living lightly

We wanted to do what we could to lessen our reliance on non-renewable energy so we installed solar assists, both for hot water heating and electricity.


pole-mounted solar arrayEntering from the driveway, the most noticeable feature is the pole-mounted solar assists. The array houses tubes for heating water and panels for generating electricity from sunshine. These don't have enough capacity to meet all our water heating and electrical needs, but they do make a difference.

We're not off the grid. So we sell excess electricity that we produce to the electric utility. We are paid 15 cents per KWH for what we transfer to the electric line. Also there are quarterly rebates based on the electricity we produce. There are two meters that keep track of this.

I'm keeping a log of our electrical production and how much we save. A bottom line number is that so far our electric bill has been less than $50 per month. Since we turned on the solar electric production, we have generated 1025 kWh, though most of that was used in the house.

evacuated tubes for heating waterThe evacuated tubes do a good job of collecting heat from the sun. They can provide water at around 150 degrees on a sunny day. The time of the year doesn't matter much because the tubes are like thermoses with a clear outside. Sunlight warms a central core, called a heat pipe, which contains a special liquid that has a very high boiling temperature. Heat transfers to fluid in a manifold at the top of the tubes that passes through a heat exchangers in the hot water storage tank. During the summer the temperature in the storage tank often exceeded the setting for the tank's boiler, so for some time during these days the boiler seldom cames on.

So we feel we have made a couple of good steps toward using more renewable energy.