New Brunswick

Taymouth man goes 'super solar' with house covered in solar panels

Whenever someone new goes by Drew Gilbert’s home in Taymouth he says they always stop to take in the spectacle.

Drew Gilbert has more more than two dozen solar panels adorning his house and front yard

Drew Gilbert has installed 30 solar panels around his property, many of which are mounted on the walls of his home instead of the roof, where the tech is normally installed. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Whenever someone goes by Drew Gilbert's home in Taymouth, he says they always stop to take in the spectacle. 

"People that I can hear from my deck when they walk by, or when they go by on their bicycle, is usually like 'holy smokes, do you see all the solar panels on that place?'," said Gilbert. 

Two years ago, Gilbert and his partner Amy made the decision to go 'off-grid.' 

There are now wall-to-wall solar panels covering the exterior of his home. There are even more positioned in his front yard. Thirty in total.

"Cars will come around the corner and behind us and they'll instantly slow down," said Gilbert. 

Drew Gilbert says he's invested about $40,000 into his solar panel system and expects it to pay for itself in about 20 years. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

What separates Gilbert's array from many other installations is the decision he made to cover his walls with them as opposed to his roof, where the tech is normally placed. 

"It was a difficult decision and a hard sell to my solar contractor to believe me that putting them on the roof was going to be a huge problem," said Gilbert. "We get snow out here four or five feet deep sometimes and that all lands on the roof." 

Gilbert's home also sports twelve more solar panels in an array in his front yard that contributes to power his off-grid home. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Gilbert opted to have them cover every wall of his home that faces the sun instead of dealing with keeping the roof clear of snow.

He admits during the summer months he loses the potential to gather more energy. But swears by the decision to wall-mount them, citing the lower angle of the sun in the winter months when daylight is limited and the benefits of lower maintenance. 

"I can't be pulling snow off solar panels if I don't have to," said Gilbert. "So, it made sense to put them on the side of the house because there's never a snow problem on the side of the house." 

Despite being in a neighborhood with plenty of power lines, Gilbert made the decision to cut his home off entirely from the grid. He says issues concerning the reliability of the New Brunswick power grid, as well as disagreeing with how NB Power credits those feeding electricity back onto the grid, cemented his choice.

But the desire to be independent was also a big motivation for cutting ties with the power company. 

"It was more about energy independence," said Gilbert. "It was more about doing the right thing for the environment, taking our home off the grid and creating a house that was going to be there to protect us when the power was out." 

Drew Gilbert says his solar home in Taymouth gets a lot of looks from passersby. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

And thirty panels appear to be the magic number. Gilbert says he's done adding to the collection.

After a few years of building it and making his home energy efficient he says he's ready to enjoy not having a power bill every month.

He estimates he's spent around 40-thousand dollars on the array – an investment he expects will pay for itself over the next twenty years.

About the Author

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.

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