How to Weather the Next Big Storm

By Hawaii Renovation Posted in: EnergyImproveTips

One of the pioneers in Hawaii’s solar industry, Poncho’s Solar Service, has been installing solar water heating systems in Hawaii since 1988. Now also a leading photovoltaic contractor, the company has announced the availability of a unique new power generating and storage system designed to operate critical appliances during power outages.

“With hurricane season approaching, we have been installing the system we call our ‘Hurricane Kit’ in homes throughout Hawaii,” said Poncho’s co-owner Terrie Safranca.

“We have one in our own home that can generate power for refrigeration and lighting when power failures occur. It’s a relief to know that all your food won’t be spoiled and you won’t have to resort to candles and flashlights to read or find your way around the house.

“As for cooking, you can always make use of a gas grill or fire up a barbecue. If you want to be able additionally to continue using radios, TVs, and computers, the Hurricane Kit package that includes an DC/AC inverter might be the one to choose. Of course, the more the package contains, the more it will cost … the good news is that it’s eligible for state and federal tax credits.”

According to estimator Kirby Mack, the Hurricane Kits, after tax credits, cost as little as $2,700. The minimum system, Hurricane Kit, includes a freezer/refrigerator, two direct current lights, two 135-watt solar panels, a storage battery and a charge controller. The larger systems include more of the same plus an inverter.

“We expect this kit to be in great demand because it includes the essentials at a very reasonable price,” Mack said. “The refrigerator/freezer and lights are powered by batteries that store the energy produced by the photovoltaic panels. The refrigerator freezer can be controlled to maintain temperatures equivalent to those in a deep freeze or standard refrigeration unit. The lights are powered by direct current produced by the system.”

Terrie Safranca noted that, with the photovoltaic industry expanding by leaps and bounds, it’s important for the consumer to be sure they are working with a reliable company that is on top of all the latest advancements in the technology. Additionally, the company should be one that will not only sell and install the system, but also will maintain it and be available to add panels as needed.

“When someone contacts us regarding either a solar water heating system or photovoltaic system or both, the first thing we do is take a look at their electric bill and find out what their needs are. Our estimator checks the size and condition of the roof to determine the placement of the panels. We also need to establish the capacity of the existing electrical system.

“What we find is that many of the homes already have solar water heating systems, many of them installed by Poncho’s, and so are taking advantage of the energy savings and tax credits available. With both a solar water heating system and a photovoltaic system, which can supply electric power for all household needs, it’s possible to reduce an electric bill to the minimum service charge from the electric company.

“We have many customers who are paying only the minimum service fee. Poncho’s has helped numerous households throughout Hawaii reach that goal.”

Safranca pointed out that anyone building a new home or remodeling should incorporate solar power installations in their plans and factor the cost into their budget.

“With today’s economic uncertainties, escalating electricity costs, and the potential of natural disasters such as hurricanes, tropical storms, typhoons and earthquakes, it makes sense to be prepared. Power out-ages essentially bring our normal daily activities to a standstill. We advise anyone who is not already ‘powered up’ to contact us for a no-obligation assessment of what their up-front costs would be for both minimum and maximum capacity systems. They can then take that figure to their financial adviser or accountant to find out how they can benefit from the existing state and federal tax credits and whether any rebates currently apply,” Safranca said.

Poncho’s Solar Service has an A-Plus rating from the Better Business Bureau and has been named “Top Solar Installer.”