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Habitat house saves energy costs with solar power

Habitat house saves energy costs with solar power (Mike Carter-Conneen/ ABC7)

A family of five in Gaithersburg is now enjoying life in a recently renovated home, provided by Habitat For Humanity. And Monday morning, they flipped the switch on their newly installed solar panels.

Abebe Woldesenbet and Amsale Demeke emigrated from Ethiopia in 2001.

He drives a taxi. She works at a local grocery store. With three children, they've struggled financially, moving from apartment to apartment.

This year, they became proud homeowners. Renovated by Habitat For Humanity Metro Maryland, the family moved into a house in a quiet Gaithersburg neighborhood in December.

"The American dream, the American way of life," he called it.

"I'm so happy. Word can't describe how happy I am," she said.

But the couple said they were shocked and scared by their first few energy bills. They reached out to Habitat for help. In turn, Habitat reached out to Columbia-based Direct Energy to install the solar panels.

For years, Habitat has been building energy-efficient homes. But across the country now, local chapters are partnering with energy companies to provide solar power.

As a result, construction teams must factor in new structural and design requirements.

"We have to be able to sustain the weight. And the roof has to be in the right direction to capture as much solar energy as possible," said Habitat For Humanity Metro Maryland Executive Director John Paukstis.

Direct Energy said about a third of the house's power will now come from the panels. The complete system, valued at about $15,000, was donated by the company.

"We expect this family to save more than $20,000 over the next 20 years in energy," said Direct Energy Solar VP & General Manager Cory Byzewski. "And on top of that, we expect this system to save about 70,000 pounds of coal that would otherwise be burned for this energy."

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