NH Homeowner: Solar is “The Best Thing I’ve ever Done”
Residential Projects | May 19, 2014 | Posted by Fred Greenhalgh
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A proud “Conservative card carrying member of the Sierra Club,” Mark Boren has a passion for protecting the environment that derives from a College Civics class. “The professor told me, ‘If you take one thing away from this class, it’s this – if you care about something, do something about it,’ and for me that was that something was the environment,” Mark says. “But it took a lot of years and buying my own home before I could do something big.”
Something big, in this case, was a triumverate of systems: solar hot water, solar electricity, and air source heat pumps, which combine to evict oil from the Borens’ home and nearly eliminate their electric bill.
“I think a lot of people want to do the right thing, but they always have an excuse – it’s too hard, it’s too expensive, what different will it make?” Mark says. “I guess I was sort of that way – I thought solar, how can I ever afford that? – until I came across one of your lawn signs in front of a neighbor of mine who was going with one of your systems. I called you guys up and I found out that the system was a lot more affordable than I thought it would be and would save me a lot of money.”
Renewable Energy Trio
Mark’s home in suburban Dover, New Hampshire had ample south-facing roofspace to handle two flat plate solar hot water collectors and seventeen photovoltaic (PV) collectors. The solar hot water will provide 80% or more of his family’s domestic hot water from the sun alone, while the PV collectors will provide roughly 5,779 kWhs of electricity annually. The heat pump, a ductless Fujitsu unit, is capable of producing 15,000 BTU per hour and can operate in temperatures as low as -20°F. It can run in one mode for heating, or in the reverse to provide cooling.
The new generation of high-efficiency heat pumps has lead to a beautiful synergy with solar electric technology, which has declined in cost by more that 50% in the last five years. In many homes, it may not be practical to completely remove an oil boiler, but the heat pump can providing comfort-level heat in most of the home, allowing the oil system’s thermostat to be set to a much lower temperature. Even a single heat pump can save hundreds of gallons of oil, and 2-3 units can comfortably heat many homes. Solar panels combined with heat pumps provide heat for a home for the equivalent price of under $1/gallon for oil.
Solar Changed My Life
For Mark’s part, the system has a lot of fringe benefits besides saving money. “It may sound corny,” he says, “But solar has changed my life. Anytime it’s a sunny day, I have an extra smile on my face. It’s maybe the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Next on his horizon? An electric car. “We pay almost $400 a month on gasoline,” he says, “I’d like to see that bill disappear too.”