Gray Homeowners Use Solar-Powered Heat Pumps for a House that “Feels like Heaven”
Solar Power | July 17, 2012 | Posted by Fred Greenhalgh
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On a sweltering stretch of early Maine heat we stopped by to visit Bill Friend, a homeowner in Gray with 6 solar panels on his roof and an air source heat pump in his living room. While outside it broiled at 90+ degrees, inside it was a cool 65 degrees.
“It’s incredibly comfortable,” Bill says, “The heat pump runs quiet as a whisper and we no longer have a noisy, smelly oil boiler running in the basement.”
Bill’s foray into solar started in the fall of last year, when after hearing an ad for ReVision Energy on the radio he started browsing our website and learning about solar options for his home. As an IT pro, Bill was excited to explore new technology, especially when he learned that the price of solar panels had dropped dramatically in the last 4 years.
“I had a solar attic fan installed some years ago so I saw how the technology worked, but it just wasn’t economical to go full PV at that time,” Bill says, “But when I had a chance to visit [NABCEP certified PV specialist] Will Kessler, I learned that the economics of solar had changed a lot. Will talked me through the process of producing my own power with solar and suggested replacing my aging boiler with a heat pump water heater.”
The interest in heat pump technologies lead Will to connect Bill with our sister company, ReVision Heat. Co-founder Pat Coon came out, and after reviewing Bill’s home, and existing energy bills, was able to determine that in addition to adding a heat pump water heater, Bill could install an air-source heat pump for heating/cooling and be able to eliminate his boiler completely – for less money than that of a new boiler! Moreover, since both the heat pumps are powered by electricity, Bill was able to install a solar electric system to offset roughly 100% of the energy used by the new systems, and not quite half of his home’s total usage.
Bill reports that the two ReVision companies were great tag-team partners throughout the process. “I was very impressed with how smoothly it went,” he says, “They had the heat pump installed in a day, and the solar electric system installed in just 1/2 a day in nasty weather, to boot!”
Now that it’s running, Bill not only enjoys significant savings – his old boiler was pulled out completely – but a suite of intangible benefits. “It’s really very elegant in design. The smell of oil has been banished from my basement, and I have maybe 25% more room down there to convert into useful living space. And, with solar, I no longer have to feel guilty about making the house comfortable. The heat pump chills my house beautifully and we’re still making extra solar power.”
A Little Piece of Heaven
As we wrapped up our conversation, it was 92 degrees outside and Bill’s wife, Karen, a teacher, returned from work. When she walked in, Karen put the benefits of the system plainly: “Yesterday, I could have been in an advertisement for you guys. It was sweltering at school and the A/C had been turned off. It used to be, when I walked into my house on a day like today, the thermostat was off the meter. Now, I walk in and it feels like heaven.”
Bill’s solar electric has started as six panels but he’s eager to double that next spring, which will eliminate his electric bill completely. For him, the economics are the practical part of making the project work but the environmental benefits are huge as well. “It’s sad that Green or environmentally friendly technology has become part of the culture wars,” he says, “That’s why I’m glad that I can talk to naysayers about a 10-year payback period and guaranteed ROI – it’s something everyone understands! And then on those sunny days, I can be out using power in my yard and know that it’s free from the sun. How can you put a price on that?”
ReVision offers a free consultation for solar energy systems, and also has put together a guide on comparing whether solar hot water or a heat pump water heater makes more sense for you.