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The Solar Challenge

The Solar Challenge
Philip Shelton likes a challenge and designing a solar hot water system for his home may be his biggest hurdle yet. Phil gives us a glimpse into the life of this busy but determined Maine family.
written by Danielle Shaughnessey

Philip Shelton does more in one day than many people will do in a lifetime. “Wearing many hats” is a term well suited to this Georgetown, ME resident. Phil spends his days shoveling out chicken pens, harvesting vegetables, working on web servers, building his floatplane, and working on building projects for his neighbors. He lives with his wife Amy and sons Ben and Nathaniel on a 13-acre farm.

Phil has always lived a “green” lifestyle. He moved to Maine in the late ‘70s and lived there for five years without electricity or running water in a cabin he built himself. However, Phil knew he wanted to make renewable energy a bigger part of his life after returning from a three-year trip around the world in his 42-foot sailboat. “We were determined to cut back on our use of non-renewable energy. Living on a boat for three years taught us the value of resources,” Phil says.  He built the boat himself, a trade taught to him by his grandfather. The construction of his wooden boat was a 10-year project and was a passion for him. The boat was powered with a Wind Baron wind generator rated at 600W. After using the wind generator on his trip, Phil wanted to use it at his home in Maine. He and his son Nathaniel constructed a 65-foot tower and attached a wireless anemometer to gather some data. After gathering data for five years, they learned that in Georgetown the average wind speed was only 5mph. His wife Amy suggested that using the sun might be a better way to go. Like many people in the northeast looking to get into solar, they thought that there couldn’t possibly be enough sun to make solar electric work. He purchased a solar irradiance data logger and quickly realized that solar would be much more reliable than wind in his area. They decided they would try solar hot water for their home.

Phil visited a local Green Expo and spoke with experts. He was told that a solar powered pump would not work for him. However, Phil likes a challenge. “I thought, ‘Can’t be done.’ Those words are like gasoline on a fire. My brain goes into overdrive and doesn’t stop until I make it work,” Phil says. He found altE on the internet and began working with Eric and Amy. His son helped him design the system. It is made up of three 20 evacuated tube collectors on a 67-degree tilt. “We were looking to get the maximum out of the system in the winter months, so a tilt for the winter sun angle made the most sense,” Philip explains. He installed a 328-gallon tank in his basement. The closed loop system is driven by an Ivan 10W solar electric pump. He has three 10-watt solar electric panels powering the collector pump. Currently, they heat all of their hot water from the sun!

Phil wanted to know exactly how well the system was working. He wanted to log data. “Sure, I could have done the math and come up with some numbers, but I just don’t trust theory. I wanted proof,” Phil says. He uses a web-enabled data logger to post live system performance graphs on his website.

Phil says that altE was a great help to him. He purchased all of the El-Sid Pumps, Differential Controllers, and Solar Electric Panels used in his system from altE. He says that Eric even helped him design a charging system for his battery-operated riding lawnmower!

The system works well for the busy family. Phil, a licensed pilot, is currently building a floatplane and hopes to fly with his wife to Alaska when it’s finished. 

For more information on Phil’s system, live data, and other renewable energy projects you can visit his website at http://www.sunnyhotwater.com.

Call or write our technical sales staff members for help on putting together a quote for a wind electric system that will meet your needs.
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