Go outside. Take a good look at your house. If it survived the ravages of Sandy, you may be looking at it with new reverence, grateful for its shelter and security. However, your home could be doing even more for you. It could be saving you money and saving the environment at the same time.
How? The sun. Specifically, PV solar, the conversion of the sun’s energy into electricity. In the past, converting to solar power has been cost prohibitive. Not anymore, due to Solarize Fairfield, a new program developed through Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA). Designed to encourage the adoption of residential solar by making it affordable, the Solarize pilot program is taking place in four towns — Durham, Fairfield, Portland and Westport.
The Solarize Fairfield team has chosen Astrum Solar, one of the largest providers of photovoltaic (PV) systems in the northeast as its installer. With incentives from the state, Astrum is offering a tiered pricing structure — the more people in the community go solar, the cheaper it becomes for everybody. They make the process user friendly, handling everything from the initial measurements to permits and paperwork for grants and rebates.
Tom and Corina Havard were some of the first Fairfield neighbors to sign up under the new incentives. Ironically, their panels were installed during the blackout after Sandy, with Astrum’s crew working right through — charging their tools on their truck.
With their electric bill averaging about $160 per month, the Havards, who purchased the system, anticipate producing 65% of their electricity needs through solar, saving about $100 per month. Corina noted how much energy a house with kids uses. “Laundry, dishes, Tivo, electronics and all the underlying power. There are so many things that are designed to stay on, like TV’s and stereos. They are constantly sucking up energy.“
For Tom, it was a chance to offset his own carbon footprint as well as save. “I drive 35 miles each way to work. If there is something I can do to compensate for just that little bit, I will.” He added, “The kids think its cool and it sets a good example for them. We have a fairly modest income, and if we can swing it, I would think that a lot more people could too. People talk about clean energy like its some futuristic thing but it’s really happening. And if more people got on board it would make a huge impact.“
One could feel the community buzz the day Larry and Sharon Kaley’s system was installed. The event had all the neighborly feel of an old-fashioned barn raising. As a crew of installers worked the rooftop and the ground, the Kaley’s front yard filled with the curious. Many watching had already signed up for Astrum’s free home study, and were there out of excitement and curiosity about the actual process. Others saw the Solarize Fairfield signs out on the road and stopped to see what the deal was.
The Kaleys also chose to purchase their system, which cost $6,700 and should cover 100% of their home’s electricity. Astrum estimates the environmental benefits of the Kaley’s system are equivalent to planting 183 trees. This, more than anything is what appeals to Larry, champion of all things environmental in Fairfield. He serves as chair of the Clean Energy Task Force and of Fairfield’s Earth Day Celebration, and also volunteered for the Solarize Fairfield team along with Bob Wall, Stephanie Klein and Scott Thompson. “Environmental issues are important to me, so I decided to put my money where my mouth is,” he said.
Kaley is all for paying it forward. “People say ‘What difference can I make?’ But lots of us together can make a difference. Sandy, Irene, there are all these weather related phenomena, which we haven’t before seen with the intensity that we are now. There is more indication that something is happening. One of my motivations is my family,” he said. “I care about the kids.”
Not ready to outlay the money for your own panels? Solarize Fairfield also offers a leasing program with no money down. With this option you can still save up to 75% of your electric bill and lower your carbon footprint. There has never been a better time to go solar.
Astrum’s online calculator is easy, and fun to estimate your monetary and environmental savings. The system also comes with a 25 year warranty. Astrum monitors remotely and will fix anything that goes wrong.
Michelle Waldegir, vice president of marketing for Astrum, calls solar “the new normal.” Solarize Fairfield is hoping so. A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that solar PV panels have had a positive effect on home prices in California, often equaling in premiums the cost of the initial investment. And The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy says that a home with solar will sell twice as fast as a home without solar. “Can you imagine buying a house that has no electric bill, or it’s very low,” asked Kaley?
With the atmospheric volumes of greenhouse gases hitting a new record in 2011, it would seem that the time for solar is now. The place is here. But you must hurry to meet the deadline of Dec. 14 to qualify for the Solarize Fairfield incentives. “As time runs out, more people might show interest. It’s like a sale that’s going to end,” said Kaley.
For more information, visit go.astrumsolar.com/solarizefairfield or call 1-800-903-6130.