Note: This house is on the 2012 Solar & Green Building Tour. See Tour Details...
My wife and I moved to upstate NY about 9 years ago. At that time we were living the typical consumer-focused lifestyle and working for corporate America. We met Dave Smalley who introduced us to the concept of Voluntary Simplicity and sent us on our path to Sustainable Living. Since that time we purchased a 50-acre wooded piece of property with a south-facing home. We converted the house to be heated with wood (from oil) and installed both a 4.95kW pole-barn style ground-mounted solar PV system and a 2-collector solar thermal hot water system.
The solar PV system is designed for 110% of the household's usage. We have an electric stove and electric dryer. The heating system has a fan that runs on electricity also. Aside from the well pump and 4 laptops we only then have lights and standard appliances. We do not have a television which although not usually a big energy draw does show savings in our low consumption for a 4-person household. Since our solar PV system is net metered we send back to the grid all the electricity we do not consume. As you can see from the image below of our National Grid bill, our March 2012 bill was $0.00. Although we did take from the grid in Nov., Dec., Jan., and Feb. we sent more back in over the Spring, Summer and Fall to give us a credit at the end of the year. We are currently replacing our old refrigerator and expect to gain an additional 3-4% overage in electricity. Its nice to get paid from National Grid!
The house was not built (c. 1941) as a true passive solar home but does face southerly. On a Sunny day the heat will not come on until 4pm when the Sun no longer sends its heat thru the windows. At night we use insulated shades to keep the heat in.
The solar thermal system will produce ~100% of our hot water needs in the Spring, Summer and early Fall. In the late Fall and Winter the water is heated by wood.
Both my wife Olivia and I felt so strongly about living our lives more sustainably that we both decided to take our passions further and open 'green' businesses. Olivia is a licensed structural engineer and founded The Milovia Group. The Milovia Group specializes in passive solar architecture and sustainable building practices. I founded Allura Solar, a full service solar company specializing in solar PV, solar hot water and solar hybrid heating solutions. If wood is not an option for supplemental heating (primary is the Sun) then a solar hybrid heating system that combines solar thermal collectors integrated with a geothermal heat pump can heat and cool a home 100%. The Coon's residence which is on the solar tour is a great example of a hybrid solar heating system. Coupled with PV you can have a net zero energy home.
Michael and Olivia Cellini