Long Time No See but Plenty of Sunshine in the Meantime


Its been a LONG time since I last posted an update. I guess I have just become lazy since the system has been running flawlessly and churning out power EXACTLY as PVWatts predicted. For the 20 months my system has been in operation PVWatts predicted 33,049 KWH. As of December 31st 2011 I had generated 33,031. That is a difference of ONLY 18 KWH – unbelievable! People ask me what kind of routine system maintenance I need to do – the answer is nothing – seems like when it rains the panels get a good cleaning.

The flawless operation & incredibly predictability of the system has been great. The bad news however is that the Delaware SREC market has TANKED in the past year and despite a recent flurry of legislation I don’t know exactly what is going on except the RECs are at $60 now down from a high of $275 at one point – ouch.


First 100+ kWh Day & Megawatt Generated

Last Friday I completed the paperwork with the sate that makes us an official “Renewable Energy Generator” in Delaware.  In my mind that means I am a power company now or as my brother-in-law describes it “owner of half-mile island“. Today we also hit a couple of milestones. Not only did we generate >100kWh for the day but also reached 1,044 kWh over our first 13 days of production. That comes out to an average of ~80.29 kWh per day over this time period which is about 23% over the 65 kWh I estimated per day for May. Now I am probably unusually lucky with the number of sunny days so far but at least we are doing well out of the gate. If you add up the energy produced & SREC credit the grand total in real $ made over the 13 days is ~$450. Not bad for our first lemonade stand.

I was going to post some video of the meter running backwards but the digital meter I have now isn’t the “smart” meter that is supposedly going to be installed this week.


First Day of $reen Energy Production

I am happy to report that our new Solar System is complete and today we had our first full day of production. As you can see the system produced a total of 98.37kWh of power today and between 12 & 1 this afternoon maxed out at a steady 13,000 watts of continuous output. So this = ~$13.79 in savings from the power company and an additional ~$23.6 in SREC income or a cool ~$37.39 total. Not bad for the first day…  Over the weekend I will post more info and a video of the meter running backwards.

If you would like to follow our energy production in real time just click here.



My kids came home from school yesterday and said it was Earth Day. I had no idea we were starting the solar installation on the same day. It must have been a good sign because after two days of good weather all of the 64 solar panels are now mounted on the roof. On Monday we will run the wiring down to the basement and hopefully be in the energy business by Tuesday.

You can see more pictures here.

Solar Install Part 2 video is here.


Getting Energized

My dad doesn’t look too energized about the recent “upgrades” that have been going on around the house but trust me he is happy. Domenic Sr. turns 81 next week and I can only hope I have as much energy as he does when I get to be his age (if I make it that far). He just wants all of this stuff to get done so he can plant his tomato garden (aka Italian Roses).

Anyway, over the last couple of days all of the rails have been bolted to the roof and as of this evening we have 24 of the 64 solar panels mounted. The inverters have also been hung on the wall in the basement computer room. The plan for tomorrow is to get the remaining 40 panels installed and complete the wiring that will go from the roof to the basement. By early next week everything should be up and running.

You can see more pictures here.

Solar Install Part 1 video is here.


Geothermal Complete!

Calvert wrapped up the Geothermal portion of our project yesterday and did an excellent overall job. Before a cold front rolled in last night we tried the air conditioning and my wife said “this house has never been so cool, this is great”.

Here are some pictures of the completed system.

Next Wednesday the solar panel installation will begin and should only take three or so days to complete. If the weather holds up I can’t beleive both systems will be functional in less than a week.


Manifold Madness

The geothermal portion of our project is nearing completion and we should be fully operational by the end of the week. Today the inside portion of the coolant piping was completed. Basically two 2″ lines come into my basement data room from outside, get split into four 1.25″ lines that run out and through the ceiling of my office into the boiler room. Once in the boiler room each set of  lines go into separate manifold / pump assemblies that feed each of the geothermal units independently. Several more pics are here. Tomorrow the Ecobee thermostats will be installed along with the downstairs zone controller. We should be up and running in a couple more days.

On a related note I got word yesterday from the solar contractor that we should be able to start intalling the panels in a couple of weeks or so. Stay tuned…


Trench Warfare

After several days of rain we finally got a a good day to trench the geothermal lines into the house and start the installation of the heat pumps. Its going to be unusually warm tomorrow (90F) so my wife is “encouraging” the installers to move things along as fast as possible.

Today the trench was opened, the wells were tied together, the supply & return lines were stubbed into the basement, and they even had enough time to fill the trench back in. In parallel the HVAC guys removed the old basement system, removed one of our hot water heaters (but left the 90 gallon one which is enough), and roughed in the geothermal units in the boiler room. Tomorrow they will make more progress on the downstairs system and hopefully start the upstairs system.

Pics of the old system

Pics of the new system

Pics of the trenching

Video of the mayhem

Update – May 9th – The inside installations are progressing but very slowly. It looks like the systems won’t be totally completed until next Thursday the 18th. No real issues but its just taking longer than expected. Some real cool looking gear is getting installed in the basement in and around the units so I will post some new pics as things take shape.

Drill Baby, Drill!

Today was the first day of Geothermal well drilling. Originally the plan was to drill four ~300′ wells but after hitting a layer of rock they decided to go with three ~400′ wells instead. When everything is finished we will have about a half mile of underground plastic pipe providing over 7 tons of heating and cooling capacity. We wanted to place the wells in the back yard but since the ground is so wet  they weren’t able get the equipment up the hill so now we get to destroy the front yard also (smile). Once the wells are complete they will dig a trench to the basement and run the lines into the boiler room.

Day 1 drilling pictures are here and the video is here.

Update – We hit some water on days/ wells  2 and 3 but all three are now complete. The next step is to fill the shafts in with thermal grout to maximize heat transfer and then (next week) to trench to the house.  A few more pics are here. Our front yard never looked better…


Clear Cut



Its sort of ironic that I need to cut down several trees to be “green” but then again that’s how it goes sometimes… Many of the trees in my backyard are getting cut down tomorrow so here is the first of many short Video Blogs that will document the project over time.

Before & after Pictures are available here.

The Geothermal wells are going to be drilled in about two weeks (4 wells = 4 days of work) with the actual system going in afterward (5 more days of work). I will have lots of pictures and additional video then.

Geothermal Contractor Selected

Calvert Comfort Heating and Cooling will be our Geothermal installer. Also K.L. Madron will be digging the wells. We should be able to get started with the Geothermal portion of the project much sooner than the solar.

The Geothermal system will consist of:

Solar Contractor Selected

We have selected KW Solar as our solar power installer. Before we can start the actual installation we need to wait for the panels to arrive and the go ahead from Demarva Power . I am told that this process can take up to three months – argh! In the meantime I am going to concentrate on cutting down some trees in the back-yard, removing the attic fan, and getting the electrical panels ready.

The solar system will consist of:


What’s all of this going to cost?

Good question! “You need to spend money to make money” definitely applies here…

Before we get to the costs I should first talk about how much energy we are consuming a year. My current annual energy consumption is as follows;

Total Kilowatt Hours = 35,000

Total CCF (natural gas) = 1,500

A 14.72kw solar system will generate about 20,000 kWh of energy annually in my area (an offset of $2,823 per year @ $.14 per kilowatt hour). In addition the SRECs will bring in ~$5K in annual income.  The geothermal system (actually two separate systems for my house) will save ~70% on heating costs and ~50% on cooling costs plus heat over 50% of our hot water.

In round numbers I estimate the 14.72kw solar system will run about $95K and the geothermal system will be about $48K (all before rebates & tax credits or about 1/2 the cost afterwards). Now that is a HUGE upfront investment but the payback is only about eight years. The way I look at it if I were to do nothing & energy costs didn’t go up over the next ten years I was looking at spending at least $75K anyway. With this investment I should break even in a shorter amount of time & will totally eliminate my energy bills plus turn an annual profit of $2,000.


Welcome to the Italian Palace!

The Italian Palace is what ended up being the nickname of our home after we remodeled it a few years ago. We cut the roof off of the the original three-bedroom ranch, added a story, and finished the basement. The net result was a 13 room, 6 bedroom, and six full bathroom 5,500 square foot monster!

Sounds like a dream home right? That’s what we thought until our first gas & electric bill arrived. Our yearly energy costs have been averaging over $7,500 which comes out to around $625 a month. Even with this “investment” in energy the house is cold in the winter and hot in the summer because I keep the thermostat at levels that my family will barely tolerate (around 64 & 79 degrees).

Obviously our energy costs are way out of control and I needed to figure out a way to get things turned around. When I first started looking for a solution a few years ago Geothermal and Solar energy emerged as the technologies that could substantially lower our energy costs but at the time it wasn’t very attractive from an up-front investment and payback perspective.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides for a 30% federal tax credit for Solar and Geothermal systems with no cap on the total system cost. This plus additional State incentives made me take another look at the economics of going with renewable energy.

This winter I crunched the numbers and decided it was time to invest in a 14.72kw solar system along with Geothermal for my HVAC. My analysis showed that I could eliminate my $7,500 annual spend and actually turn a profit of `$2,000 per year. This would be through a vastly more efficient HVAC system, generation of ~20K kWh per year, and income from Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs)

This blog will document the entire process from the selection and installation of the equipment to the post installation savings.


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