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Energy Audit and Retrofit - Laura B.

Olney, MD

Not all home improvements give equal return on investment, and Laura Bradshaw wanted the most bang for her buck. Formerly an energy auditor for Montgomery County, Laura knew she needed all the facts before replacing her aging home heating and air conditioning unit. “I wanted to get an idea of what part a new HVAC system would play in the overall energy efficiency of my home,” Laura said.

A friend recommended Standard Energy Solutions to Laura after he had a positive experience installing a solar electric system with them. Laura made one call and an expert came to her home when it was convenient for her.

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“The auditor was very thorough and effective in explaining what he was seeing in my home while he conducted the audit. I was amazed at the significant air leakage from the vertical walls of my home,” Laura said.

Using infrared cameras and other tools, the SES expert used non-invasive techniques to determine several options to make Laura’s home more comfortable while lowering her utility bills.

Laura was presented with her customized assessment report a few days later, so she could choose which improvements she wanted. “The results outlined in Standard Energy Solutions’ report were written so clearly that anyone could understand them.”

Sometimes, investing in a little extra insulation makes all the difference. Laura chose to install insulation in her attic and in her ceilings, as well as spray foam her vertical walls and basement and rim joists. All products were formaldehyde free, flame retardant, and contain no CFC’s, which make her home a safer place. Laura also chose to have her exhaust fan vented properly to reduce moisture, and possibly mold buildup in her attic.

For Laura, dollars make sense. “In August 2010, I paid $244, and in August 2011, I paid $144!” After lowering her utility bill through the home improvements recommended to her by Standard Energy Solutions, Laura decided to invest in a new HVAC unit. Laura shopped around, and then decided SES was the best fit again. She has also recommended our services to her coworkers. From start to finish, SES helped Laura get the facts so she could make the best financial choices for her home upgrades.

“I really like the staff at Standard Energy Solutions. They were quick to respond to all of my questions.” When the results came in, Laura achieved her goals of saving energy while making her home more comfortable as well.

Solar Installation 6.3 KW - Jerome S.

Frederick, MD

Jerome Smith remembers growing up in Gaithersburg, Maryland and his mom—a single mother raising two boys—always worrying about the bills. He also remembers when he was in junior high school and saw solar panels for the first time. “I thought, ‘wow, if we had that we wouldn’t have to pay bills,’ ” Jerome said.

It’s no surprise that as an adult, Jerome decided to put solar panels on his own roof to battle rising energy costs. Standard Energy Solutions installed 35 panels on Jerome’s Frederick, Maryland home. Jerome, who modified his roof to accommodate more panels, saw his energy bills drop from hundreds of dollars to about $60 in a hot summer month.

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The 6.3 kW system on Jerome’s roof has offset over 4,700 lbs. of carbon dioxide since its installation. While environmental benefits were secondary in his decision to go solar, Jerome started to feel inspired by his shrinking carbon footprint.

“My experience with Standard Energy Solutions told me to keep going,” Jerome said. He decided to make the switch to geothermal, solar hot water and a hybrid hot water heater. Jerome started researching gray water recycling (recycling water from laundry, dishwashing, and other light household activities for irrigation). He also bought energy-efficient appliances, started recycling more, and looked into using LED lights instead of traditional light bulbs. Jerome’s money-saving effort with Standard Energy Solutions made him realize that he also wants to help the environment. “I wanted to change what I was doing on a smaller scale,” he said.

During the first six months of operation alone, Jerome’s system has saved him over $500. To keep the savings going, Jerome went back to Standard Energy Solutions and asked for more panels. About 80 percent of his south-facing rooftop is currently covered with panels. Jerome estimates he is about 70 percent off the grid, but he is aiming for 100 percent.

“I want to use every single bit of rooftop,” he said. “My goal is to always generate more than I’m using. If I can get that house to a net effect of zero, I will be ecstatic.” Jerome, who owns an IT company, likes Standard Energy Solutions’ online monitoring system that enables customers to watch their systems online through a network interface and see exactly how much energy they are saving in real time.

He was also attracted to Standard Energy Solutions’ neat and professional work. He has seen other companies do sloppy work and was drawn to the fact that they pride themselves on clean, aesthetically-pleasing installations. He especially likes that there are no visible wires on his rooftop, and he is impressed with the reliability of their product—particularly its dependability under fierce weather conditions.

“I absolutely love my system,” Jerome said. In fact, Jerome says his entire Standard Solar experience has been such a thrill that he would welcome the chance to do it all over again. Installation day was especially exciting. As the panels went on, the little boy who watched his mother fret over bills growing up would have one less bill to worry about. “I loved the experience,” he said. “I just can’t wait to add some more.”

Solar Installation 4.03 KW - Ken R.

Fort Washinton, MD

Ken Rimestead was paying $195 a month for his electric bills, and he was getting tired of it. When he found out his four-bedroom Fort Washington home was a good candidate for a solar system, he hired Standard Energy Solutions to install 22 panels on his home’s south facing roof. Within a few months, instead of paying the utility company, Ken received a check for electric his panels produced.

“I wanted to find a way to save money that would help me in the long run,” Ken said. “Electricity isn’t getting any cheaper, and through solar, I found a way to offset that cost.”

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After researching local solar companies, Ken contacted a few companies including Standard Energy Solutions. It was their prompt, responsive and honest service that he said set them apart. Within a few days, Ken had a visit from a Standard Energy Solutions expert, who sat down with him to explain the costs and benefits of a solar system. “He didn’t pull any punches, “ said Ken. “The customer service has been great from day one.”

Ken was impressed with the ease of the installation. Despite a snowstorm that hit in the middle of the first day of installation, the team was able to finish the installation with minimal delay the next day. Ken said it was a relief to have an organized, responsible team for his project. The only things they left behind were his new solar panels.

The other thing that happened from day one was his meter running backward. In the beginning, Ken actually got to watch the needles on the dial turn backward during testing. When the utility company came and replaced the meter with a new digital one, the needles went away, but he can still see the power his solar system is producing. Ken can also monitor the system online, and in the first four months, his system has produced 1.35 megawatts of energy. And that is only during the shortened winter days.

Along with making the transition to solar power, Ken has also made smaller changes in his home to increase its efficiency. He has CFL bulbs, “in every socket,” and has installed a new hot water heater and furnace that save electricity. He keeps his thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter to save on heating and cooling costs, and will soon add more insulation in his attic to bring it up to R30.

Overall, Ken expects to get about half of his electricity from his solar system. With the grants and tax credits that his system is eligible for through the state of Maryland, Ken saw a major reduction in his initial cost, and the system will have paid for itself within five years. He also expects to be able to sell his solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) for the next five or ten years. Ken is very happy with his decision. In fact, his only regret is not having the space for more panels.

Solar Installation 5.98 KW - Don F.

Elkton, MD

Don Foot always knew that someday he would go solar, but it took an act of nature to get him there. Nestled along the Elk River, Don’s humble hunting cabin had been in his family for generations. Unfortunately, his 600‐square‐foot home had been flooded more than a dozen times since the 1920s and Don knew that someday a big storm would wipe the place out.

Turns out, he was right. In 2003, Hurricane Isabel swept through and left 20 inches of water in the family home. There was no way to save the house, so Don decided to tear it down and rebuild it with solar in the back of his mind. “When I designed the house over 10 years ago, I thought solar would be the wave of the future,” he said.

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In 2005, the new home went up, and Don rebuilt with exposure to the sun in mind so that his home could be a candidate for a solar installation. Back then, solar panels were not as affordable as they are today, but Don was willing to wait for his solar home. “I felt as though it was just the way to go,” he said.

When federal tax credit programs began to kick in, Don saw his opportunity and grabbed it. He began researching solar companies and found Standard Energy Solutions on the Internet. Between the company’s professional approach, good references, and strong presentation, Don knew they were the right company for the job.

Standard Energy Solutions installed Don’s almost 6 kW system. The most exhilarating part was when the panels went up and the installers called him over to watch his meter turning backwards—even as the air conditioning units cranked along in the 95 degree heat that day. “I was generating power plus I was putting power back on the grid, so it was really exciting to see that,” Don recalled.

Now, Don can generate his own power, and then some. Within three months, Don had reduced his carbon footprint by more than 2100 pounds. That is equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide that about 43 mature trees can absorb in one year.

In addition, Don is already generating cost‐savings. His electric bill went from $150 a month to around $10 a month. With his solar power system in place, Don estimates he will reclaim about $3,500 annually in electricity savings alone—between lower electric bills and solar renewable energy certificates.

For Don, the money he is saving has been the highlight of his solar experience: “Seeing my electric bill at $10 and knowing that I’m generating my own power, driving my own house, providing power to the grid and—in the long run—I’m going to be an energy producer and I’m going to make money on the deal,” Don said.

Solar Installation 3.52 KW - John T.

Darnestown, MD

Residential Design Build Contractor, John Tabor wanted to be able to recommend solar energy to his customers.  “I believe very strongly in solar,” he said. “But, unless I’ve done it, I can’t really talk about it or recommend it. How much will it really reduce my electricity?  How easy is it to get it installed?  How easy is the process of getting the tax credits and the grants?”

As President of Rockville, Maryland based Tabor Design Build, John practices what he calls, “stress-free remodeling.”  John believes the best way to help his clients make decisions about their renovations is to put himself in their shoes.  Therefore, John decided to install a solar electric system on his own house.

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Finding a full-service solar energy company with the experience to install a system properly and help him apply for the solar tax credits was important.  “The main thing I was looking for was expertise,” John said. Several of the companies he spoke with fell short of those requirements, but Standard Energy Solutions exceeded them — not to mention the estimate that they presented for his installation was less expensive than some of the other quotes he received.

“The experience with Standard Energy Solutions was extremely smooth and so easy. That is what I was looking for—the same kind of experience we want to give our clients. I was very impressed with Standard Energy Solutions,” John said.

But the bottom line is savings—saving his money instead of giving so much of it to the energy company. In only two months, John produced more than 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity with his 3.525 kW system. In addition, as an added benefit, the electricity John has produced has offset over 1,600 pounds of carbon, the equivalent amount of carbon absorbed by about 19 trees.

“Now, I have had the experience of going solar and have a project that I can point to and say, ‘I did this and it works. Here is the kind of savings you can have from this. This makes sense. Now is the time to do it,’ ” John said.

In addition, John is hoping to start a trend in his neighborhood, where big homes and big energy bills abound. His home, he said, is a case study on how low he can get his energy bill. Between the savings and ease of his experience going solar, John said that when speaking with his clients or neighbors, “I’d recommend Standard Energy Solutions. Absolutely.”

Solar Installation 1.98 KW - Pete C.

Bethseda, MD

Peter Caulkins talked the talk every day at work, but he wanted to walk the walk as well. An employee of the Environmental Protection Agency, Peter feels, “Climate change is not just something you read about in the papers. It is something I am experiencing and incurring costs for on a personal level. It has been easy to see the changes, locally we have had much more intense winters and rain or snow events—I have suffered a lot of damage.”

Peter decided to take action. First, he began riding a bike to work. Next, he increased his home’s efficiency by adding insulation. “Becoming more self reliant is really very gratifying,” Peter said. He then looked into a solar installation.

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After educating himself on several websites and contacting multiple companies, Peter decided that Standard Energy Solutions satisfied his needs. “They were very timely. I have been extremely pleased.”

Standard Energy Solutions helps customers get their rebates and tax incentives, and this made Peter very happy.  “All that paperwork they have handled, it is kind of a maze, so I am glad that Standard Energy Solutions did that.”

With a smile, Peter went on to say that he, “decided to install as many solar panels as my small roof will hold.” Peter’s home is now producing clean energy from his 1.98 kW system and he likes to keep a close eye on it too. “The monitoring system updates every ten minutes and provides data that I can access from any computer through the Internet to see how each panel is performing. It’s a great part of the system.”

At the end of each month, Peter receives an email with his monthly production, which makes for easy tracking. “I’m about five to six kilowatt hours ahead of what they predicted, so I feel they were very accurate,” Peter said. By doing his part, Peter is now getting a higher financial return on investment from his solar system than he would from most stocks or bonds, and at almost no risk. “The rate of return on my solar investment is increasing. It’s not like the stock market, utility rates always go up,” Peter said. He feels good about his contributions to future generations and toward the fight against climate change. “I feel it’s not something I should expect my government to deal with alone. I think everyone needs to do their part.”

When it comes down to it, what is really appealing to Peter is that he is practicing what he preaches. ”We all talk the talk, but I can walk the walk and that is kind of cool.”

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