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>Let The Sun Shine In

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ABOUT THE HOUSE
By Gwendolyn Bounds, WSJ
Most of us are sickof high energy bills. Gwendolyn Bounds investigated solar options.

This month, I’ve spent hours tramping across my roof with energy experts. We’ve measured its pitch, calculated how closely it faces true south and used high-tech tools to determine what times of day and which months the rooftop will be shaded.

The goal: to figure out how much the sun’s free power can offset my home’s hot-water and other energy needs.
[Go to enlarged image]
Powered by the Sun: Here’s how a typical “closed-loop” solar thermal system for cold climates heats household water.

Like many Americans swooning from higher heating and cooling costs I’m in the camp of “something’s got to change.” On one hand, I’ve taken many small steps to make my 1978 home more efficient: adding insulation, hiring an energy auditor to pinpoint air leaks, tuning the oil-fired boiler and replacing old appliances with Energy Star models. Last weekend, in 80-degree weather, I even shopped for a cleaner-burning wood stove certified by the Environmental Protection Agency.

But not until now, with a costly winter on the horizon, did I investigate solutions to seriously wean my home from fossil fuels. The average U.S. household is expected to spend 33% more this winter on heat, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Renewable-energy options that once seemed far-fetched or unaffordable suddenly look enticing, not just environmentally sound.
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