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Ballard Couple Unveiling Seattle’s First Zero-Energy Home

Posted on November 16th, 2011

On December 10, 2011, from 3:00 to 4:00 pm, Eric Thomas and Alexandra Salmon will be offering tours of their new home, the first in Seattle to produce more energy than it uses. On hand to answer questions will be Ted L. Clifton, the designer of the house, and Ted W. Clifton, the builder, as well as the suppliers of some of the house’s key energy-saving components.

With its air-tight shell, structural insulated panel (SIP) construction, numerous south-facing windows, highly efficient heat pump, and 6,000-watt solar panel array on the roof, this one-of-a-kind house has no electrical bills and costs nothing to heat. No oil, natural gas, or other fuels are used.

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 produce more power than the house uses.

Not only will Thomas and Salmon not pay any energy bills for as long as they own their house, which saves hundreds of dollars a month at today’s rates, but Washington State’s incentive program will pay them nearly $1,000 a year for the next nine years. They’ll also receive a 30% federal tax credit for their solar installation at the end of this year, equal to about $9,000.

More remarkable than the innovative design is that this zero-energy, single-family, custom home was built for less than the price of a townhouse in the area.

“We knew we wanted an energy-efficient house with lots of light and enough space to grow into, but we were on a pretty tight budget,” says Salmon. Realizing this list of requirements would be tough to fulfill with their limited funds (Salmon is a cancer information specialist at Fred Hutch and Thomas is a freelance copywriter), the couple chose stock house plans from Zero-Energy Plans, LLC, a Whidbey Island design company, and modified them slightly to suit their needs.

Salmon and Thomas credit their builder, TC Legend Homes, with helping them choose simple yet functional finishes, which helped keep material and labor costs low. The couple has also taken on a larger role than usual in securing building permits, and they did some finish work themselves, such as installing the wide-plank floors, milled from reclaimed Northwest fir.

“We’re hoping to spread the word to people in Seattle and elsewhere who care about saving energy and saving money that this sort of house is not out of reach,” Thomas says. “Green building is often seen as a luxury, but we’re trying to prove that it doesn’t have to be. We want to encourage as many people as we can to demand more when it comes to energy efficiency. If we were able to do this with a little creativity and very limited funds, just about anyone can do it.”

We concur, what are YOU waiting for? ZEP

About Ted Clifton

Ted L. Clifton has been a designer and builder for more than 45 years. Educated at Berkeley, California, Ted has worked in every phase of construction and knows first-hand what it takes to design and construct a quality home. Having built hundreds of homes as well as commercial and institutional buildings, Ted has the advantage of extensive knowledge of the means and methods used in all three. He has worked in three very different climate zones, from the foothills of California, to Ketchikan, Alaska, to Whidbey Island, Washington.


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