Alan Kline ripped open the monthly utility bill — and blew a kilowatt.
That shocking $500 bill changed his life and drove him into the technological forefront.
As a result, Kline’s electric bill last month was about $10.
All that because the spritely, gray-haired retiree set out to take advantage of the federal government’s strenuous efforts to convince people to slash energy usage by installing solar and geothermal home heating and cooling systems.
That $500 power bill was a bit of a fluke, since it came the month after a contractor used his air conditioner to turn his house into a deep freeze to “dry the paint,” but it got Kline’s attention.
So six years ago, Kline decided to go green.
That resolve eventually led him to install a $30,000 solar power system and a $30,000 geothermal system. But various federal and Arizona Public Service incentives covered about two-thirds of the cost of the systems, which means he’ll recover his investment through lower utility bills in a matter of years.
Kline started with an on-demand tankless water heater, which immediately reduced his propane bill substantially. Kline’s tankless water heater runs on propane, since he’s on the town’s centralized propane system, but other tankless systems run on electricity.
The 2-foot by 3-foot box takes up a tiny amount of space behind a wall in back of the master bathroom. LED controls in the master bath allow Kline to set the temperature he wants. Hot water takes about two seconds to begin flowing from the tap.
“No more heating up a big tank of water only to cool off to heat up again — an inefficient waste of energy,” said Kline.
Encouraged by this start, Kline turned his sights to solar power.
“I called APS and found out they give a 50 percent rebate to install green energy sources in your home because they want to lower their carbon credit output,” said Kline.
The APS Green Choice Solar and Renewable Energy Incentives program has applications for homes, businesses, schools and governments on the Web at: http://www.aps.com/main/ green/choice/solar/default.html.
APS offers rebates to homeowners installing solar, wind or geothermal green energy technologies. How much of a rebate depends on what’s installed and the size of the project.
In 2005, Kline contacted American Solar Electric in Scottsdale to get an estimate on the cost to install solar panels on his roof. At more than $30,000, the bid could have bought him a new car, but between the APS incentive, state and federal tax credits, he spent a little more than $12,000.
“I know that sounds like a lot, but APS, contractors and banks will help find financing,” said Kline.
The solar system keeps Kline’s electric bills to under $10 per month, when they used to average about $200.
The panels don’t detract from the esthetic of the home, either. The panels blend so well it’s hard to tell they’re even there. They subtly lie on the south-facing roof. Inside the garage, meters record how much electricity is generated.
Sometimes, his system creates enough energy to sell back to APS. At other times, he needs APS to bolster his electric needs.
“All my appliances are Energy Star efficient. My wife has the most amazing oven. It microwaves, does convection cooking and bakes all at the same time. She can cook a batch of cookies in three minutes!” said Kline.
A neighbor noticed his solar panels, and told Kline about his own geothermal system installed by Climate Care Temperature Specialists.
The contractor, Reese Dennis, is one of three in Arizona certified by APS to install geothermal systems.
Geothermal heating and cooling systems use the temperature from under the ground to either heat or cool a home. In Kline’s back yard, Dennis dug three holes to a depth of 230 feet each to reach the consistent underground temperature of 61 degrees. He placed a series of pipes called loops in the holes. Inside the pipes “environmentally friendly anti-freeze” circulates collecting the underground temperature that is then used to either heat or cool the home.
Inside the Kline’s home, Dennis installed a heat pump that he calls “an all-in-one heating and cooling system” on his Web site: http://www.
Geothermal heat pumps move heat from the earth into the home in the winter, and in the summer, the pumps remove the heat from the home, pumping it back into the earth. Just like a forced air system, a series of ducts and an attic fan move the air throughout the home.
Geothermal systems require less maintenance than traditional heating and cooling equipment because they have fewer mechanical parts. Lacking an outside condensing unit, they run quieter than air conditioners. The pipes come with a 25- to 50-year guarantee.
“When Reese put in the system, my wife and I were at home. At first it was a mess with mud everywhere by the side of our house. But look now, all that’s here is this silver box,” said Kline.
Inside the 6-foot by 4-foot silver metal box, a series of eight black hoses terminate in a control panel, which then condenses to one hose snaking up the side of the house, covered in siding to camouflage the pipe. The pipe feeds into the upstairs attic fan.
The system cost more than $30,000, but between the APS rebate and the federal tax break, Klein’s out-of-pocket came to a little over $7,000.
Since Klein only pays $10 per month for propane, he estimates he’ll pay the geothermal system off in three years.
“With all of my cost-saving energy systems, I live in my home virtually for free. Going green is totally worth it. I want to tell everyone about it,” said Kline.
To contact Alan Kline, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.