Solar makes sense

Solar Options grew out of building experience and a growing interest in solar for New Zealand homeowners. For more than a decade Solar Options owners, Gerry and Simone Magner have lived and raised their two children in an eco-friendly, hi-spec, self-built home, completely off-grid, enjoying an energy freedom lifestyle on Ohakana Island in Ohiwa Harbour.

Gerard Magner, founder of Solar Options (NZ) Ltd knew all about utilising solar energy, having been involved in implementing and delivering solar solutions on projects in Australia, Ireland and now New Zealand.

Custom design

Solar’s the only way

When it came to building the family home, it made perfect sense to go the eco friendly way.

It had been a long time dream to build a fully self-sustainable, eco-friendly, solar powered, high spec, off-grid home. Returning to New Zealand in 2005, seeking a more tranquil lifestyle for our family in our own piece of paradise, we set about designing our dream home. Wanting to build and live in a classified pristine area of New Zealand wasn’t without it’s challenges. With building and resource consents to obtain, logistical planning, appropriate building design and materials to consider, and of course, the energy concerns of the new build were the top priorities.

The individual nature and character of the build was considered innovative and ground breaking in 2004 Council consent processes delayed the build start by two years. The delayed building commencement date afforded us the time to completely research best design and best building practise and best materials with specific consideration given to all possible renewable energy options. By the end of the consent process we were thoroughly confident that the only way to go was solar. Using the time to learn about our energy capacity and understand what our energy requirements would be, to run all the typical appliances that a home attached to the grid would have. This was the time to get the planning right.

This home was to be a hi-spec, cutting edge modernist design that included some serious appliances and lighting requirements. This was going to be our forever home and we were determined that this wasn’t going to become an extended ‘camping’ experience.

The beauty of a new build meant we could incorporate solar energy into the design of our home from the ground up, way before any panels went on the roof. Good design, orientation and planning was the secret to the success of the build. The initial solar power components included a photovoltaic panel system, solar specific batteries for energy storage and an inverter to distribute the energy into the house.

The other major priority of our build was hot water and heating. By setting up two solar hot water systems side by side, we were able to have more than enough hot water to easily meet the homes hot water requirements. Heating a modern home with 40% external glass surface required great consideration to design and planning. Installing double glazed windows, achieving high insulation rating, combined with passive solar heating and circulating solar hot water underfloor and central heating system to service a 225 sq m house (without using a single fossil fuel) was the challenge.

The logistical challenges of transporting materials to an island presented a whole other set of issues. The entire build took 2 years to complete, being deliberate with solar right from the planning stage, meant the sustainable foot print and character of the house could be realised. At the end of 2007 we moved in to our living breathing, fully sustainable, off-grid, high tech home, proving that it is possible to live comfortably off grid. It is possible for solar homes to have all the modern conveniences associated with grid-tied powered house. A great feeling living with a completely clear environmental conscience.

living off grid, on Ohakana Island on Ohiwa Harbour, in a home powered entirely by solar is so satisfying … drawing all our energy requirements from an abundant, limitless, natural resource … provides a great sense of lifestyle empowerment.

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Sharing the Solar experience

Good news travels fast you could say! Before long we had many enquiries from remote, new and existing home builders wanting to know how we went solar.

We were essentially solar pioneers (in our locality) attempting an off grid build. At that time there wasn’t a lot of information about solar energy and there were very few solar products on the market. It wasn’t long before other families facing similar building remote challenges, accompanied with hefty electricity connection costs (sometimes several thousands of dollars) sought alternate energy options. Initially local Bay of Plenty families, were interested in replicating our eco-friendly, modern design, environmentally safe lifestyle.

Through our build we acquired valuable energy knowledge and information on sustainability, that we could share within our community. We were keen to share the benefits of an off-grid lifestyle, encouraging more families, how to take embark on an energy freedom lifestyle.

The establishment of Solar Options in 2010, was a natural response to a local demand and interest in solar energy. Identifying a very real market and a genuine, growing interest in solar energy systems for homes. Through our business we could share with other families the basic concept of living with solar and the sense of freedom and satisfaction that can be achieved by building and living in a totally living, breathing building.

Through Solar Options we were also able to show existing and new home owners how solar energy, products can be incorporated into new and existing homes so that they too could avail of a free energy source, make savings and live in a more energy conscious home.

It became our mission at Solar Options to provide, reliable solar system products and consultancy that was both accessible and affordable. Our idea was to share the success and satisfaction, offer sound advice, excellent high-quality products at reasonable prices and provide market confidence with an excellent back up service.

With solar incorporated into more homes, the benefits have to impact on our community, fostering healthy, happy families. We have learnt that Solar is a lifestyle investment which will make real returns to any home and family that invest in it.

Solar Options is committed to bringing more and more solar energy systems to as many homes across NZ as possible. We believe the positive benefits of living with solar will impact positively on our communities, to foster healthy, happy families.

Find out about solar today