Saturday October 5, Underhill House will be part of the National Solar Tour — u1z0iy8fthe world’s largest grassroots solar event.

We are so thrilled to part of a coalition of over 5,500 home and business owners, volunteers, solar installers, public officials and grassroots organizations who conduct open house tours of their energy efficient and solar-powered buildings.

Over the past 5 years as we planned our own house Doug and I visited homes in the Wisconsin Solar Tour – looking closely, making notes, mulling over what we see and hear from helpful home owners.

Solar panels to the left (north) cob oven to the right.

Solar panels to the left (north), heating Underhill and cob oven to the right.

Now comes pay back where we can give others the benefit of what we are learning from our own solar projects.

PEX tubing, the material that has made infloor heat so practical, being installed in our lower level.

PEX tubing, the material that has made infloor heat so practical, being installed in our lower level.

We moved into our passive solar design and in-floor solar heated house in January and had a very cozy winter supplementing with only a whisper of propane.  Our passive solar design and strawbale-insulated walls kept us cool enough all summer with only a little electricity spinning a few strategically-placed fans at the right moments.

Our temperature-control systems are really working, and we are eager to pass our discoveries along.

The solar tour, which has taken place the first weekend in October for 18 years is the brain child of the American Solar Energy Society.  The nonprofit ASES has been encouraging the use of solar energy since 1954.

Our control center where solar heated water is stored and circulated.

Our control center where solar heated water is stored and circulated.

But the engine that drives this movement is the more than 400 grassroots organizations, installers and non-profits who locally coordinate sponsor, and promote these open houses. Also the home and business owners who share their personal solar experiences and educate others about the benefits of energy-efficient living is who makes this event a success.

In 2012, the Solar Tour drew more than 90,000 people in 38 states to over 9,000 sites.

This year 75 solar homes and businesses around Wisconsin are opening their doors. Come and learn about renewable energy, green building techniques, and sustainable living ideas. Tour sites are owned, lived in, and worked in by ordinary people who are part of a grass-roots push to renewable energy.

You can get all the details about Wisconsin by checking out this map.

It will clearly detail what there is to see in Wisconsin and allow you to tailor a tour to your own interests.

You can find tours all over the country here.

Ellie Jackson, Events Coordinator of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, who facilitate the Wisconsin Solar Tour says, “There are lots of ways to use the sun’s energy.  The Solar Tour is like a back stage pass.  It’s a really cool opportunity to meet people who are making solar energy work.  There isn’t some huge corporate sponsor making it happen – it’s people who have a passion and are sharing what they’ve learned.”

Jackson, acknowledged that in the past few years attendance is down a bit.  She attributes it to the fact that sponsorship, which provides the funds to get the word out is also down.  “Funding is harder to come by, and that ‘s not unique to solar projects,” she says.

There are so many sad reasons why solar energy is not supported in this country.  That’s not what this post is about.  Blogs are a way that information can travel without a corporate sponsor, so spread the word about the 2013 Solar Tour, and check it out, if you can.

photo credit:

photo credit:

Even if you are not thinking of a solar project right now, the leaves are starting to turn their spectacular fall colors.  (check out the Wisconsin fall color map here. ) It’s a great way to spend a day getting out and exploring some interesting spaces.  You’ll meet people who are pioneering solar power and see how they are making renewable energy work one house at a time.  The website will give you enough detail so that you can tailor a tour that fits your interest and time constraints.

Again, if you live in Wisconsin, design your tour using this map.

Cozy in winter and cool enough in summer.  Come see how.

Cozy in winter and cool enough in summer. Come see how.

If you live in South Central Wisconsin, I hope you’ll put Underhouse on your list and come on by.  I’m hoping to be able to slice you some bread baked in our outdoor cob oven.

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3 replies

    • Thanks for coming. There is a lot we can learn from you-tubes and photos, but nothing beats actually being in a space and seeing how it works.

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