000

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

From The Seattle Times: Shwetak Patel, a University of Washington professor, has won a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur “genius” grant

A couple of our OPALCO members sent us a link to this article in the Seattle Times. It’s exciting to know what is going on so close at the UW. If you’ve spent time (like me) trying to find what is using electricity in your home, you will like to read about this new technology.

“Instead of a once-every-two-month lump statement of energy consumption, Patel’s sensor gives a homeowner “a readout that tells you exactly what’s going on with each device, each light bulb, and so the feedback can make you smarter about your usage,” said Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates professor in the computer-science department. “The goal is to make it so dirt simple that any consumer can use it.”