Location: Green Fret Consulting

Solar House Tour

Year 02002 (October 5)

Anna & Bill Clark

House:A brand new log cabin of about 2000 square feet. I don't recall the insulation used, although log cabins are not known for high insulation levels.

Electric System: 12 PV panels mounted on the barn, with a propane generator as backup.

Year 02003 (October 4)

William & Deborah Lord

I visited only one house this year, the Lord's in Kennebunkport, ME. This is probably the most famous solar house in Maine, and it is a showcase of what can be done. The house has 2900 square feet, and is stick built to R-38 walls.

Electric System: 16 ASE 4' x 6' PV Solar panels rated at 4200 watts. Providing an average of 4195 Megawatt-hours of electricity per year thorough a grid-intertie system.

Heating System: 1000 gallons of water heat storage, connected to 480 square feet of solar water panels.

Year 02004 (October 2)

Judith Schmidt

A house for experimenting with, and displaying solar techniques. The owner is very active in promoting renewable technology, and she organizes the solar tour in this area.

House: The house is a large 3500 square foot owner built house.

Electrical system: 32 Seimens PV modules and a 1 kilowatt Bergey XL wind generator supply the batteries for this off grid system.

Heating system: 11 solar hot water panels placed beside the house generate heat into for hot water, the radiant floors, and a hot tub. This system suffered from being experimental, with troubles mixing between the two tanks, and unbalanced heat exchange.

Schmidt Caretaker's House

Kal Winer & Linda Tatelbaum

In contrast, The third house I visited, was built in 1981 and had been solar the entire time. The owners built it themselves, farmed the surroundings all without ever encumbering themselves with a mortgage.

Description: Kal & Linda began to use solar electricity to power their home in 1981. They built their passive solar home in 1977, later adding 2 additions. The electrical system provides power for a high efficiency refrigerator, a computer, & most of the comforts of a grid-connected home. The large battery bank gives them 10 days of backup power for extended cloudy periods; a propane generator is used a few times a year to recharge the batteries. Most of their home runs on 12 & 24 volt DC, but an inverter is used to pump water & run power tools & home appliances. They use a composting toilet to minimize water consumption. They grow most of their own food in their large garden, & use canning & a root cellar to keep their food year round.

Year 02005 (October 1)

Dave & Sue Oakes

Description: Is solar & wind power affordable for the average homeowner in Maine? Can Anyone build a solar and/or wind powered home? We designed ours to answer these questions & demonstrate the simplicity & beauty of an energy efficient home. Ours is a "work in progress" -- It was built by a conventional builder using standard practices & materials, but the differences? 1) It is well insulated with 3 inches Corbond foam in the walls & R40 fiberglass rolls in the roof. 2) It faces south with lots of glass for solar gain. 3) It is built off grid utilizing state of the art solar panels (ten 110 watt "string ribbon" panels) plus a 1 KW wind turbine mounted on a 40' tower, which constitute the approximately 2 KW power system. If you'd like to see how a conventional home can be both energy efficient & beautiful to live in join us for a tour. The 1 KW solar & the 1 KW wind systems are now fully operational.

Home 6. Hope Owner: Ted & Heidi Steele

Description: House 3,000 sq ft, located mile off the road, built in 2002/3 (still a work in progress). 2 KW solar system with 14 BP panels on the roof, 12 Rolls 5000 series Serette deep cycle batteries, Trace inverter. Automatic generator backup, no grid connection for power or phone.

Jim & Mimi Doble

Description: House a 2,000 sq. ft. hybrid timber frame salt-boxish, mostly straw bale outfill. Bale walls finished with earthen plaster, strapped & clapboarded over outside. Finished & moved in December 1999, used solar during building. Solar array: 2000W, 16 Astropower 120W roof mounted panels. Batteries: 4 Surette 6 cell. Inverter: Trace SW4024.5000W Honda generator for back up. House essentials: lights, water & heat pumps, on 24 DC. Inverter supplies AC non-essentials: (washing machine, vacuum) & wood shop. 5 roof solar panels for domestic hot water & radiant floor heat, with wood & gas back ups for winter.

The Lessons:

  1. You can sometimes finance you solar systems from the savings you get from buying land far from the grid.
  2. There is room for both rich and poor on the Solar frontier.
  3. Complicated systems are more prone to complications.
  4. We have a long way to go.