Heidi and Al Davison.
Over the last several years, we have made investments large and small to make our home as energy efficient as we possibly can. Our goals have been to walk softly on our planet and to save money.
Our wooded yard helps to reduce heating and cooling costs but more was needed. Changes we’ve incorporated into the house include blowing additional insulation into the attic; replacing all the old jalousie windows with double-pane, high efficiency windows; every lightbulb changed to LED or CFL; purchasing new Energy Star dishwasher and computers; replacing the old thermostat with an EcoBee and purchasing two additional sensors. All of these have yielded a decrease in our utility bills and our energy footprint.
Solar has been on our radar for a long time but were just too expensive, so we continued to minimize our energy usage in as many ways as we could: never using the dishwasher or washing machine during peak hours, line-drying our clothes, adjusting the thermostat higher in summer and lower in winter, etc. We even went so far as to have solar companies give us estimates.
Then came Solarize Athens. We immediately signed up for an evaluation. After reading about similar programs sponsored by other cities and counties across the country we knew this might be our opportunity. After carefully reviewing the expected solar production—remember, we have a very wooded lot—placement of the panels to capture as much solar as possible; tax rebates and an economy of scale savings if enough people signed up, which has happened; plus the return on investment; long it would take for the installation to pay for itself and the increased value of our home, we said yes.
We are very happy with our system and installation. Since the very first day, we have been producing more power during daylight hours than we can use. We are definitely hitting the numbers projected in the proposal from Solarize Athens.
People ask us about our system all the time, and we explain to them that our situation wasn’t ideal for solar because of our tree canopy, but the proposal factored the reduced efficiency into the “payback” calculations. I explain it to people like this—as long as we produce as much as we need then there isn’t any issue about whether we are producing the maximum. Without a storage system (which we are not considering), producing enough is enough.
The projections presented match what we are producing; the installation was very clean and well done; the follow-ups I’ve gotten from the Solarize Athens team have demonstrated their commitment to our complete satisfaction—we are very pleased.
Thanks to Andrew Saunders, Athens-Clarke County environmental coordinator, for his help with Solarize Athens. Our thanks also go to the Mayor and Commission for signing a resolution committing to more solar. But, that resolution will be worth nothing more than the piece of paper it was written on without a true commitment—money in the budget to place more solar on government buildings, which will yield decreased energy costs, i.e. savings to our government over time.
So, if you are thinking about solar, sign up for an evaluation with Solarize Athens and, even if your situation won’t yield the hoped for results, contact your commissioner to encourage him or her to commit dollars to solarizing our government facilities.
Editor's note: Heidi Davison served as mayor of Athens-Clarke County from 2003–2010. The Solarize Athens program ends on Apr. 30.