‘Ambitious enthusiasm’

‘Ambitious enthusiasm’

By Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl, President and Vice President Illinois Renewable Energy Association

“Ambitious enthusiasm” best describes Dan and Cathy Woodford’s solar electric project, an array of 36 Astro panels composing a 2700-watt system, connected to the grid by a Zantrac Suntie XR2500. Dan, a mechanic, spent months researching systems, components, and availability of parts on the Internet. Once he was ready to begin, he took the annual Tour of Solar Homes, hosted by the Illinois Renewable

Energy Association and the Solar Energy Association. He talked with owners of systems, and came home determined to put one in place for his own family. “I’ve always been a do-it-yourselfer,” he acknowledges.

He hired a local expert for guidance and help. As soon as he understood the next step, he forged ahead on his own, drilling holes and connecting all of the wiring. It became a real do-it-yourself project. He selected 10-gauge heavy duty wire, “a little overkill, but worth it.”

He convinced the neighbors to let him cut down two “junk” trees that were shading the array in the late afternoon and expects real

productivity next summer with full sunlight from 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.

The solar electric installation is the latest in a long list of improvements made to the 60-year-old home. The house was gutted and massively remodeled; a foot of insulation is now in the attic, and the walls are R13; 75 percent of the lights in the home are fluorescent; all air tight new windows were added. Where there had been an oil furnace with a 700-watt blower, there is now a 95 percent efficient gas furnace with a D.C. blower and high efficiency central air conditioner. The new refrigerator, eligible for rebate, uses only 440 kilowatt hours annually.

The Woodfords calculated that the system runs everything in the house other than the central air conditioner. Their current electric bill is 22 percent of what it had been.

There are always forms associated with a project such as this. ComEd’s Renewable Energy Manager, Denise Bechen, graciously assisted the couple through their paperwork with the utility. Rex Buhrmester of the

Illinois Department of Energy, Commerce, and Economic Opportunity efficiently and helpfully led them through state forms for their rebate.

Since the Woodfords’ is the first system of its kind in the city, “The inspectors didn’t know what to inspect, so I had to explain it to them.” Dan was especially impressed that Robert Diaz, the city inspector, not only checked to see if the installation met building codes, he also discussed the details of the system after reading all of the technical manuals explaining it.

When asked why they chose to go solar, Dan replied: “I thought it was the right thing to. I wanted to do my part—it’s fun!” Cathy

supported Dan’s efforts from the beginning, adding, “The rebate helped.” She also admires his mechanical ability: “He was the only son in the family who could take a toaster apart and then put it together again!”

Why such a large system? “I wanted to run everything in the house.”

Are the Woodfords happy with their system? “Oh, yes!”

Will this home be on this year’s Tour of Solar Homes? “Oh, yes!”

Editor’s note: We hope to continue this column on renewable energy installations. If you have a solar electric or wind system or use other forms of renewables, or know someone in our service area who does,

please contact Bob & Sonia at 815-732-7332 or sonia@essex1.com.

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