A Solar-Powered Victorian

01
of 10

Solar Power at Spring Lake Inn

Placement of the solar panels on the porch roof is unobtrusive.
Placement of the solar panels on the porch roof is unobtrusive. Photo © Jackie Craven

Spring Lake Inn is a rambling, shingle-sided Victorian with enormous energy needs. The inn has a grand parlor and dining room with 12-foot ceilings. On the two upper floors are 16 spacious guest rooms. Located steps from the beach in Spring Lake, New Jersey, the inn is a popular summer getaway. However, the inn also maintains a thriving business during the winter months.

Because the inn operates year-round, both heating and cooling are essential. Rooms on the upper level can be especially challenging to cool in July and August.

Seeking ways to conserve costs and also protect the environment, innkeepers Andy and Barbara Seaman looked to the sun for low-cost, eco-friendly energy solutions.

Next: Can This House Go Solar? >

02
of 10

Can This House Go Solar?

Attic Room at Spring Lake Inn, New Jersey
Room on the upper level at Spring Lake Inn, New Jersey. Photo © Jackie Craven

Spring Lake Inn seems like an unlikely candidate for a high-tech photovoltaic solar system. Constructed in 1888, the inn is a gracious example of Victorian Shingle architecture, once popular in coastal towns like Spring Lake, New Jersey.

The inn was originally a stable with guest rooms above, and it retains the relaxed atmosphere of a Victorian resort. Rocking chairs are lined up on an 80-foot long porch. A round turret offers ocean views.

Innkeepers Andy and Barbara Seaman faced several challenges:

  • Could photovoltaic solar panels be installed without detracting from the charming Victorian flavor of the inn?
  • Would the solar panels provide sufficient power to meet the energy needs of a house this large?
  • Would the solar panels provide enough savings to justify the expense of their installation?

Next: The Cost of Going Solar >

03
of 10

The Cost of Going Solar

A series of roof top solar panels supplies all of the electricity needs for Spring Lake Inn
A series of roof top solar panels supplies all of the electricity needs for Spring Lake Inn in Spring Lake, New Jersey. Photo © Jackie Craven

The cost to install solar power at the 16-room Spring Lake Inn approached $75,000. But the innkeepers discovered that they could slash this price to a fraction, thanks to state and federal rebate programs and other incentives.

  • Federal Tax Credits: As a business, Spring Lake Inn was eligible to receive an income tax credit equal to 30% of the cost of a solar power installation (IRS Form 5695). In addition, the inn was eligible for a Solar and Geothermal Business Energy Tax Credit (IRS Form 3468).
  • State Tax Reduction: Located in Spring Lake, New Jersey, the inn was eligible to participate in New Jersey's Customer On-Site Renewable Energy (CORE) Program which would reduce the state income tax.
  • Depreciation: Like any improvement, a solar power installation qualified as a depreciable expense which provided further reductions in state and federal income tax.
  • Sale of Excess Electricity: If the innkeepers installed enough solar panels to exceed their energy needs, they could feed unused power back into the state grid, and receive credit in the form of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs).

<>The particular tax credits and incentives provided to Spring Lake Inn may not be currently available, since tax laws change from year to year. However, similar programs can be found by searching the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

 

Next: How Many Solar Panels Does a Big Victorian Need? >

04
of 10

How Many Solar Panels Does a Big Victorian Need?

Additional photovoltaic solar panels were placed on the upper roof at Spring Lake Inn.
Additional photovoltaic solar panels were placed on the upper roof at Spring Lake Inn. Photo © Jackie Craven

The innkeepers at Spring Lake Inn wanted to install enough solar panels to meet the inn's electrical needs. But could this be accomplished without spoiling the historic character of the building?

About 100 square feet of roof space is needed for every kilowatt of electricity a solar panel produces. The 16-room inn needed more than nine kilowatts. To achieve the necessary coverage, 54 photovoltaic panels were placed on the porch roof and also on the main roof above and below the dormers.

The solar panels are called photovoltaic (PV) because they turn light (photo) into electrical current (voltage). This process is made possible by wafer-thin cells composed of crystalline silicon. Tiny amounts of phosphorous and boron in the cells turn the silicone into a semi-conductor. When sunlight hits the cells, an electrical charge is created.

You might think that installing 54 of these high-tech panels would dominate the façade and give the old inn the look of a sci-fi spaceship. Fortunately, however, the photovoltaic panels are only a few inches thick. And, because their color is similar to the dark roofing shingles, the panels are unobtrusive.

Next: Mounting the Solar Panels >

05
of 10

Mounting the Solar Panels

The solar panels rest on brackets attached to the roof.
The solar panels rest on brackets attached to the roof. Photo © Jackie Craven

The solar panels at Spring Lake Inn are mounted several inches above the roof surface, leaving space for air to flow under the panels. Without proper air flow, the solar panels would reach extremely high temperatures. Solar cells cannot generate as much electricity when temperatures are too high.

The mounting racks that support the solar panels are bolted to the roofing surface. The contractor who installed these solar panels provided a 5-year warranty against roof penetration. To resist rust, the racks are made of anodized aluminum and stainless steel.

The solar system at Spring Lake Inn took about two days to install.

Next: Power Without Problems >

06
of 10

Power Without Problems

Cables connect the roof top photovoltaic panels to synchronous inverters that convert the DC output
Cables connect the roof top photovoltaic panels to synchronous inverters that convert the DC output to AC power. Photo © Jackie Craven

The photovoltaic panels convert the sun's energy into Direct Current (DC) electricity. This current travels through cables down to the basement where it will be converted to standard Alternating Current (AC) used by electric lights and household appliances.

No moving parts are needed to generate electricity through solar energy. The solar power system installed at Spring Lake Inn is virtually maintenance-free.

Next: From Sun Power to Household Power >

07
of 10

From Sun Power to Household Power

Two inverters in the basement convert the electricity.
Two inverters in the basement convert the electricity produced by the solar panels from DC to alternating current (AC). Photo © Jackie Craven

In the basement of Spring Lake Inn, two inverters transform the DC power generated by the solar panels into standard AC electricity for household use.

The electricity produced in this way is absolutely free. It does not cause pollution and cannot contribute to smog, acid rain, or global warming. The energy is clean, silent, and unlimited.

Now, mind you, photovoltaic panels can't collect energy when the sun isn't shining. So, what happens at night?

Next: An Electric Meter That Spins Backwards >

08
of 10

An Electric Meter That Spins Backwards

The bi-directional electric meter spins backwards when the solar panels produce more electricity than needed
The bi-directional electric meter spins backwards when the solar panels produce more electricity than needed. Photo © Jackie Craven

Some solar energy systems store the collected energy in a battery for use when the sun isn't shining. But a battery large enough for this Victorian house would be so heavy you'd need a forklift to install it. Instead, excess electricity generated by the solar panels is stored in the utility grid for future use.

This is done via a bi-directional electric meter. When excess energy is generated, the meter spins backwards. The unused energy goes to the regional electricity distribution system (the grid). The home that generated the excess power (in this case, the Spring Lake Inn) is credited.

At night or in cloudy weather when the solar panels cannot generate sufficient power for household use, the meter spins forward. Power is drawn from the grid. Utility bills are low because of accumulated energy credits.

The difference between power generated and power used is called net metering.

Next: Design that Saves the Environment >

09
of 10

Design that Saves the Environment

Gas Fireplace at Spring Lake Inn, New Jersey
Gas Fireplaces help provide energy-efficient heat at Spring Lake Inn, New Jersey. Photo © Jackie Craven

The photovoltaic panels at Spring Lake Inn do more than lower utility bills. By installing the solar power system, innkeepers Andy and Barbara Seaman have significantly reduced demands on environmental resources. The company that installed the solar panels, REC Solar, estimates that over the next 30 years, the system will:

  • save 619 barrels of oil,
  • reduce acid rain emissions by more than a ton,
  • and reduce greenhouse gases by 216 tons.
The solar power system is just one of many measures the Seamans have taken to make their Victorian inn more eco-friendly. Common-sense steps like using compact fluorescent light bulbs go a long way to conserve natural resources. Economical gas fireplaces supplement the heating system, bringing warmth to individual rooms only as needed.

Next: Fans Add to the Savings >

10
of 10

Fans Add to the Savings

Ceiling Fan at Spring Lake Inn, New Jersey
Ceiling fans help with both cooling and heating. Photo © Jackie Craven

Ceiling fans also contribute to effective use of energy at Spring Lake Inn. In the summer, the fan blades turn counterclockwise, directing air flow downward and creating cooling breezes. The need for air conditioning is reduced.

During the winter months, the ceiling fans help distribute heat evenly through the rooms. The fan blades turn clockwise to direct air across the ceiling and down the walls. This makes the overall room temperature more uniform without causing drafts.

Innkeepers Andy and Barbara Seaman believe that within a few years they will recoup their investment in solar power and other energy-conservation measures. They are already exploring additional sources of alternative energy for their Victorian inn.

Back to the Beginning: Solar Power at Spring Lake Inn >

As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodation and meals for the purpose of writing this article. While it has not influenced this article, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Craven, Jackie. "A Solar-Powered Victorian." ThoughtCo, Aug. 9, 2016, thoughtco.com/a-solar-powered-victorian-177951. Craven, Jackie. (2016, August 9). A Solar-Powered Victorian. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-solar-powered-victorian-177951 Craven, Jackie. "A Solar-Powered Victorian." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-solar-powered-victorian-177951 (accessed November 19, 2017).