Seeing the light with Earth Day project in Basalt

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Workers with Sunsense Solar prepare to maneuver a solar panel onto the Dory family house in Basalt on Friday. Sunsense has installed 14 solar electric systems on Habitat houses over the last seven Earth Days.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

The Dory family of Basalt won’t have to chill out next winter like they did starting in February.

The Dorys moved into their Habitat For Humanity Roaring Fork Valley home in December. It included a Mitsubishi Electric ductless heating and cooling system that was donated for the project. The system is highly efficient because the small, indoor units can be used to heat or cool isolated spaces rather than an entire structure.

Nevertheless, Assaf Dory and his wife, Sigal Winfield, racked up an electrical bill of $336 in January to heat their three-bedroom, 1,575-square-foot home.

They made adjustments in February and also benefited from warmer weather, so they reduced their utility bill to about $200 and kept it there in March.

But it required setting the thermostats a little lower than they would prefer.

“It would be awesome to run it correctly,” Sigal said.

It just so happens that Habitat for Humanity has a plan to make that happen. For the past seven years, Habitat Roaring Fork has worked with Sunsense Solar from Carbondale to install solar electric systems on houses built in the region. Solar panels have been added to 14 homes over that period. The Dorys were the latest recipients.

All the work has been done on Earth Day over the seven years.

A Sunsense crew was installing 20 panels for a 5.6-kilowatt system on the Dorys’ rooftop Friday. It should provide for the house’s heating and cooling as well as lighting, Sunsense owner Scott Ely said.

Sunsense donated the design, installation labor, racking and wiring. Suniva provided the 280-watt, American-made solar modules. SolarEdge donated the solar inverter and BayWa contributed solar-power optimizers.

In addition to the Sunsense crew, Suniva and SolarEdge had representatives on site Friday.

The project produced a touch of sadness for the Sunsense crew. Andy Lietz, a nearly nine-year employee who got the company connected to Habitat for Humanity projects, died earlier this month. Lietz was on the Habitat Roaring Fork board of directors for seven years, up to the time of his death.

“He was a great public servant,” said Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley President Scott Gilbert.

Lietz launched the idea of Sunsense teaming with Habitat to provide the solar electric systems on houses on Earth Day. The Dorys along with the solar team and Habitat for Humanity members held a ceremony in Lietz’s honor Friday.

Ely said Sunsense will continue its relationship with Habitat.

“We’ll definitely keep this vibe going and his vibe going,” Ely said.