By Frederick Greenhalgh
As they approached retirement, mechanical and electrical engineer Mike Tabone and his wife Louise spent some time thinking about what they wanted their life to look like. With tumult in the financial markets, investments in more traditional avenues seemed a risky proposition, while the reality of rising energy costs seemed certain.
“I’m old-school,” Mike says, “When I was a young man, I was taught self-sufficiency. That means being able to take care of yourself and your family from things like skyrocketing costs of oil.”
His hunt for a better way to heat his home started with an article about local schools converting to electric heat pumps. He was impressed with the fact that modern mini-split heat pumps would produce heat in outdoor temperatures as low as -15°F.
The same technology used to heat local schools would work just as well in his home. He calculated that it would cost less than half as much as oil to heat his home using electricity with these high-efficiency units, so, he made the switch. Mike settled on three Fujitsu heat pump units to provide for all of the space heating and cooling needs of his home.
But a switch to electric heating alone didn’t meet Mike’s aims for true independence, and he realized that since he was now using electricity for heating and cooling, he could generate that electricity using solar power. “I bumped into a customer of [local solar installer – ed.] ReVision Energy, and got to talking about electric cars and solar energy. I was invited to take a tour of their home and was excited by what I saw.”
Mike and Louise discovered their south-facing roof had enough room to install a 12kw solar electric array, consisting of 47 Canadian Solar monocrystalline solar panels connected to Enphase microinverters. Between April 4 and December 4, 2013, the system had produced over 9,550 kWh of electricity – close to 100% of what the Tabones will need to heat their home this winter.
“We haven’t burned a drop of oil since the day we installed the solar,” Mike says, “It was a cold November and we had the heat pumps keeping our house comfortable even at 8º outside. It looks like we’ll make it all the way to January without having spent a nickel on energy.”
To track system production, Mike installed an eMonitor device which tracks his home’s electric usage in real-time, which he can compare side-by-side to his solar production. So far, the solar production estimates appear on track, and Mike estimates his family has saved $3,900 on energy costs in just 8 months.
“There is an incredible feeling of pride and peace of mind in having the solar electric array on our roof,” he says, “My wife said to me, ‘I thought you were crazy at first, but now I realize what a great thing you’ve done. No matter what happens, we’re free from the burden of energy bills for the rest of our lives.’ It’s a hell of a feeling.”
Frederick Greenhalgh is a manager of Revision Energy in Exeter, New Hampshire.