|Plugged into the Midwest - Page 3||| Print ||
Page 3 of 3
That was then. Today, Dan and Kim embrace their new lifestyle with the unrestrained enthusiasm of a couple of kids who have just discovered a path into an enchanted forest. “It feels great to be working with earth’s systems, instead of against them,” Dan says. “The solar was really a big surprise for us here in the upper Midwest. We weren’t sure it would work here, but it does. Just put the panels in the path of the sun, and voila, electricity! It almost seems like a miracle.”
But sunlight has other energy-saving applications beyond energizing electrons on a silicon substrate; as everyone knows, it also produces a great deal of heat. To take advantage of that fact, the Isbells installed a pair of 3-foot by 5-foot Solahart solar collectors to heat their domestic hot water. No pumps are required; antifreeze moves by thermosyphon from the bottom of the collector through the internal tubing into a heat exchanger that runs through an 80-gallon tank mounted above the collectors. Solar heated water is then drawn from the tank and further heated, if necessary, with an Aquastar on-demand propane-fired water heater. This gives Dan and Kim an endless supply of hot water, most of it heated by sunlight. Rounding out their inventory of energy-saving inventions, the couple have a Zomeworks solar cooker, a rechargeable electric lawnmower, and a Honda Civic hybrid car that boasts 50 mpg.
One thing that hasn’t changed for Dan and Kim in the last 17 years is their appreciation of the inherent thriftiness of log homes. Besides being an efficient use of natural resources, log homes are easier to heat and cool than conventional homes. “Even when the mercury plummets below zero,” Dan says, “our centrally-located wood stove easily keeps both levels toasty warm. And in summer it only takes a few hours of operating a small energy-efficient window air conditioner to cool the entire house. The wall logs act like a battery to store heat and moisture, and they really moderate both temperature and humidity in the home.”
Is it really worth the trouble—and the expense—to live such an alternate lifestyle? Kim, who teaches second grade in the Vinton area, thinks so. “We care about the future,” she explains. “We don’t want to use electricity from coal or nuclear power plants. We want to face future generations knowing we did all we could to live with clean, renewable energy sources.”
It’s a simple, sustainable philosophy.
Rex Ewing is the author of Crafting Log Homes Solar Style (ISBN 978-0-9773724-4-7)