Klass Hoffmann

Rockford, IL


System Details:


Photovoltaics:
4.3 kW gridtied system installed in two phases 2011 and 2013. The system produces 4.8 MWh/a which is slightly more than the household uses.
Solar thermal:
24 evacuated tubes, provide almost 100% of hot water from March to October for a family of 5. (or more recently 3, or soon 2) Installed 2007. This system is working well, the tankless water heater (Bosch serial number: 0000001) a little less so.



Personal Story: 


We are a family that cares about the environment and we try to live accordingly. We want to minimize the impact on our surroundings and our little world reflects that. Our garden consists of mostly native plants, many of them rescued from nearby construction sites.
We collect the rainwater to be used for watering the plants and to maintain a small raingarden. We planted many trees, to provide shelter from the wind and shade for animals and plants. When we moved to our house in 1994, there were 5 trees at the time, now there are about 50 trees of 32 different species.
Living in an area where power outages happen occasionally, we also added two wood stoves, capable of heating the house, no matter how cold it is outside. Primary heating is thru a high efficiency gas furnace.
Our first experience with solar power we made about 15 years ago, when power outages were more frequent. At the time we installed two 75 Watt panels with battery backup and a sine inverter. This was sufficient to run our refrigerator most of the time but it was also an expensive learning experience as the batteries were a weak link. This did however convince us to continue with going solar.
In parallel to the solar installations we also worked on making the house energy efficient. New appliances are energy star rated, computers get turned off when not in use, a TV we have but never use, all lights are energy efficient and have been like this since day 1.
We replaced almost all the windows with energy efficient ones and we insulated the outside of the house before applying stucco over it.
As we live somewhat away from it all, we do need cars and we have two gas efficient vehicles. This was not always the case. In fact, the solar hot water system from 2007 was purchased when we sold our beloved but gas guzzling old Land Rover.
At this point the cost of solar photovoltaics has come down so far that in my opinion the State subsidies that we received would not be necessary any longer to make this an attractive investment of one's money. Getting the subsidies of course would not hurt but should not drive the decision. First priority should be however given to the avoidance of energy use. This can be thru one's habits, and thru use of efficient appliances and even the design of the house. Only when that step has been made does solar power make sense.


What tips do you have for someone considering or moving forward with a solar installation?


So, if you are considering going solar, have a look at your roof. Do not worry too much about the direction it faces, but there should be areas that are reasonably large and at least for a good part of the year have full sun for a few hours around 1 pm. Roof inclination is not as important but shading is. If the panels will be shaded at different times, consider a system that uses micro inverters.



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