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Residential Solar Hot Water

Meet Heather

Meet Heather

Meet Heather

Heather Severson is a mom, writer, a professional technology liaison at the Southern Arizona Writing Project, and a sustainability role model.  Her advice to those trying to go solar is pretty simple, “Start small; any step you take is in the right direction. It’ll make you feel good and it will pay for itself. There are so many non-quantifiable benefits to the planet and living right that there are no regrets, and you may find it addictive!” Heather has been interested in solar power since it first became available. She grew up in a home that composted and collected rainwater, and has continued to build on her environmentally conscious roots. As an adult and a homeowner, she was inspired by friends in the sustainability community to research solar. Now she is the inspiration for many others, including her children, neighbors and community members.

Heather was one of the first TFS customers to install solar electric (photovoltaic), solar hot water and rainwater harvesting all at once back in 2006. She recently added to her photovoltaic (PV) system by utilizing the Sun Power Lease and working with TFS through the Solar Benefits Tucson (SBT) Program.  Heather says the TFS mission statement of putting values into action really resonates with her.  She had a “perfect experience” and couldn’t imagine going anyplace else.

Her upgraded system now has data monitoring. “Monitoring is huge!” says Heather, who works for the UA from home and is able to use the data monitoring system as a tool to continually lower her family’s power usage. She has an alarm set for solar peaks and takes these opportunities to do laundry and other high power use activities.

In fact, Heather and her two sons have made their home into a bit of an ecology and energy sciences laboratory. Heather’s boys are growing up in an environment where conserving energy and water and helping the planet are “just normal, it’s what we do. That’s what humans do, take care of the earth.” The Severson brothers are Earth Helpers, a group they founded with their young friends to care for the planet. They make their own signs as reminders to close doors, turn off lights and use less electricity. They have even adjusted their bath times to synchronize with optimal solar thermal hot water availability. The yard is an extension of their experimentation. Right now, they are researching beneficial plants that use less water, starting to grow vegetables and converting their lawn “chunk by chunk” into little gardens.  Heather’s next step will be some gray water support for their gardening.

Heather believes, “We have a big mess to clean up. It wasn’t our fault, we didn’t make it, but we still have to deal with it.” Heather and her Earth Helpers are doing much more than just dealing with it. From the collection of solar powered toys, including a solar-charged scooter, to the fact that working from home means Heather drives less and has a solar powered office, the Seversons are inspiring others to be Earth Helpers.

Meet Kate

Behind every great installation, there's a good story -- meet Kate Flax. Kate has turned her home into a working model of sustainability having installed a solar electric system, solar hot water and a significant water harvesting system, which includes two 620 gallon tanks and a 10,000 gallon underground concrete cistern, which feeds into her home’s water supply.

Kate is a busy and very special person, spending her time caring for her mother. For Kate, these renewable energy systems are part of her 10-year financial plan.  “While I knew it was the right thing to do environmentally, it had to work financially for me,” said Kate.

Being environmentally as well as financially minded comes from Kate's childhood. Having spent her childhood  without much money, living in a rented farm house, Kate remembers learning the basics of conservation at a young age -- shutting off the lights and the water when not in use, to save money. She smiles and refers to it as "poverty induced conservation."

For Kate, the process of making her home more sustainable started small. When she moved into her west Tucson home, after leaving the east coast, the first thing she did was plant a container garden, so that her mother could sit in the garden and watch the plants grow.  After the garden’s success, Kate decided to install gutters on one side of her house in order to harvest the rainwater that would pour off of her roof during Tucson’s monsoon storms. It wasn’t long after that, Kate thought, “Why am I doing this half-way? If I’m going to do this, for long term reasons, I want to do it all the way."

Kate wanted to generate clean electricity as well as reduce her daily living expenses to free up cash for things other than utility bills. “I’m looking at 10 years. Then, I’ll be completely self-sustaining. Until then, I’ll be enjoying lower bills.  While taking care of my mother, I need to be living my life to the fullest, not worrying about bills,” adds Kate.

"Most people would invest in stocks and bonds, but to me these systems are real, this is it. This is part of my plan; I’m investing in my future."  Her investment is likely to see an income and savings of over $650 a year, tax free, for 25 years, and this number will continue to increase as utility rates rise.

For every supplemental kilowatt hour that Kate’s solar electric system generates, Tucson Electric Power, will give her credit toward her next months utility bill.  Kate’s solar electric system is made up of sixteen, 230 Watt SunPower solar panels, which are expected to generate, 6408 kilowatt hours annually.

Meet Mohyeddin

Behind every great installation, there's a good story -- meet Mohyeddin. Mohyeddin Abdulaziz has turned his home into a working model of sustainability by installing solar electric and solar hot water systems as well as rainwater harvesting cisterns. He is no stranger to renewable energy systems, having installed solar hot water during the Reagan administration.

Mohyeddin explains, "Solar has always been on my mind. We have the sun, how do we make use of it? Many parts of the world use solar energy, so I have been aware of it for a long time. When there was the opportunity for me to install my first solar hot water system 25 years ago, I did it."

As an avid gardener and someone who commutes solely by bike, Mohyeddin says the key to happiness is simple: you must work to positively influence your surroundings. “I am Palestinian and I was raised to appreciate the land, the earth, the plants, sun, and rain, I have always been close to nature, it’s where my heart is. I always saw my father working on the land. And that’s how my appreciation for nature started.“

This nature advocate looks at his solar energy systems, water harvesting, biking, and gardening as pieces to a bigger picture, “Not only do each of these steps compliment one another, but they contribute to a good life both from a health perspective and a financial perspective. The math tells you how beneficial installing these systems is financially. You save money on your electric bill, water bill, gas for the car, and growing your own vegetables saves you money on your groceries.  But what I really enjoy is the amazing feeling that you are not only benefitting as an individual, or only benefitting your family, but you are doing a great thing by helping the environment and humanity, in general. “

Mohyeddin explains his process in going solar, “When we thought about going solar in 2008, we had many people come and give us estimates. We decided to go with TFS, not only because of the competitive price, but the approach was completely different. TFS came and took measurements, spent a lot of time answering all of my questions, and provided a lot of information.  There was no ambiguity about it. It’s important to tell people what they are getting and how it will work for them. TFS told me what they where going to do, and they did exactly that. And, the installers are great people. We are very satisfied."

Mohyeddin offers two bits of advice for others considering going solar, “It’s not as expensive as many people think, when you figure in the utility rebate and the tax credits. But, people need to know that the financial incentives will not be there forever, so it's best to do it sooner rather than later.  Others may also want to know that you can also install solar in stages. You can get a system with a few panels and add to it down the road. This is exactly what we did; we added 1.72 kW onto our 5.15 kW system a year and a half after we first installed it.  The important thing is to just get started, so you can see the advantages."