If there was an award for biggest energy savings in Snohomish County, David Kendall and Nobuko Mitsunaga would be strong contenders.
The Edmonds couple paid $188 for electricity in 2018 — and that includes charging two electric cars.
Most folks pay more than $1,000 a year for electricity, said Aaron Swaney, a spokesman for the Snohomish County PUD.
So what’s their secret? Sustainability. Actually, it’s not a secret. In fact, they want to tell more people about it.
The couple, who will be featured in the ninth annual Northwest Green Home Tour next weekend, spent six years retrofitting their 1987 home near Lake Ballinger to reduce their carbon footprint.
They upgraded the home’s insulation, invested in more energy-efficient windows, installed solar panels, replaced their natural gas furnace and water heater with electric counterparts, and installed a rainwater catchment system.
Now, Kendall and Mitsunaga’s solar panels produce more electricity than they need, and the PUD pays them for the surplus juice. And they’ve significantly reducing their carbon footprint and water usage.
Make no mistake — the process wasn’t cheap. But Kendall said it’s worth every penny.
“We have solutions to living with a smaller carbon footprint, and we’re a good example that you can do it and don’t have to compromise anything,” Kendall said. “You can have a quality life, you just don’t need to use natural gas resources if you have other alternatives.”
The free, self-guided tour May 4-5 will include more than 40 sustainable homes, backyard cottages and businesses in the Puget Sound area, including ONE89Dwell’s townhomes in Bothell.
It’s organized by the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, an Olympia-based nonprofit that promotes ecological building, and Greenhome Solutions, a sustainable home product supplier in Seattle. Both groups preach the gospel of green building.
Kendall and Mitsunaga also are evangelists for green building. This is the fourth year they’ve participated in the event.
“I’m totally enthusiastic about promoting sustainability and wanting people to consider it,” Kendall said. “I think we’re in a crisis point on this planet, and if people don’t start taking better care of it, Mother Nature is going to reach out and bite us on the rear end.”
Kendall, 72, is an environmental activist and retired marine biologist. Wanting to address humans’ impact on climate change, he and Mitsunaga saved for more than 10 years and downsized to a home that fit their environmentally friendly vision.
“We knew what we wanted to do, and we didn’t want to go into permanent debt,” Kendall said. “When we found this house, it was like a jewel in the rough.”
The energy retrofit cost around $11,000. It included a blower door test, which measures the airtightness of buildings and is the best thing anyone can do to get started on the path to sustainability, Kendall said.
“You see where the energy leaks are, then plug those leaks,” he said. “That’s money you’ll get back.”
They later added a 13.2 kilowatt-hour photovoltaic solar system to power the house, and cut their energy needs by installing LED lights, better ceiling fans and high-efficiency dual-flush toilets.
The couple’s solar panels have been producing more electricity than they need since 2013. That earned their home certification as a Net Zero Energy Building in 2016 by the International Living Future Institute.
On average, their home produces 191 percent electricity more than it needs, and operates off the PUD’s energy grid nine months of the year. They export 71 percent of their excess solar power to the PUD.
“They cut us a $5,000 check for the energy we gave them,” Kendall said.
The couple also added a 4,590-gallon cistern to capture rainwater from their roof. They use the water to irrigate their garden — significantly reducing their water use during the spring and summer.
Their biggest leap was buying two electric cars made by Tesla, plus two Tesla Powerwall 2 home batteries to store electricity made by their solar panels.
“I have no illusions about that — the electric cars were a huge investment, but I wanted to get away from gas cars,” Kendall said. “I’m absolutely not a rich person. It depends on what your priorities are. I really want to advocate for this technology.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
If you go
The ninth annual Northwest Green Home Tour is May 4-5.
David Kendall and Nobuko Mitsunaga’s home, at 23025 74th Ave. W., Edmonds, will be open to visit from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 5.
Tickets are by donation; the suggested amount is $10. Tour-goers will receive a wristband at the first site they visit. For a full list of sites, visit www.nwgreenhometour.org.