Saturday, February 24, 2018
Business

South Tampa solar-powered home is model of efficiency

Dan Fisher considers himself a geek.

He is, after all, an information technology scientist who might fit in with the cast of the Big Bang Theory.

Even so, Fisher says it doesn't take a computer whiz or rocket scientist to cut a residential electric bill that has reached $500 a month to as little as $17. That, in fact, is what he and his wife, Christine, have accomplished with modifications to their home in South Tampa.

In the past five years, they converted their now 20-year-old, 3,000-square-foot house from a drafty "energy hog" to an ultraefficient home. They have decked it out with solar panels, a solar water heater, solar-powered sprinkler system, LED bulbs, energy-efficient appliances and hurricane-rated windows with solar film.

His one caution: "Baby steps. If someone wants to do this, just take baby steps."

That's how Fisher began, a little at a time.

He is one of just 80 Tampa Electric residential customers who consistently operate at "net zero" levels. That means the electricity supplied by the power company is less than or equal to what the home's solar panels produce. The utility has 685,000 customers.

Before they went solar, the Fishers began with a less-costly improvement: They installed new attic insulation.

"That's a good place to begin," said Fisher, 53. "That's an easy fix."

They added solar window film to their existing windows, which can block out 60 to 80 percent of the radiant heat, decreasing the amount of cooling needed for the house. And they replaced the drafty front door with one that helped make the house more airtight.

When it came time to replace the water heater, the Fishers picked a solar-powered model, which removed one of their home's biggest energy users.

"Solar hot water has always been the low-hanging fruit," says Susan Glickman of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "People pay a significant amount of their electric bill to heat water."

Glickman says solar water heaters range from about $4,000 to $9,000 — more than 10 times the cost of a standard unit. But homeowners typically can recoup that investment in four to six years in electric bill savings.

As other appliances needed replacing, the Fishers bought Energy Star high-efficiency units.

"In the long run, it will save you money," Fisher said.

Fisher saw his electric bill steadily decline and was inspired to look for more ways to save.

He replaced all of his lightbulbs with new LEDs, which last 25 to 50 times longer than conventional bulbs, do not produce heat and require less energy. LEDs are pricey, about $8 to $40 each.

Then projects got bigger.

Fisher bought new double-paned, hurricane-rated windows and covered them with solar window film. Finally, earlier this year, his largest investment: an 8-kilowatt solar array atop his roof.

Scott McIntyre, president of the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, says the net cost for such a system these days with federal tax credits would run about $18,200. With rebates from utility companies, homeowners can cut that in half.

"We call it the path to zero," says McIntyre, who also runs a company called Solar Energy Management.

A retired Navy officer who now works as an IT scientist for the U.S. Central Command, Fisher uses the geek in him to track all his work with electronic meter devices around his home, apps on his smartphone and spreadsheets on his computer.

The stocky, graying technology maven watches them tick off how much electricity is costing him. One of his meters flashes 2 cents an hour, sometimes zero.

On a recent 92-degree afternoon, the meter said the Fishers owed Tampa Electric 38 cents that day.

"It's been like a challenge for me to do this," said Fisher, with a bit of a childlike grin. "I like the challenge as a technical guy."

The one thing the Fisher home doesn't do is look noticeably like a work of extreme efficiency.

But the Fishers carefully chose emission-free and recyclable materials that may also reduce heat, including tile and bamboo flooring as well as wall paint that does not contain unhealthy chemicals known as volatile organic compounds.

"We wanted this house to look like a house and not like an experiment," said Fisher, who heads the Tampa Bay Green Consortium.

The total investment in their home: about $60,000. Fisher anticipates it will take him seven to nine years to recoup his investment.

And to Fisher, it's worth every penny: "It's green. It's healthy. It's energy-efficient."

Ivan Penn can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332.

     
Comments
Activists call for tech companies to drop NRA’s digital TV channel

Activists call for tech companies to drop NRA’s digital TV channel

Activists are calling for Apple, Amazon, Google and other streaming companies to drop the National Rifle Association’s digital TV channel in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida school last week, putting the companies in the delicate position o...
Published: 02/24/18
Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

The head of the Pinellas and Hillsborough career centers under multiple investigations into the way they report job placement figures says he has no intention of stepping down.That’s unless he is paid five months severance.In a letter from his attorn...
Published: 02/23/18
Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

VALRICO — During his final few days, 19-year-old Dustin Snyder moved to a hospice house, surrounded himself with belongings from home, swam in a pool and visited the beach in Ruskin.Wherever he went, the terminally ill Valrico man had family beside h...
Published: 02/23/18
Tampa Downtown Partnership gets initial city okay to expand north

Tampa Downtown Partnership gets initial city okay to expand north

TAMPA — The Downtowner may be heading to Tampa Heights — but not until Oct. 1.That’s because the nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership this week won initial City Council approval to expand into Tampa Heights."Tampa Heights is becoming an important gat...
Published: 02/23/18

Tampa lawyer gets 27 months in federal prison for insider trading

Tampa lawyer Walter "Chet’’ Little was sentenced this week to 27 months in federal prison for engaging in an insider trading scheme that reaped him and a friend profits totaling nearly $1 million.According to federal authorities, Little accessed comp...
Published: 02/23/18
More companies are cutting ties with gun lobby as #BoycottNRA movement gains steam

More companies are cutting ties with gun lobby as #BoycottNRA movement gains steam

Three major companies — Enterprise Holdings, First National Bank of Omaha, and the cybersecurity giant Symantec — have ended co-branding partnerships with the National Rifle Association as a #BoycottNRA social media movement picks up steam.Enterprise...
Published: 02/23/18
Citi to refund $330 Million to credit card customers it overcharged

Citi to refund $330 Million to credit card customers it overcharged

Citigroup is preparing to issue $330 million in refunds after the bank discovered it had overcharged nearly 2 million credit card customers on their annual interest rates, a spokeswoman said Friday.The bank, which has about 150 million credit card ac...
Published: 02/23/18
Girl Scouts camp sold to member of Tampa’s Lykes family

Girl Scouts camp sold to member of Tampa’s Lykes family

ODESSA — The 63-year-old lakeside summer camp had no air conditioning or electricity. Cabin floors were often covered in grime, and cobwebs clung to the windows.But under new ownership, the 18.6 acres of Florida woods known as Camp Scoutcrest to memb...
Published: 02/23/18
BB&T cites ‘technical issue’ in outage affecting customers

BB&T cites ‘technical issue’ in outage affecting customers

Millions of BB&T customers were unable to access their accounts after a service outage which the bank blames on an equipment malfunction. The Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based bank posted a statement on its Twitter page saying the problem persiste...
Published: 02/23/18
Realtors are ‘every 10 feet’ in Florida but more want in the business

Realtors are ‘every 10 feet’ in Florida but more want in the business

ST. PETERSBURG — Tired of working as a yacht captain, Pancho Jiminez decided to get into real estate even though he knows it’s a highly competitive field in Florida."Realtors are every 10 feet around here," he says.Nonetheless, Jiminez is among 30 st...
Published: 02/23/18