The First Solar Neighborhood in NC
In the early 1980s, Omni Builders was planning a new single family housing development of seventy units in Jacksonville, NC. The houses were sized from 1400 square-feet to 1600 square-feet on quarter-acre lots. These were single and two story homes for young families… starter homes.
Omni decided to look into providing a solar water heating system on each home as standard equipment and contacted me to investigate the possibilities. I reviewed the project layout and individual house plans and developed special energy conservation measures. The measures included upgrading the floor, wall, and ceiling insulation, combined with an appropriately sized solar thermal system, which supplied both domestic hot water and space heating.
The builder chose to install the same system on all seventy homes, standardizing the systems and lowering installation costs. Computer calculations showed energy savings of 60-70% for the smaller homes and 40-50% for the larger ones. Most importantly, the buyers were very happy and indicated that the standard solar water heating systems were a key factor in their purchasing decision.
Many of these solar systems are still in operation today, 30 years later. We’re starting to see a resurgence of this concept again today in North Carolina and many other states. Builders are recognizing that homeowners see the value that solar energy brings.
Let’s hope this trend continues!