The article below was in the Statesman Journal on September 30 in anticipation of the Green and Solar Tour that took place last weekend.

Salem tour puts spotlight on eight sustainable homes

Event promotes solar energy and green living

By Stefanie Knowlton

Eight of Salem’s most environmentally friendly homes will be open to the public Saturday for the Salem Green + Solar Home Tour.

The tour, now in its third year, shows off Salem’s quiet green-building revolution, which includes everything from a 1946 farmhouse with solar panels to a home under construction that’s set to be one of the most energy efficient in the country.

Sustainable homes make sense, especially in a struggling economy, said James Santana with Pringle Creek Community, which helped organize the tour.

“The basic tenants of sustainability, resource conservation, smart design, massive reductions in energy use, buying local products, could not be any more relevant than here and now.”

The tour is one of 14 throughout the state this fall designed to promote solar energy and green living. They’re a part of the National Solar Tour day Saturday. The nonprofit Solar Oregon touts Oregon’s tours as the biggest events of their kind in the nation.

Salem resident Sally White is one of the stops on Salem’s tour. White installed solar panels on her 900-square-foot farmhouse. She and her husband paid about $28,000 for the panels and a solar hot water heater, but they got nearly half that back in tax incentives this year and the rest will take care of itself in energy savings, Sally White said.

Their electric bills average about $5 in the summer and peak at $23 in January.

Other stops on the tour include Salem’s first green roof, which uses living plants to clean runoff and cool the building, and one of the West Coast’s first Passive House homes, which uses building techniques to create a nearly air-tight envelope for minimum heat loss. The result is so efficient that residents’ body heat contribute a sizeable amount of the home’s warmth.

Owners Sarah Evans and Stuart Rue are eager to share their home even if it’s still six months away from completion.

Visitors will be able to see the bones of the house, Santana said, which is one of the most important aspects. That’s where you can see the double frame that’s key to its energy efficiency.

“It gives us the chance to understand how it works and gain an appreciation for why its design is so much smarter,” Santana said. or (503) 399-6735

Sally White’s house on Wallace Road NW is one of eight featured in the third annual Salem Green + Solar Home Tour. Her rainwater-collecting tank gathered 400 gallons during Tuesday’s rains alone.