Danny and Kelly Wiener took a beating when they sold their Newark-area home three years ago.
So when the couple began building their new house on Bohemia Mill Road, west of Middletown, they opted to purse every cost-saving measure they could, even if that meant spending a little more up front to achieve maximum energy efficiency
“The first thing people usually ask us is, ‘What’s your electric bill,” Danny said, while showing off his geo-thermal heating and cooling system, an array of solar panels, extra insulation and florescent lighting throughout his home. “I can tell you that last July, in the middle of that big heat wave we had, our bill was only $39.”
The biggest cost saver at the Weiners’ home is the geothermal heating and cooling system, which circulates an earth-friendly antifreeze through their house and out into a closed-loop system that includes three wells. In the winter months, heat is extracted from the fluid and used to warm the home, while in the summer heat from the home is dissipated through the ground and returns at 50 degrees Farenheit.
That system is supported by a 32-panel solar array that produces 7,000 kilowatts of energy during daytime hours. At night, the Weiners switch to electricity supplied by Delmarva Power.
“We try to do all of our high demand things, like laundry and dishwashing, during the daytime,” he said. “It even picks up energy during cloudy days. During the summer months, we usually produce more than we need, so we’re looking at hiring a broker to start selling off the excess, which could net us an extra $1,500 a quarter.”
Robert Underwood, a program administrator in the Delaware Division of Energy & Climate’s Energy Program, said more and more families like the Weiners have opted to improve the energy efficiency of their homes during the recent economic downtown.
“It’s a way to save on your utility bills, while improving the environment, so really it’s a win for everyone involved,” he said.
However, the popularity of various Green Energy Fund programs offered by the Delaware Municipal Electrical Corporation and the Delaware Electric Cooperative has resulted in such a large backlog of grant payment that the incentives have been at least temporarily suspended in some areas of the state, including Middletown.
“Rather than keep adding to the backlog the decision was made to shut it down for a while,” Underwood said. “Theoretically, they will reopen at some point, but we believe the growing interest in geothermal, solar and wind-generated power means we’re having success without the incentives, although one of the ways we can make sure they continue to be successful is making sure the funding is there.”
Page 2 of 2 - Weiner said he’s still happy he spent the extra $60,000 on his home’s geothermal heating system and solar panel array, regardless of whether his house qualifies for grant incentives.
“For us, we were paying $700 a couple times every winter just to keep our oil tank filled and it wasn’t uncommon for our electric bill to run $200 a month,” he said. “Last month, our electric bill was $60 and now we’re not paying for oil or gas and we’re only drawing electricity off the grid at night. So I would say if you can afford to spend the money up front, it’s definitely worth it, because it ends up paying for itself in just a couple of years.”