‘Novices’ try it all


Jeff and Judy Zaiser’s pole barn with PV panels.

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl

President and Vice President

Illinois Renewable Energy Association

Although they are self-professed ìnovice renewable energy people,î Jeff and Judy Zaiser of rural Leaf River, Ill., are consciously trying many aspects of the practices.

The basement, which formerly had 20 100-watt bulbs running on a single circuit, now has only compact fluorescents. They ìrecycle everything,î and compress aluminum cans for ease of storage. Having recently moved from Byron, Ill., to the country, they enjoy their ìgreat viewî and their acre of prairie, which they burned last spring. About four or five of their 10 acres are rented to a local farmer. They are delighted by their perennial blueberries, cherries, apples and asparagus, and plan to get a rain barrel for their vegetable garden. They also feed songbirds and watch the wildlife, including deer, turkeys and raccoons. The 2,500-square-foot house has a 5-ton geothermal heating system installed by Don Martin of Janesville, Wis. A 300-foot-long tube under their cornfield brings air modified by the earthís temperature to the water furnace. The Zaisers considered a 50-gallon- per-minute ìpump and dumpî system, but felt it would be unnecessarily wasteful, so went with a sealed loop, which contains 20 percent biodegradable alcohol. In addition to providing warm air in winter and cool air in summer, the geothermal system heats their water. They expect to recoup geothermal expenses in five years.

The new system eliminated a $2,700 propane bill when the old furnace was removed. They will buy a small tank of propane for a generator to run the sump pump in case of an electrical outage. Jeff, a former industrial arts teacher and currently an engineer at Hamilton-Sundstrand, installed an insert on their native limestone fireplace.

They feel it provides much of the heat for their home, set at 65 degrees, since the central systemusually cuts in after bed-time. The Zaisers recently had a 4.2-kW PV system installed by Dave Merrill. The electricity produced is being used to power the radiant heating in their new pole barn. They donít know what their electric bills will be, since they still have a ìsmartî meter, which reads all electrical flow, both in and out. They plan to add eight more panels, enlarging the system to 5 kW. They intend to have a Skystream 2.4-kW wind turbine installed by the end of April when Illinois rebates will expire. At one time, the telephone company planned to erect a tower on the property the Zaisers now own.


From the Feb. 10-16, 2010 issue

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