The Alexanders have three children five years old and younger.They recently moved into a fixer-upper in a suburban neighborhood and wanted to reduce its high level of energy consumption. A friend in their old neighborhood had installed solar and that inspired them. Brianna says that she and her husband Brian “just fell in love with the idea of being able to create our energy from the sun and doing our part to save the planet.”
In spite of being the first two-story house the volunteers tackled, this installation was the fastest because the crew had some practice behind them and had consolidated their skills. Brian says, “The roof crew got the rails in place incredibly quickly and efficiently. Meanwhile the ground crew were drilling holes for the conduit, setting the disconnect switch, pulling wires and putting the inverter on the wall. We broke for lunch around 1 pm and were looking at finishing that day, but we hit a snafu. We didn’t have the right gauge of wire to finish the connections.”
The local hardware stores didn’t carry the heavy gauge wire needed, so Whole Sun Designs, the consulting contractor, supplied it. Still, the search took a couple of hours. Everybody went home early and Paul Leber, the ground team lead, came back alone the next day and finished up in about an hour.
Paul says, “The thing that was different about this installation was that we ran two pairs of wires – one pair for the solar panels we just installed and one pair so they can add more panels later.”
The standard components that ISFA provides include ten 300 watt panels and a 3800 watt inverter. ISFA families were given the option to increase the size of the inverter at their own expense so they could expand the system at a later date. The Alexanders doubled the size of the inverter to cover their needs as their children grow.
“These ten panels can cover about a fourth of the energy we used last year,” Brian said. “We have decided that we want to take the money we save on our electric bill and put that in a savings account. When we get enough saved, we will replace an appliance with the most energy-efficient model that we can, and just keep doing that. Hopefully we can add more panels in the future and also decrease our usage as much as we can, as we go.”
Brian admitted that he had had qualms about letting a group of volunteers put solar on his roof before the project started. He says he is not handy, that he learned all he knows about construction while fixing up his former house for sale. But he says, “Paul and Greg Deemer (the roof team lead and experienced builder) were invaluable and lent so much experience that it seemed like a professional job. That gave everybody a good level of comfort. I certainly felt comfortable in my role of supporting the leads.”
His qualms went away entirely when Cody Peerman, a Whole Sun Designs installer, came out to check the job and said everything looked great.
Brian says, “I couldn’t be more grateful. It’s wonderful. I appreciate Stephanie Kimball (president of Indiana Solar for All) and all the organizers for putting this together, and the volunteers for taking their free time and lending it to us to make this happen, and to my wife for pushing forward. We wouldn’t have solar panels on our roof if it wasn’t for her.”
After the volunteers left Saturday, Brianna says, she and Brian were talking about the experience. “Volunteering on each other’s houses creates a bond that is really, really cool. The time we spend together is short – it’s not like building a house that may take months. The installs will only take four weekends, so it is over very quickly, but I feel such love for these people who just did this for me. It is so exciting that this is happening for all of us.”