SALISBURY — For Ray and JoAnn Whitley, the sun and the earth have been good to them in ways the average homeowner may not have thought economically feasible.
Nearly three years ago, the Whitleys installed a geothermic heating/cooling system and saw their oil bills cut in half. Last year, the Whitleys purchased 30 photovoltaic solar panels and placed them on their roof. The solar panels now produce more than 80 percent of their home energy needs.
Tomorrow, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Whitleys’ home at 121 Main St., not far from the Amesbury line, will be showcased as part of the Green Buildings Open House Tour held annually by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association.
The Whitley residence is one of two houses in Greater Newburyport to be featured on this year’s tour; the other belongs to Dennis and Phyllis Unger of 12 Maple St., West Newbury.
“It’s awesome. We’re excited about using the sun and the water down below to sustain us and we’re just really excited that we’ve been able to partake in both the geothermal and solar and use the resources that God has given us,” JoAnn Whitley said.
JoAnn Whitley said she is hoping people who share an interest in taking advantage of natural resources stop by tomorrow and ask questions. She said by simply asking those who have gone through the process what it’s like, it can demystify it and remove some of the related anxiety.
Among the concerns most frequently expressed to the Whitleys is what many feel are the enormous start-up costs associated with both projects.
It cost the couple about $70,000 to install both systems. But in both cases, the costs were offset by company rebates, federal and state tax credits and, of course, the savings associated by generating their own electricity, heat, air conditioning and hot water, according to JoAnne Whitley.
The Whitleys estimated that it would take 2 1/2 years for them to recoup their investments.
“My husband is a retired science teacher and both the geothermal and the solar panels were exciting concepts. We appreciate the fact that the sun is powering our house and the water from 320 feet below is heating and cooling it,” JoAnn Whitley said.
Dennis Unger said for the five years he and his wife have invited the public in as part of the annual Green Buildings Open House Tour, as many as 20 groups of people have visited. He also said the first questions often asked center on the cost of the systems and how quickly they will provide a return on investment.
“That’s the biggest thing,” Dennis Unger said. “When they see our operation, they get really, really excited about the possibility of doing this.”
But Unger said homeowners shouldn’t feel like they need to tackle everything at once. Dennis Unger said he and his wife’s home has always been a work in progress.
“There’s so many things to think about,” Unger said. “You can just pick out your first priority.”
The Whitleys said another question they have frequently encountered since installing the solar panels is whether they produce energy on cloudy days and whether their house loses power during storms and other events.
Solar panels produce some energy, but at a greatly reduced rate and in order to protect line workers, power is shut off to the house during emergency repairs, the Whitleys said.
For more information on tomorrow’s Green Buildings Open House Tour, including the address of every home included on the tour, visit www.nesea.org/GBOH.