Solar tour offers glimpse of efficiency

September 14, 2009 9:03:25 AM PDT
More people are deciding to save energy by installing solar panels -- even while the debate continues over whether they are worth the investment. One way to live green while saving money is to conserve energy. If you've ever wondered whether solar panels are really the best way to do that, you can find out through an upcoming "solar tour."

Harry Drucker's home is on the tour. He said the nearly $25,000 he spent before rebates on photovoltaic solar panels will probably take 25 to 30 years to recoup in savings on his electric bill. But that doesn't bother him.

"The photovoltaic panels require a little bit more of a commitment, an environmental commitment and I like to think when you go buy a new car, people don't question you on what's the economic payback on those leather seats you got!" said Drucker.

Drucker said the solar thermal panels that heat up his water are a 'no brainer.'

"We produce almost all of our hot water for six months of the year and half of our hot water for the other six months. So, that's saving us quite a bit of gas and when gas was up to $1.30 a therm, I figured we were saving about $750 a year."

Drucker wants you to stop by his house. He'll explain all the ins and outs of his panels.

At another home- a three-flat on the Northwest Side of Chicago-- the solar panels double as window awnings. Tenants get free hot water. And there's a third home on the South Side where you can check out a 'hybrid house.' Julian Dawson designed the Kenwood home, which keeps precise records of energy use.

"The photovoltaic array produced approximately 94% of the electricity we used. I'd guess the solar thermal produced about 75% of all the hot water we used," said Julian Dawson.

About 150 homes and businesses are participating in the Illinois Solar Tour next month.

"Some people are looking to purchase systems and they'd like to talk to homeowners as opposed to installers to really get a greater understanding of the energy difference. A lot of people are just fascinated by the technology," said Lisa Albrecht, Illinois Solar Energy Tour. "So a lot of it is just primarily education.

The solar energy tour is on Saturday, October 3. Find out more at http://tour.illinoissolar.org .


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