Building green in Ukiah

Three homes packed with features designed to reduce energy consumption were on display Saturday in Ukiah.

“We need to cut back on fossil-fuel usage,” said Deborah McGillivray, whose home on Cypress Street was the first stop in a day of demonstrations and tours of sustainable homes within the City of Ukiah.

“We wanted to show people what they can do to upgrade their houses for energy and water efficiencies,” McGillivray said, explaining that many people in rural areas are much more familiar with ways to live off the energy grid, but city dwellers may not realize they have options for doing so as well.

Front-loading washing machines save water, skylights in bathrooms reduce electricity usage, shade trees and skylight blinds reduce air-conditioning use and weather-stripping windows and doors cuts down on heating bills.

By far the biggest addition to the McGillivrays’ home are the large solar panels mounted on a 15-foot-tall steel pole that aligns the solar array with the roof.

The couple had wanted to put in solar panels for years, but with no shortage of tall trees on their property and their neighbors’ properties, finding a spot where enough sun could reach the panels was a challenge.

Luckily, both Debora and her husband, Terry, are engineers, so they were eventually able to come up with a location and design that worked, since installing them on the roof was not an option.

“The roof doesn’t slope in the right way,” Terry said, explaining that it took him “a while to figure out how we could get sun exposure.”

It took six months to get the permits from the city and cost $17,000 to get the panels and have them installed by Jay Fraser Construction last year. With $8,000 in rebates from the city and federal tax credits, the panels ended up costing $9,000.

Since the panels generate about 75 percent of the couple’s electricity usage in spring, summer and fall and 40 percent in winter, they estimate the panels save $550 a year.

“And with two home offices, we use a fair amount of electricity,” Terry said.

Debora said if any of the steps they’ve taken — converting lawn space to raised beds, adding a compost bin and using a clothes line — inspire others it will be a “win-win.”

The second home on the tour is owned by Richard Kaderli and Linda Sanders and features the first “gray water irrigation system in Ukiah,” installed in 2008.

“Now when the sun shines and our trees are thirsty, we just turn on the lever on the pipe attached to our washing machine and our apple trees and redwood grove are irrigated, lowering our water bill and decreasing our water use,” Sanders said.

While the first two homes are both older homes that have been updated, the third home was a new home built for Andrea and Neil Davis in 2010. Its roof is designed to heat water, collect rain water and reflect heat from the sun.

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