Rhoda Grid Tied Solar Power
Two Meters: The top meter reads the amount of electricity the home is using; the bottom meter reads the amount of electricity the panels make. The bottom meter will spin backwards if the panels make more than the home is using at any given time.

Today we conclude the narrative of the Rhoda Family, one of the first ReVision customers to install three renewable energy systems:solar hot water, wood pellet boiler, and solar electric.

Yesterday we saw how investing in a pellet boiler allowed the Rhodas to dramatically decrease their use of fossil fuels for heating.

Chris Rhoda today explains why completing the system with clean energy from the sun is a wise investment in the future:

Prior to Charlie’s arrival I had read that 20% of a home’s water use can be toilets. My wife and I decided to change one of our three 3.5 gpf toilets to a 1.6 gpf toilet on the second floor to see if it would save on electricity since we had a whole-house Reverse Osmosis (RO) system. We knew we would save almost 7,000 gallons of water each year (10 flushes per day x 1.9 gallons x 365 days).

We were pleasantly surprised when receiving our next electric bill to find out it had dropped by $20. Later we came to learn that our RO system was over-spec’d. Our 220 volt motor was not required for hot water, 2nd floor toilets, or our washing machine. We also realized that we only had slightly elevated arsenic levels which affect our drinking and cooking only water but not our bathing, clothing, or dish washing water.

We decided we were best suited for a kitchen point of use iron oxide system versus a whole house point of entry system. We have now disconnected the whole-house RO system and replaced it with a point of use filtration system giving us safe drinking water in our kitchen and refrigerator ice maker. Other discoveries we made were that certain appliances were using watts when not in use.

For example an inexpensive radio was costing us over $1.30 per month simply by remaining plugged in all the time. We haven’t had time to investigate all of our electrical appliances, but plan to in the future. The fact that we started to take steps to reduce our electrical consumption put us in a good position to consider a solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system.

While the payback is longer than hot water or wood boilers, we feel it will be a selling point for the house when we are ready to move in that direction. For now, however, this project was important enough for us to move forward with regardless of payback. The third path for our family was installing a 3.5kW solar electric system with the ability to add more panels in the future. This system is connected to the utility grid. Our utility provider installed a second meter free of charge. One meter reads the amount of electricity that our home is using; the second meter reads the electricity the solar panels are making. We then get billed or credited the difference.

In Conclusion: The installation technicians were both personable and conscientious throughout the processes. Some of the highlights so far are how little our oil furnace now runs, and how consistent the hot water temperatures are. Also, our house is much more comfortable now that we can heat it for less. We’ve raised the temperature in most rooms from 64 to 68 degrees and opened parts that were once closed off in the winter. One more bonus, we now have a warm basement due to our new boiler. There is a game room down there that is now more comfortable in the winter. The best feeling though is no longer watching the price of oil, as we’ve only used 30 gallons in the past 11 months, and especially looking forward to each sunny day.

We hope you’ve found the Rhoda family’s story as inspiring as we have – by reducing energy use and making smart investments in renewable energy technology, you can reduce utility bills significantly and subsequently help out the environment.

Review the whole project: Link to Part 1 – Rhoda Family Introduction, Part 2 – solar hot water provides immediate ROI, and Part 3 – reducing oil use with wood pellet boiler