CNN Environment News

Solar-powered house makes light of utility bills

solar powered house

April 28, 1996
Web posted at: 5:00 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Natalie Pawelski

HIAWASSEE, Georgia (CNN) -- A Georgia couple has designed their second home as an energy-efficient getaway by using the inexhaustible power of sunlight.

solar pannels

More people are generating their own power to eliminate expensive utility bills. But it takes a lot of planning and some money to build a house powered by solar energy.

Hydro-systems, for example, cost $10,000 to $15,000. But in Erica Frank and Randall White's case, that is less than the electric company wanted to spend to connect power lines to their home.

"That's 15,000 bucks up front, but we'll never have to pay an electricity bill, and over the years that adds up," Frank said.

Frank and White's home is surrounded by 20,000 acres of wilderness in the North Georgia mountains. They are one mile from their nearest neighbor.

They are among a growing number of Americans who live beyond the reach of power lines. Frank and White's house is totally energy-independent. They cover all their energy needs with a stream and the sun.

"This wall behind the glass absorbs the heat from the sun and then re-radiates it out to the house," White explained. "Especially at night, [it] helps keep the house warm."

coffee table

Floors and walls are built to retain warmth; so is the water-filled coffee table and solar panels on the roof. Fluid from the panels warms a vast tank of water, and the water, in turn, circulates through the floors of the house to heat it. There is a wood stove for backup.

The house's appliances are energy-efficient, including a super-insulated refrigerator and compact fluorescent light bulbs -- all powered by the stream.

generator

"Six hundred feet upstream, we basically have a dam and a reservoir where we collect water, said Mark Sardella, an Engineering Consultant. "We run it in a closed pipe so that we can build pressure. We shoot water at the fan and spin the generator, and that produces a current."

From recycled concrete outside to a water-saving toilet inside, the house is designed to skimp on resources. Even the light fixtures are recycled, made by Frank from junkyard metal.

"To me, having that kind of combination has a bizarre kind of elegance," Frank said.

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