Smith home featured in Tennessee solar home tour

Stephen Smith | October 1, 2009 | Energy Policy
Click the image to download the self-guided tour map.
Click the image to download the self-guided tour map.

This Saturday, the City of Knoxville will hold a Solar Tour and Fair in conjunction with the world’s largest grassroots solar event, the American Solar Energy Society National Solar Tour. Beginning at 9 a.m., the event will provide information and workshops at Krutch Park located on Gay Street in Downtown Knoxville and a self-guided tour of 15 photovoltaic installations in the area.

solarknoxFor more information about the tour, read the Knoxville News Sentinel article. You can also learn more about energy and environmental issues in Knoxville’s business community by following Larisa Brass’ blog, BizPlanet.

SACE is an official organizer, in conjunction with the City of Knoxville Solar America City program, of the Knoxville Solar Home tour, during which will my family will feature our home as a part of the demonstration. To find out how to participate in your town, click here.

In a blog earlier this year, I described our solar home after the system was installed. Since then, we have made additional improvements to bring our home closer to net zero energy. As of September 17, Knoxville Utility Board (KUB) has credited our account $971.00 for solar generation!! Keep reading to view information that I plan to provide visitors during my home demonstration during the tour.


Libby and Stephen Smith Solar Home
East Tennessee Solar Home Tour
October 3, 2009

Objective: Take an average home and bring it to a net zero energy home or as close as possible.

Size: Approximately 3400 square feet, built 1963.

Pursuing our Goal of a Net Zero Energy Home

From February 12, 2009 to September 17, 2009 our solar home has produced 5892 kWh of solar power. We have consumed 4186 kWh of electricity in this time period. This is a net plus of 1706 kWh, i.e., we have put 1706 kWhs more electricity on the TVA grid then we have used. During this period we used 75 therms of natural gas for heating. Each therm is equal to 29. 3 kWhs.   This would add 2197 additional kWhs to account for the natural gas usage.  Once corrected, the time since the solar system has been in service starting February 12, we are within 491 kWh of total energy use to be net zero.  We expect new windows, new heat and air and additional insulation will get use closer to our goal. We still do not have a full year of data, which includes a couple of  old months and less sunlight. Stay tuned.

Solar Modifications and Resources
Solar Photovoltaic: Total Capacity 7.128 kilowatts, grid tied, 36 Sharp 198 Watt modules, Sharp Racking System and Sunny Boy 7000US inverter, with Sunny Web Box internet connection.

– Check out the PV Install Video.
– You can see past and future performance of our system online.
– We feed solar electricity we generate back into the TVA grid through KUB as a member of the Generation Partners Program.

Solar Thermal Hot Water: Schuco hot water system, 2 Slim Line thermal panels, 80 gallon storage tank with a 50 gallon Marathon high efficiency electric hot water heater.

Installation of both the PV and Hot water systems by Ed Zubko at Green Earth Services.

Solar Daylighting: We installed seven (four 14-inch and three-10 inch) Solatubes in four rooms and a hallway for added daylighting.

– We upgraded three skylights in a sunroom with Velux high efficiency skylights.
– Check out the Solatube installation video.

Energy Efficiency Modifications and Resources
Windows: We are in the process of replacing our old aluminum windows with Marvin Integrity widows. These are LoE II double pane argon filled Energy Star windows with a U-Factor of less than .30.

Dishwasher: High Efficiency Bosch SHX98M05UC Dishwasher

Clothes Washer and Dryer: Kenmore Elite Smartwash HE4t (horizontal axis) and Smartheat HE4

Refrigerator: Kenmore Elite Model 795

– We have a whole house fan that is used in the spring and fall.
– All appliances and window replacement are Energy Star rated.

smith-home-screen-captureWater Efficiency
Toilets: We have replaced all three toilets in the house with Dual flush Caroma Bondi 305 low flow toilets.

Rain Barrels: We are experimenting with two rain barrels for outside water use.

Beneficial Electrification
Once you have gone solar, there are a large number of things that ran on fossil fuels that you should now replace with electric leading to a reduction in local air pollution and carbon emissions. We have replaced several outdoor equipment devices to great success including:

Electric Lawn Mower
Electric Weed Trimmer
Electric chipper/shredder

Future Projects

TVA In Home audit
Geothermal Heat Pump
– Induction cook top
– Convection oven
Electric vehicle

For more information about how you can help advocate for clean energy policies visit the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy at and follow our blog at

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has over 35 years of experience affecting positive change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as…
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