Energy Stories

Our House Goes Solar

The Decision

With our motivation (see impetus) and after pondering our considerations, we decided to use as little fossil fuel as possible to heat our home and domestic hot water. That meant using some sort of 'income' energy, whether it be solar, wind, hydro, or biomass. Based on our location in an inner suburb of Boston, we reasoned that solar would be our best bet.

We decided to have our entire oil fired steam heat system removed. All of it - oil tank, boiler, pipes, radiators, the works!

Oil Tank in Basement   Oil Fired Steam Boiler with Pipes & wires   Cast Iron Steam Radiator Painted to match walls

To replace it, we began working on the concept of a solar heat system, circulating hot water with air handlers instead of radiators, and a natural gas boiler as backup for the very coldest days. Our goals were to end up with the smallest 'carbon footprint' we could afford. This would eliminate our dependence on fossil fuel as much as possible. After all this would benefit not just us at home but all of life around us.

We also decided to try some radical new ideas in insulation, since our house has so little. Covering the outside of the house with a layer of insulation was ruled out. (The entire look of the house would be changed, all the window casings would have to be changed, so our downstairs neighbor declined to go with this idea.) Instead, we began to think about adding a layer of insulation to the inside of our exterior walls.

So, we started looking for someone to work with.

I had attended an event in Boston back in September of 2007 known as "Alt Wheels" on Boston Common. While there, I remembered seeing an exhibit from an architect who specialized in evaluating the cost of reducing energy needs for existing buildings. It took awhile, but I eventually found the name of the person and called him:

Architect: Jim Shipsky, Cohasset, Mass.

Jim reviewed our situation and recommended a company to work with us to design a solar heating system.

Company: Renewable Energy Systems, North Scituate, Mass.

After extensive interviews with both, we decided to go ahead with the project.