Solar Champion Stories

Solar Champions Live the Solar Lifestyle

Dana and Paula Ward have been incredible Solar Champions ever since they first met ReVision at an event in 2018. In addition to installing rooftop solar, heat pumps, a heat pump water heater, and an EV charger at their Biddeford, ME, home, the Wards have also been instrumental in helping others go solar, through our referral program and other efforts. They have hosted two Solar Open Houses, welcoming solar-curious people into their home from across the region, participated in our first Virtual Solar Tour during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, and been active in our online community of Solar Champions. Dana works at Peoples Choice Credit Union, where he helped launch their EV charging initiative; the credit union's EV chargers are now up and running, and sending all proceeds to the Campaign for Ending Hunger.

What made you first consider going solar? 

MicrosoftTeams-image (8).pngDana Ward: We first learned of ReVision Energy and considered the possibility of solar when visiting my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Cliff and Anne Babkirk, at their home on Sand Pond in Sanford. They have a home that is facing the pond on the north side, and a roof that is facing the south, the most ideal facing direction for solar panels, which they have positioned on the front side of their home. Their solar panels and heat pump intrigued us, and I decided to attend a ReVision Energy breakfast and solar home tour at their home on a Saturday morning 5 years ago. It was from that learning experience that my wife Paula and I decided to take the next step of having ReVision come to our home to do a solar site evaluation.

MicrosoftTeams-image (10).pngThe site evaluation showed that our home was a good candidate for solar panels. After reviewing the solar audit, total cost of the installation and the estimated break-even point, we decided to proceed with solar panels, an air source heat pump (mini-split), and an air source hot water heater.

In 2021 we had ReVision install a second mini-split in our basement, after we finished our walkout basement. It heats and cools those rooms very nicely. We also had ReVision install an EV charger at the same time, for our 2020 Toyota Prius Prime, plug-in electric/gas hybrid car. Our home is net-zero - the solar panels provide all of the electricity needed to heat, cool, heat our hot water, and they cover all of our electrical power needs. 

What was the overall process like?

dana_ward_prius_hybrid.jpgDana Ward: It was a wonderful experience from the beginning with the solar audit, and through the entire installation process. ReVision employees are some of the best service and installation providers that we have ever had work at our home, both in Biddeford, and at our prior home in Brewer. From the solar advisor, to the electricians, to the installers, they all offer awesome customer service that is professional, and at the same time personal and friendly. The installers, who are very experienced and knowledgeable, answered our questions as the installation process proceeded. I ate lunch with them one day on our deck, and I got to know them more personally. 

What has been the most surprising part of the technologies?

Dana Ward: The 'set it and forget it' aspect for the solar panels and heat pumps. They all work together seamlessly and - except for checking our solar production on the SolarEdge app from time to time - it is easy to forget that we even have them, as they do their job perfectly. Our home is consistently warm in the winter, and cool in the summer, all compliments of the sun!

How do your heat pumps hold up in Maine's cold winters?

MicrosoftTeams-image (9).pngDana: They worked exceptionally well during this winter's cold snap! On the coldest days when the air temperature reached -17 degrees, they kept pumping out the heat and maintained the temperature evenly.

At one point we turned on our propane boiler for the upper level, as we know at below zero degrees propane may be somewhat more efficient than electricity is for the heat pumps. As those days that are below zero degrees are for just a few days each winter, ordinarily the mini-splits are more efficient than any other form of heating. We also use them for cooling in the summer. And considering ours are powered by the sun, you can’t get any more efficient than that!

What is it like having a hybrid EV and home EV charging? 

Dana: It is great having the ReVision-installed EV charger for our 2020 Prius Prime! We get around 22 miles on a charge in the winter, and around 30 miles in the summer. I also have a regular Prius (a 2006 with 198k miles on it!) that I drive a couple days to my workplace in Saco, as I have a hybrid remote work schedule. As much of our travel is in the Biddeford and greater Portland area, we use relatively little gas over the course of a year.

The most travel we do outside of the area is to visit our children, who live and work in Boston. So, when we travel there, depending on the season, the first 22 to 30 miles is on the battery, then when it kicks into the regular gas/electric hybrid mode, we average around 55 MPG in the winter, and around 60 MPG in the summer. So, even when we are in regular hybrid mode, we still get phenomenal MPG figures!

Are you considering any other solar technologies?

Dana: Not at this point, as where we live in Biddeford on the University of New England area of the power line, we rarely lose power, and when we do it is usually out for just a few hours. If we lost power a lot we would consider battery back-up, but otherwise it is not economically feasible to at this point. As technology improves and the costs come down, we may reassess having batteries installed at some point.

What is your favorite part of your solar lifestyle?

dana_ward_electric_mower.jpgDana: We enjoy our solar lifestyle immensely! I would encourage people to have the ReVision Energy audit conducted for their home. It is free and it will reveal the long-term cost savings with solar power, including installing heat pumps that are powered by the solar panels. And for those individuals who have a hybrid electric/gas, or full electric vehicle, I would encourage them to consider a home EV charger like we have.

Our break-even point will be in just 4 more years. After that it will be money staying in our pockets. We love the idea that with solar we are not giving away our money to a foreign-owned electricity conglomerate. The electric company serving our area of Maine is a monopoly that virtually no one has control over. They can increase electricity costs at any point, which they have done over the last several years, and rate increases are often allowed by the regulators. As we know, electricity costs have skyrocketed over the last few years, but not for us, as we pay just a $14/month bill.

We also are happy to minimize our carbon footprint. It is a win-win solar home lifestyle, by saving money in the long run, and also in helping our environment. In the last four years since ReVision Energy installed our solar panels, our SolarEdge app shows that we saved 86,818.5 lbs. of carbon emissions, and we planted an equivalent of 656 trees. We are pleased to have done so for our precious environment!