Aerial photo of Larry's home with solar panels attached to the roof

This Siesta Key resident turned the sun into a silent money making machine

By Curt Preisser and Larry Stults
Special for UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County
larry stults poses along the waterfront

Larry Stults

Harnessing the power of the sun has its benefits, including owning a silent money machine.

Since installing a solar power system in his home, Sarasota County resident Larry Stults has tracked not only how much money he’s saved, but how many trees as well!

Larry holds degrees in cell/cellular and microbiology from Johns Hopkins University. He can talk about a wide range of subjects with authority, including the challenges and benefits of installing solar power in an existing home. We recently sat down with Larry to talk about his solar power journey and just what he does with all that money he saves each year.

So what made you become interested in solar power in the first place?

“I’ve been active in the environmental community in Sarasota for many years, so my interest in solar power was a natural transition. I mean it’s the sun, its free, it’s clean and it helps virtually every other environmental cause when we use it. In addition to those benefits, once a home system is paid off you make money by not having to pay for energy.”

Was there anything that surprised you about the process of installing a solar power system?

“Not really anything that surprised me because I had done my homework. That being said, there is a process that needs to happen; your roof may need to be fortified, an electrician has to hook it up, the power company needs to inspect it and throw the switch; those types of things.”

What advice would you give someone today who is thinking of installing solar power?

“Step #1 is to do your homework. Get educated on how the system works, what options are right for you, how much you will spend up front and how quickly that money will be paid back. I would also advise people to consider investing in an energy storage system. Between the solar panels and storing energy you can go completely off the grid.”

Has your solar power system produced the benefits you expected?

“Absolutely, I think of my solar system as a silent money machine with an annual return of $1,500 to $1,800. In the summer and winter our energy bill averages $110 because of the A/C and pool. In the spring and fall, when we do not typically run the A/C or heater, our typical electrical bill is $9.42 including fees and taxes. Our awareness of energy consumption has also risen dramatically. We pay more attention to turning off lights, fans and other appliances when leaving a room and keep the A/C at a consistent temperature.”


How are you able to track your impact on the environment?

“Besides saving money, this is my favorite part. My system is supported through a very cool website that shows me in real time how much energy my system is generating, how much is being consumed and how much money I’m saving. But the really cool part is the website is able to show the positive impacts of my system elsewhere, like how long an LED light bulb would stay lit, how many barrels of oil would not have to be produced or my favorite, how many trees didn’t have to be harvested. That is a pretty good feeling.”   

So, the system is saving you $1,500-1,800 a year. What are you doing with the money?

“We’ve used that annual savings to invest in other sustainable features like more insulation in the attic, insulated sliding doors and weather stripping. In my mind, that is the definition of sustainability, reducing our carbon footprint and using the savings created by one action to create even more actions that result in more savings.”

Want to Learn More?

  • Are you interested in solar opportunities on your home? Sign up for the Solar in the Sunshine State class being offered September 24, 2019 at Venice Public Library to learn about solar pool heating, solar water heating, and solar photovoltaic technologies and policies.
  • Like Larry did, consider energy efficiency before or in combination with a solar installation to maximize your savings and avoid wasting money on an oversized solar system. Sign up for an Energy Upgrade workshop or request one be given at your neighborhood or organization by contacting sustainablesarasota@scgov.net to request a speaker. Learn more at energyupgradetoday.com.
  • Find out how much impact a few small changes in your household could add up to with this handy carbon footprint calculator from the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The Florida Solar Energy Center has extensive resources on its website for consumers considering solar photovoltaic and solar hot water.

 

Click the following links to learn more about other energy saving measures, upcoming classes and events, or visit the Sarasota County Sustainability webpage.

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