STOW — Cari Orris is inviting the public to her Kent Road home where she hopes to shine some light on solar power.

Orris is hosting a Solar Open House on Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 3855 Kent Road in Stow. The open house is part of the 2018 National Solar Tour, she said. More than 350 homeowners from across the country are showcasing their solar panel systems to their neighbors and communities.

Her residence is one of a handful of homes in Stow being partially powered by sunlight, Orris said. Her 20 solar panels will provide 85 percent of her annual electrical needs, she said. Orris said she has been a local environmental advocate for years who spearheaded an effort that brought curbside recycling to Stow while she was an elected member of city council in the 1990s.

"Today, I'm taking another kind of lead for our environment by installing solar at my home," she said. "I hope others can learn from my experience going solar." Orris admitted, however, when she first heard about solar power for homes, she was skeptical.

"In the 1980s when I went to college and I learned about things like nuclear power and solar power, I remember hearing, ‘Solar power can work, but it’s not a possible technology,’" Orris said. She said it wasn’t until last year when her son, Brian DiPaolo, graduated from college and started working in the solar industry that she realized its potential.

"Part of the reason I am now a solar advocate is because he believed in it … and wanted to make a career in it," she said. "That opened my eyes to the fact they’ve really made improvements in the 30 years since I was in college."

Orris said she was inspired by her son and what he’s learned in the industry. Through his work as a solar consultant for YellowLite in Cleveland, DiPaolo has found that people all over Ohio are having solar panels installed on top of their homes, she said, adding that hearing that made her think, "This is really something to look into."

She said before her son began his new job she didn’t know anyone who had solar panels in their home. After DiPaolo started working at YellowLite, she learned an acquaintance of hers indeed had solar panels installed on her house, and they came from YellowLite. 

"It’s kind of like a small world, right?" Orris said. "I went to her house and it was like, ‘Wow. This looks great.’ It’s doing really well and I can see someone in action, and I felt I’ll start the solar bandwagon, as well."

DiPaolo said his interest in the environment and solar energy goes back to when he was young as he actively participated in Scouting. "I was a Boy Scout and I’m an Eagle Scout so a lot of my favorite memories are trekking around the outdoors at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park."

DiPaolo said when he graduated last year from Kent State University, where he majored in history and minored in political science, he knew what he wanted to to.

"I wanted to devote my career to sustaining and maintaining the environment for future generations," he said, "and I saw solar as a good avenue to help everyday homeowners to do that while providing a solid return on investment."

As a solar consultant, DiPaolo was able to determine his mother’s house was a good candidate for solar panels.

He said the home’s peaked roof faces east and west, and the sun is always to the south in Ohio. Panels could have been installed on either side, he said. Simulations for possible shading in the area showed the house was a "good fit for solar," he said. The roof offered a lot of space with few vents in it, he said, and what he felt was the best part, it was a newer roof.

The Orris home has 20 monochrystalline panels on the east side of the roof, DiPaulo said, adding he chose the east side to avoid a chimney on the west side.

Although her panels have only been up and running for a couple of months, Orris said she has already seen a difference in her electric bill. Because July was such a sunny month, she did not have to pay anything for electricity for the second half of the month when the solar panels were up and running.

The cost to purchase and install her solar power system was $18,400, Orris said. "You have a big investment at first," she said, "but I’m committed to the long-term cause of solar power and what it can do as a clean energy source."

She said she will receive a 30 percent federal income tax credit which will reduce her out-of-pocket cost to less than $13,000. She estimates it will take 7 1/2 years to recoup her investment of $13,000. "Since the system is designed to last 25 years, that's 17 1/2 years of electrical use where the system doesn't cost me," she added.

"Even in the short time I’ve had it, I’ve saved a 1,000 pounds of CO2 emissions," Orris said. "In the lifetime of the system, it was like planting 4,000 trees. That’s just amazing." Orris added her 20 panels are estimated to save more than 62 tons of coal over the next 25 years.

DiPaolo said he would recommend solar power to anyone who is environmentally conscious and is planning to stay in their home a long time and wants to see a solid return on their investment.

The open house is free and open to the public. The National Solar Tour is sponsored by Solar United Neighbors and the American Solar Energy Society. Anyone interested in attending the open house may RSVP at http://bit.ly/solaropenhouse-318 or go to http://nationalsolartour.org.

Reporter Steve Wiandt, can be reached at 330-541-9420, swiandt@recordpub.com or @SteveWiandt_RPC.