A conversation on Facebook prompted Eddy and me to visit Scharmel Roussel’s house.
Scharmel and I have been friends for a while. We both believe that clean energy will help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and protect the planet. She and I worked to pass federal climate and energy legislation for the past year.
Scharmel and I also like to incorporate clean energy in our lives. Eddy and I have been weatherizing our 1,450 square-feet home, circa 1917, for the past several years. Scharmel reduced her energy use by moving to a 1,300 square-feet patio home that was built six years ago. She also had my good friend, Bill Ball with Stellar Sun, install a photovoltaic (PV) system on her roof.
I knew Scharmel had solar panels on her roof, but for some reason, I didn’t ask her for details until she posted on Facebook that solar panels aren’t for wealthy, and that middle class families can afford them. One of her Facebook friends commented on her post, asking how much her panels cost. I chimed in, asking how big is her house. She answered, “Approximately $18,000 for 20 solar panels and installation. 30% federal tax credit. $1.50 from the state of Arkansas for kWh produced for the first year – about $5,500. The federal tax credit and state rebates brought the cost down to about $7,000. Twenty solar panels are estimated to produce 3,888 kWh a year. I use approximately 6,000 kWh a year. I live in a 1,300 square-feet patio home.”
Her response intrigued Eddy and me. $7,000 for a PV system??? That’s less than what we paid for our new energy efficiency HVAC system! And, the size of her house and her energy use are comparable to ours. (Eddy and I use approximately 7,000 kWh of energy each year.) Eddy and I had to go check out Scharmel’s PV system.
Scharmel lives in a six year-old, 1,300 square-feet patio home that uses approximately 6,000 kWh of energy each year. Since her home is new, it’s energy efficient enough that she was able to install a PV system. As my friend Bill Ball would say, energy efficiency is the first step toward any renewable energy system. If your house leaks like a sieve, installing a renewable energy system is like flushing money down the drain. If your house is not energy efficient, air that you cool (and heat, in some cases) will escape your house very quickly, causing you to use more energy to cool (and heat) the house. More energy that you use, a larger and more expensive renewable energy system that you would need.
Scharmel’s house is energy efficient enough that it made sense to install a PV system. On sunny days, her panels produce 12 kWh per day. From May 12, 2010, to July 24, 2010 (when I interviewed her), her panels have produced 1,065 kWh. Her annual energy production is projected to be 3,888 kWh. Since her estimated annual electricity use is 6,000 kWh, Scharmel’s house is not off the grid. Her electricity bills, however, remain very low because her house is energy efficient, and she produces some of the energy that she uses.
Eddy and I left Scharmel’s house extremely excited about the possibility of installing a PV system for our home. We immediately contacted our friend Bill Ball with Stellar Sun. The result?
Stay tuned for the next installment of Nao and Eddy’s Solar Adventure!