Habitat for Humanity Unveils Solar House

Houstonians this weekend can get a look at a new home that's designed not only to save energy, but also to help a working family build a better financial future. Gail Delaughter reports.
In a corner of Northeast Houston, crews are at work laying foundations in Milby Park, a Habitat for Humanity community for low-to-moderate income families working toward home ownership. Nearby, a four-bedroom brick home awaits the arrival of a couple and their four children. But what makes this home different is that is uses solar power. Habitat for Humanity's Stephen Sye explains how panels on the roof connect to an energy inverter, using what known as net metering.

"So all the solar energy that's taken in during the day by the panels is fed to the grid, and so when the family uses from the grid, the meter now monitors how much is generated by the solar panels and how much the family uses. And we net the amount so the family gets a savings from the amount that goes to the grid."

The system was installed with corporate donations, and it's expected to run about 20 years. Sye says it should save the household close to five hundred dollars annually, money that's important to a family making under 33-thousand dollars a year.

"And so we're looking forward to using that savings for them to apply somewhere else, either savings or spending on something they need for the children."


This isn't the first time that Habitat for Humanity has experimented with solar energy, but Sye says this house features the latest technology. And by giving more people access to solar power Sye hopes green energy can become standard practice.

"So what's it's going to be like when the children of this family are in the classroom, and somebody says, 'Oh, this is what a solar panel looks like and this is a solar inverter.' And that child goes, 'Oh, oh, I've got one in my home.'"

The home also features recycled woods and non-toxic paints. Sye says it's part of Habitat's effort to move toward a higher level of building.

"And in that process it's not just building the home, it's how we construct the home in the community. So we'll be recycling all the waste from the homes and going into the recycle process of stripping the chemicals and putting them into the appropriate places."

The Habitat for Humanity Solar House is one of the stops on this weekend's Houston Solar Tour, sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society.
Bio photo of Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

Gail Delaughter joined KUHF in October 2008 as Saturday morning news anchor and host. A native of New Orleans and a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, Gail has extensive experience in Texas and Louisiana as a radio news reporter and morning show anchor and co-host...