Coastal Post Online

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June 2001

Low-income Housing Takes High Tech Turn

Philadelphia will soon be host to a new revolution brought about by the soaring cost of energy. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer on new town homes in the heart of the old city for low to moderate-income residents that are designed to reduce the ongoing cost of energy by harnessing the power of the Sun.

Solar Strategies, a Philadelphia based company, will construct these revolutionary homes using the newest solar technology. When complete, the homes will be 80 to 90 percent efficient producing more than enough electricity to power all the appliances, lights, computer and entertainment devices, even on cloudy-bright days.

Most of us are familiar with the conversion of light to electricity as used in hand held calculators and other small appliances. The same principle, known as photovoltaics, is applied here on a much larger scale. Roof shingles are now available that contain hidden solar panels and look no different than a conventional roof, but produce enough electricity to power a full-size house. Hot water is produced using special panels located on the roof.

The electric current produced during daylight hours is stored in large batteries placed in the basement and converted from DC, direct current, to AC, alternating current, for use in the house.

"Affordable housing is a relative term," said Don Bradley, president of Solar Strategies. "The initial cost of building a home is only the beginning. Homeowners are still faced with high, monthly energy bills."

Bradley, who has been building private homes for many years, founded Solar Strategies after recognizing that there was no one company with the expertise to draft the specifications for a total solar home.

The cost of going solar has gone down considerably in the last few years. Using modular construction, where a home is constructed as modular units in a factory then assembled at the site, Bradley has been able to reduce the cost of building by five to seven percent. The cost of using solar increases the initial cost by 10 to 12 percent. The net increase in cost is about five to seven percent and is more than offset by the savings in energy costs.

Recently, Solar Strategies constructed a two-story, three bedroom solar home on the National Mall in Washington, DC within sight of the Capital and the Smithsonian Museum. The house was manufactured in Pennsylvania and erected on the Mall in just seven days as part of a solar exhibition in conjunction with Forum 2001, an annual meeting of solar engineers, scientists and businesses sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society.

Solar powered homes have been successfully built in all parts of the country including the Northern reaches of Maine and Seattle.

Each house is custom built to the buyer's requirements and range in size from small vacation homes located in remote areas, to large homes of 10,000 square feet or more.

Already plans are underway for building entire solar developments as Bradley continues to position his company in the forefront of solar building. "The time has come," Bradley said. "People are beginning to look for affordable alternatives to rising energy costs and rolling blackouts."

For more information about solar homes and the options they provide contact: Solar Strategies, PO Box 63314, 215-464-4780. Email [email protected]

 

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