Rhoda Family Solar Power Systems
The Rhoda Family installed solar hot water, solar electricity, and a pellet boiler system into their home.

For the next few days, we’re going to focus on a family who did what we call a Hat Trick: The Rhoda Family, who is one of our first clients to have all three of our systems installed in their home.

A solar hot water, wood pellet boiler, and solar electric system later – we wanted to know what inspired the Rhoda family to move forward with each of these projects, so we asked. Lucky for us, Chris and his wife were happy to share their thoughts and experiences. Below is their interesting story as to the processes and measures they took to restructure their home into one that is now providing almost all of its energy usage from renewable resources making this energy efficient home considerably close to net zero.

Narrative by Chris Rhoda

After moving to our new (new to us, built in 1989) 3,000 square foot home in Belgrade last April, we started upgrading our home cosmetically: repainting, re-shingling, etc. In mid winter it occurred to us that energy saving designs had not been on the minds of those who originally built the home. In our attempts to rectify, we first did the easy steps to improve our energy efficiencies. We replaced incandescent light bulbs with CFL bulbs, put shades in windows to keep in heat. In January we experienced an ice dam on the roof which caused leak damage. We were told the damage was presumably due to the heat in our house going into the shingles and decided then to find the root to our home’s heating inefficiencies; we decided to have an energy audit performed. From the State of Maine web site, I contacted three certified energy auditors listed and decided on Kennebec Home Performance (Charlie Holly) to do the work. Charlie projected competence and gave a ‘quick tip’ to check around the chimney for air leaks and then explained how to seal them.

During the audit, Charlie found lots of air leaks and suggested some easy projects I could do myself (electrical plate caulking/insulated covers, pipe wrap, etc). He recommended two companies for attic and basement insulation work and Revision Energy for solar thermal. He gave me some suggestions for measuring my electrical consumption and tips to lower it to prepare for the future installation of a solar electric system. ‘At that time my wife and I were also able to estimate our first year’s oil usage at about 1300 gallons. With rising oil prices, we had a strong desire to work on reducing that usage.

After gaining a sense of the energy we were using, we could make good decisions to what systems we wanted to move forward with. My focus was primarily business-related. Incorporating energy efficient systems to me was more about saving money, so items that had a quicker payback received higher attention. My wife, originally from Vermont, was primarily focused on the environmental aspects of energy efficient systems, how they would decrease the amount of fossil fuels we used, and reduce our carbon footprint. We both were inspired by our daughter to set a good example for her. Combining these focuses made doing these types of projects both interesting and helpful to us.

This narrative is continued to tomorrow, when we’ll learn how the Rhoda’s chose a solar hot water system for the quickest payback in a clean energy system.

UPDATE: Link to Part 2 – solar hot water provides immediate ROI, Part 3 – reducing oil use with wood pellet boiler, and Part 4 – installing a solar electric (PV) system