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We have cast our lot as a household with the most bountiful source of renewable energy — the sun.

Our brown metal roof is now the anchor for two sets of dark gray solar panels designed to capture sunlight and convert it into energy to run our heating and cooling systems and all the electrical appliances in our two-story house.

“This is so exciting!” one neighbor remarked as she saw a crew from PowerHome out of Cincinnati hoist the panels up onto our roof and fit them into place.

Paula and I will be more excited still if the whole shebang actually works the way the solar company saleswoman promised us it would.

The installation took almost three full days and halted restoration work on our deck being handled by a local landscaper and his team. Way too much hauling of boards and equipment and going up and down ladders to have both outside projects under way at the same time.

So, are we “off the grid”? Will we save a ton of money on energy costs? Is our house now more desirable on the real estate market than before?

From what we have understood from PowerHome about our panels, we “may” find we can draw 70% of our power from solar. From dusk to dawn, when the sun is down, we can count upon our solar battery to store a certain amount of energy. But our continuing connection to AEP electric power will have to get us through many a chilly night.

Similarly, on overcast or gloomy days, the sun will help us to only a minimal degree. And standard power will kick in.

All that said, we should see a significant decrease in our AEP bills due to the sun’s energy providing heat or cooling and running our lights and appliances. And when we have finished paying off the loan to purchase our solar devices, we will own the system free and clear.

From that point on — six or so years hence — we should be seeing economic gains, especially against the likely rise of utility bills from AEP.

Regarding market value of solar homes, I checked with a couple local Realtors. Ed Cordle of Genesis Realty commented: “In general, adding solar is a plus value for a home, especially of course for folks looking for ‘green energy.’ With rising energy prices, I expect more and more people will be looking for alternative sources of power.”

Shelley Rowe of Old Colony Realtors said she thought solar would add value “because younger generations — people under, say, 45 — are more eco friendly than older groups.” She also agreed with Cordle that monthly bills from conventional sources are expected to climb.

This is not my first foray into solar power. When I was in graduate school at UNC-Chapel Hill, I lived in an 1,100-square foot wood-frame house 12 miles out into the country built specifically for passive solar. Passive solar uses direct southern exposure bringing in sunlight through floor to ceiling glass panels on that side of the house.

Heat is captured and stored in the flooring, in our case red brick in the living room and kitchen. It all worked fairly well, bolstered by a wood stove and, when needed, a shot of electricity from baseboard vents.

John Patrick Grace is a book editor and writing coach who lives in eastern Cabell County.

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