Solar is for EVERYBODY
Habitat for Humanity of Central Arkansas has always been focused on energy efficiency as a way to maximize a new homeowner’s budget, but also because we want to be the best stewards of the earth as possible. That’s why we build Energy 3 Star homes, and why we are especially thrilled about our new partnership with Seal Energy Solutions. They just completed an installation for our very first home with solar power! Our homeowner, Raymond, will have close to a net zero energy bill. He's a hardworking guy building a brighter future for himself, and keeping his costs low is key to his being able to grow and thrive. At the install, we caught up with Heather Nelson, co-founder of Seal Energy Solutions, and talked about what it means to provide energy efficiency and renewable solutions to Habitat Homeowners.
Habitat: Heather, thank so much for taking the time to speak with us about Seal Energy Solutions Can you tell us a little about the company?
Heather: Seal Energy Solutions was founded back in 2012. Our roots are in energy efficiency, but we always dreamed of adding solar solutions at some point. In late 2014, we started doing a lot of research and development on renewables and solar. We have been surprised at how solar has blown up as a part of our business this past two years.
Habitat: What does it mean to you to be able to give back to people who might not otherwise think solar energy is accessible?
It means everything. For the owners of SEAL, our family roots are only a half breath away from poverty. My family was on food stamps as a child, and that season left a mark. We know what it means to struggle and live without. We are for-profit, but our heart is definitely in using the knowledge we have gained to share with those who aren’t the most obvious candidates for EE + Solar services. While Arkansas benefits from some of the lowest utility rates in the country, our housing stock is incredibly inefficient – over 30% of our housing stock is mobile homes, up to 30% more could qualify as generational homes passed down through family members and therefore have not had the benefit of home inspections/appraisals looking at the maintenance of the home. Many of the homes in this neighborhood, Baring Cross, are probably those kinds of generational homes. I am making an assumption based on what we have seen over the past five years, but I believe many of them probably have higher than average electricity bills.
Habitat: What makes these homes energy inefficient?
Heather: Those homes are inefficient by nature because since they have been passed down through a family, they haven’t had appraisals or building inspections. Our rule of thumb is that anything over $.10/square foot is inefficient. We see all the time homes paying $1.00+/square feet so for simple math a 700 square foot home would be paying $700.00/month for their utilities.
That is heartbreaking for someone struggling to get by, especially when there are ways to make the homes more efficient and now renewable energy resources available for everyone. Some people think “Well solar, that’s for wealthy people,” and we are out here proving that it’s not. Solar is available for people of all income levels. It’s a great economic decision because of how much money can be saved on utility bills. We’re especially excited to partner with Habitat because Habitat is already focused on energy efficiency with their Energy 3 Star houses. Partnering with Habitat and bringing solar to their homes – it is a win-win.
Habitat: What are the specifics of what has been installed at this tiny home?
Heather: On Tuesday we installed a 1.08 kW system, three panels, three hour install, 25-year system, locking in utility rates for 25 years. When the roof on the house next door is on, we’ll do the next install.
Habitat: We are thrilled to see how mu