Wouldn’t it be great to have a $0.00 energy bill at the end of the year? This is what we call achieving a net zero building. Basically, a house is net zero when it is able to create as much clean energy onsite as it consumes. There are many factors that can help in achieving this, but it is possible that solar installation alone can get you there. As you will see, this Lancaster-based family experienced just that.
In November of 2015, Dan Mast of Willow Street, PA contacted Belmont Solar to discuss an environmentally friendly way to offset electricity costs. As with many of our clients, Dan’s particular property and situation created unique challenges. He had a vision of installing a heat pump to eliminate the need for burning firewood. He also wanted to eventually ad and electric vehicle to his household.
At Belmont Solar, we love helping people reach their goals and aspirations, and we eagerly began helping this family in Willow Street begin their journey towards solar.
The Initial Steps Toward a Net Zero Building in Willow Street, PA
Dan already appreciated the importance of reducing his carbon footprint and avoiding the environmental impacts of using fossil fuels or burning wood. Hoping to help the Earth rather than hurt it, he worked hard at home to reduce his energy use. He changed his daily habits, incorporating many of the general measures we recommend for saving electricity.
For example, electrical appliances and devices, even when turned off, can continue to draw electricity in standby or sleep mode. Plugging them into power strips that can easily be turned on or off (rather than plugging them into individual outlets) can reduce these “phantom loads” by 100 watts or more. In addition to this, there were several other improvements that Dan made in an attempt to make is Willow Street home a net zero building.
- Installing energy efficient windows
- Installing an energy efficient furnace
- Adding weatherproofing to his home
- Reducing hot water use
- Switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs.
The most impactful change for Dan, however, would be a solar installation for his Lancaster home. And now, Dan was ready to make that leap.
Installing the Solar Energy System for the Net Zero Building
Dan first thought about installing a ground-mounted solar panel array along the driveway, between the road and the house. This would surely get him to a net zero building. However, Dan hesitated because he wasn’t sure about having the solar system visible from the road. The alternative would be a roof-mounted installation on an old barn next to the house. After discovering what it would take to bring the barn roof up to modern building code standards for maximum snow load, Dan decided to go with a ground-mounted design.
Belmont Solar’s installers started looking at the land and found a good spot, but the chosen location would require the removal of two mature trees. Dan had a plan. For a long time, he had toyed with the idea of having an orchard. He decided to remove the trees and offset their loss by planting his orchard in a different area.
In February of 2017, Belmont Solar installed a 17 Kw ground mount system where the two older trees had been. Heat pumps would now use the generated electricity from the system to heat Dan’s net zero building. He would no longer need to haul firewood inside or deal with the unhealthy particulates that wood smoke produces, which pollute both outdoor and indoor air and create dust. His new system would provide clean energy, straight from the sun.
But the best part of all is that Dan took his energy bill from $185 a month to absolutely nothing. He had succeeded in turning his Willow Street home into a net zero building. Soon after, he continued adding to his net zero lifestyle by buying a used Nissan Leaf for $9,000. He added another electric vehicle, a Tesla Model 3, in November of 2019. After going solar, his household is now fully electric. His system produces 17 Kw of power each year, enough for all of his household electricity needs, plus “electron fuel” for two electric vehicles.
In summary, these are the results that Dan Mast and his family experienced from their net zero building in Willow Street, PA:
- A $185 per month electric bill reduced to nothing
- No more firewood
- No more ashes and dust in the house.
- And so much time and hassle saved.
If you are also interested in turning your home into a net zero building, you should definitely check out our extensive article on net zero homes and energy saving tips. It covers everything you need in your journey towards net zero.