Tour to feature energy-efficient buildings | Environment

Ken and Jenny Carloni built their home next to the North Umpqua River with the goal of leaving the smallest ecological footprint they could. Using wood they had salvaged or recycled, they designed the house to allow the fresh river breeze to cool it down in the summertime, and added two sets of solar panel arrays to generate all the energy they use in a year.

During this year’s Smart Energy Green & Solar Tour, put on by the Douglas County Global Warming Coalition, participants will get the chance to see an energy efficient business and three homes in Douglas County, including the Carlonis’.

“We just need to create enough power to meet our needs every year,” Ken Carloni said.

A Pacific Power energy program allows the Carlonis to stay on the electrical grid while producing their own energy using solar panels. Between April 1 and the end of March, Pacific Power keeps track of how much energy the panels generate.

“In the summertime we produce more than we’re using, so it gets saved as credits to use in the winter,” Carloni said.

If participants in the program run out of credits, the power company begins to charge them. If they have extra credits left over by the end of the year, the money-equivalent is donated to Oregon Heat, which provides power for people in need during the wintertime. In the last cycle, the Carlonis overproduced just enough energy to donate $4.30.

“We can always be more conservative with power,” Carloni said.

A row of tubes perched on top of their roof with water running through at about 140 degrees, as of Tuesday afternoon. The hot water goes through a stainless steel tank and emerges at up to 120 degrees from the shower and sink faucets. The extra heat is stored in the tank and can be used as radiant heat to warm up the home’s hardwood floors when the temperature drops.

Carloni said this function is especially helpful in the fall and spring, when the weather of Southern Oregon fluctuates from warm and sunny to cool and rainy. Radiant heat, he explained, is like the heat from the sun instead of convective heat through air vents.

If there isn’t enough solar power to heat the floor, an electric air-to-water heat pump is used.

The second array of solar panels rests on the side of a south-facing hill across the road from the house. The power from the panels channels through a meter and into a power pole. A 7-watt transmitter sends information to the internet so Carloni can see how much power is produced each day.

The Carlonis received federal and state tax incentives to put in their first solar panel array. Between both sets, Carloni said he expects the amount of energy savings to break even with the price of the solar panels within 12 years.

“On our tour, there will be various homes displaying their use of ductless heat pumps and talk about the savings they’ve seen, so that’s one thing we want to highlight in addition to all the other green and solar technologies on the tour,” said Stuart Liebowitz of the Douglas County Warming Coalition. He said the coalition will be holding workshops in November and December to promote ductless heat pumps.

“The purpose of that is to allow people to install ductless heat pumps at a significant discount based on a variety of incentives,” Liebowitz said.

The tour is $10, which includes lunch and transportation. Participants will meet at 9 a.m. Oct. 7 at the Phoenix School in Roseburg before touring the three homes and business. To sign up, contact or 541-672-9819.

Reporter Emily Hoard can be reached at 541-957-4217 or Or follow her on Twitter @hoard_emily.

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