Solar Energy, Energy Star Appliances, and Electric Vehicle Costs

Author: Margot McMahon, Yale Class of ‘84
Location: Chicago, IL

The Action

Margot’s family had twenty-five years in an 1890’s home with a new studio. Some of their energy saving projects coincided with the Obama-Biden administration’s home improvements that included tax credit incentives. The McMahon-Burke family followed this list of actions:

  1. Insulate walls
  2. Install New Windows
  3. Community purchase of Solar Panels
  4. Collect Runoff Water in barrels with a neighborhood group buy
  5. Subsidized Energy Audit
  6. Subsidized Electric Cars
  7. Rooftop Gardens

Twenty Solar World panels (Chicago area group purchase) were installed on the studio rooftop (each panel coverts to 120 on the panel) feeds through a smart meter to farm energy for the Com Ed community. The smart meter measures our farmed energy output and incoming household electrical needs. With SREC Trade our farmed solar energy is sold to offset our installation costs. Government subsidized programs like these encourage community solar purchases, insulation, social event energy audits, tax incentives by reducing upfront costs to farm and reduce energy use. 

Climate Impact

By reducing our electrical needs with Insulation, Environmentally Efficient Windows, retaining water-run off, reflective white roof tiles, electric car, rooftop garden and vertical vines, Energy Star hot-water heater, furnace, refrigerator and electric washer-dryer, LED lightbulbs and removing carpeting our energy bills dropped from $130/month to less than $10.  The farmed solar energy contributes more to Com Ed customers while we consume less in our home.

Energy used and dissipated around homes burns more carbon, heats the immediate environment and reduces the comfort within our four-season home.  By retaining heat and air conditioning, LED lighting and heat as you go hot water heaters, we burn less carbon – one home at a time.

How to Get Involved

“Nearly annually our home invited neighbors and the community for Garden Walks, Art Studio Tours, Block Party Visits, and Food Co-op Tours to view Espaliered Fruit Trees, Vines on pergolas, Maple Tree Sap Tapping, ,” Margot said. “Tours not only shared these installations, visitors taught me about policies and governmental structures.”

If you live in Chicago, here is a list of energy star compliant contractors:

  • Solar Installation: Ailey Solar: Jack Ailey 312.802.9004
  • Peerless MI-07 Boiler  Goodberlet Electrical  866.355.7710
  • LED lightbulbs and fixtures  Hortons of LaGrange 708.352.2110
  • Hot water heater (heat as you use) Navien NPE condensing heaters
  • Miele All-Electric clothes washer and dryer Appliance Connection 800.299.9470