Bruce Killips has solar panels on his roof, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and an envelope house. And this weekend, anyone can stop by and take a look.
The Bull Valley resident is part of the Illinois Solar Tour, which runs statewide from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
The free, self-guided tour is run in conjunction with the American Solar Energy Society’s National Tour. In Illinois, it will showcase about 190 sites that use renewable energy throughout the state, nine of which are in McHenry County.
“People open their homes and businesses for other people to come and see how easy renewable energy is to install and use,” said Lesley McCain, spokeswoman for the Illinois Solar Energy Association, which organized Illinois’ portion of the nationwide event. “There’s a lot more renewable energy ... and people want to show it off.”
Killips, who’s participating in the tour for the first time, will offer visitors a tour of his home, which he built in 1983 with renewable energy already in mind.
It’s called an envelope home because the main living areas are in the inner house, which are enveloped by an outer house. Killips uses the shell to insulate and also rotates hot or cold air through it.
The house faces the solar south, which means that side gets the most possible sun light every day. The roof on that side is lined with passive solar windows, which let in sunlight to help heat the home.
“I get the maximum exposure to the sun, “ Killips said.
To get even more out of the house’s solar south side, he also lined most of the roof with two kinds of solar panels in May 2008. A row of photovoltaic, or PV, solar panels provide electricity, while a row of solar thermal panels heat his water and his home.
Plus, the amount of carbon dioxide saved is equivalent to planting an acre and a half of trees each year.
Killips’ efforts weren’t cheap, though. The PV solar panels were $48,000, and the solar thermal panels were $24,000.
However, he did get $20,000 in state rebates, as well as $4,000 in federal tax credits. And they should pay for themselves with energy savings in about 10 to 12 years, he said.
Killips doesn’t know how long it will be before homes like his are mainstream, but he’d like to see communities require at least some renewable energy in new construction.
“I just think it’s a matter of time before we wake up and realize we need to look at other alternatives,” he said. “Oil is a finite resource. The sun isn’t.”
Another stop on the tour is Cherry Lane Farm in Marengo. Trudi Temple, owner of the agribusiness farm, will show off her solar panels that track with the sun, her small wind turbine, and her solar hot water system.
“Many people stop by even without the solar tour ... and look to our farm as an example of what can be done,” Temple said.
She declined to say how much she spent on all the projects, but added that cost shouldn’t deter people.
“You have to make up your mind whether or not you will invest in saving our earth or just having money in the bank that is getting more and more worthless,” Temple said. “I just hope that everyone strives to become [energy] independent.”
McCain hopes that Saturday’s tour will help people take a step in that direction.
“[There’s] a lot of great opportunities in their neighborhood to see what their neighbors are doing,” she said. “We would love people to go and just see that it is easy to do.”
If you go
The Illinois Solar Tour, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, offers visitors a chance to tour businesses and homes throughout the state that use renewable energy.
Here are the local sites:
• Brook Farm, 9306 Lawrence Road, Harvard
Technologies at site: solar electric
• Cherry Lane Farm, 18317 Garden Valley Road, Marengo
Technologies at site: solar electric, wind electric, solar domestic hot water, solar space heating, passive solar design
• Killips, 715 Concord Drive, Bull Valley
Technologies at site: solar electric, solar domestic hot water, solar space heating, passive solar design, geothermal
• Maziarz, 8507 Saint Moritz Drive, Spring Grove
Technologies at site: solar domestic hot water, solar space heating, passive solar design
• Smith, 2640 Nish Road, Prairie Grove
Technologies at site: solar domestic hot water, solar space heating, geothermal
• Solar Bright - Meyer, 3613 SE Overton Drive, Richmond
Technologies at site: passive solar design
• Tauck, 1304 Deerpass Road, Marengo
Technologies at site: solar electric, wind electric, solar domestic hot water
• Tucker, 323 Tulip Circle, Island Lake
Technologies at site: solar domestic hot water, passive solar design
• Wesley, 4710 W. Shore Drive, McHenry
Technologies at site: solar electric, solar domestic hot water
For a full list of participating sites, visit http://tour.illinoissolar.org/ and click on “Directory of Buildings.”