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Stephenville couple living life off the grid in a home powered with solar panels

The solar panels on the roof of Tom Rose's home on Hillier Avenue, Stephenville, allow Rose and his wife to live off the power grid.
The solar panels on the roof of Tom Rose's home on Hillier Avenue, Stephenville, allow Rose and his wife to live off the power grid. - Frank Gale

Corinne Tulk considers Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose and his wife, Joanne, to be great role models when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint by living off the power grid.

Tulk and her husband, Sterling, were two of 25 people who attended an open house at the Rose property on Hillier Avenue on Sunday, Aug. 11. The open house was hosted by the Roses to show others how they live “off grid.”

“I thought it was kind of cool, that cabin feeling with all the perks of home, from appliances to other conveniences,” Tulk said.

She said they’re also doing their own bit for the environment. With Newfoundland created on farming and fishing, the couple is getting back to those roots and leading by example by going green.

Rose said he and Joanne chose solar power for their farm property because its rural location is a significant distance from the electrical grid.

He said they looked at wind but considered solar power the better fit because Stephenville has a great weather record.

They had nine panels installed by a certified solar energy contractor. They've been using the system for about a year.

“To date we’re 100 per cent satisfied with our off-grid energy system,” said Rose.

Having an ample supply of firewood is essential to living off the power grid as it provides a primary source of heat for the Roses. Tom Rose has a stockpile of wood behind his farmhouse on Hillier Avenue, Stephenville.
Having an ample supply of firewood is essential to living off the power grid as it provides a primary source of heat for the Roses. Tom Rose has a stockpile of wood behind his farmhouse on Hillier Avenue, Stephenville.

Because they have forest land there’s an ample wood supply and they use wood as their primary heat source. They also have a propane fireplace as a backup.

The solar energy, stored in a bank of eight batteries, powers all the other electrical requirements within the house.

He said people at the open house came from as far away as Boswarlos and Robinsons, but the majority from Stephenville and Kippens seemed intrigued with how this new technology can sustain off-grid living.

“We anticipate, based on what an average home this size burns in electricity, the solar energy will pay for itself in four years,” Rose told The Western Star.

He said the misconception with solar is you need direct sunlight, but the fact is you just need daylight.

The shortest day of the year is Dec. 21. For a month preceding and following that date is the only time period a homeowner will rely on a generator to bring the battery bank to full charge. The process takes 45 minutes of daily generator use.

Rose said a generator is not technically required for 10 months a year but they purposely didn’t purchase a propane dryer so their generator would get occasional use. He says they usually start up their generator every couple of weeks.

The energy storage unit in the home of Mayor Tom Rose and his wife, Joanne, is located in a utility room in their farmhouse. It consists of eight large batteries powered by nine solar panels on the roof.
The energy storage unit in the home of Mayor Tom Rose and his wife, Joanne, is located in a utility room in their farmhouse. It consists of eight large batteries powered by nine solar panels on the roof.

He admits solar energy may not be for everyone, as there is some maintenance. When snow or sleet gathers on the panels in winter, it must be wiped off.

Overall the Roses say they are pleased with living off-grid, despite the up-front costs.

The Roses' off-grid living

Running off solar:

•    Energy efficient refrigerator

•    Energy efficient waster

•    Satellite television

•    Internet service

•    Lighting

•    Household appliances

•    Power tools

•    Pump for well

Running off propane:

•    Fireplace

•    Cooking range

•    Hot water on-demand

•    Barbecue

Set up costs:

•    Solar panel system – Approximately $15,000

•    Propane – Approximately $330 for six months

•    7200 Watt Industrial Series generator – Approximately $1,700

Source: Tom and Joanne Rose

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