Meet Mr. Sustainable, who Lives Off the Grid in East Amwell, New Jersey

NJ Sustainability

Mr. Sustainable

Dante DiPirro is a lawyer in East Amwell Township, New Jersey, who has had a lifelong interest in collecting energy from the sun.  He’s come a long way since the sixth grade, when his science project was a contraption which collected solar power using mirrors.  DiPirro, who calls himself Mr. Sustainable, now lives completely off the grid in a 2,700-square-foot home that he designed and built himself.

As DiPirro built his solar-powered house, it was with the hope that other people could realize that the technology to live off the electrical grid is available today.  He says that he doesn’t need to pull resources or power from any other sources, so why do it?  In addition to contributing to a cleaner environment, Mr. Sustainable estimates that he is saving about $4,000 per year in energy costs.

It took almost seven years for 51-year-old DiPirro to build his home, which is located in New Jersey’s Hunterdon County near Sourland Mountain.  The equipment needed to support his vision wasn’t always easy to find.  Construction was held up for a while when he was trying to find equipment which could be directly powered by the solar panels in his backyard; these included a water pump, light fixtures, and a refrigerator that runs strictly on DC (direct current) power.

From top to bottom, sustainable design was built into this off-the-grid house, which DiPirro has lived in since 2011.  The house has thick insulation, east-west orientation, and high windows; what it doesn’t have is a traditional cooling and heating system.  DiPirro’s home is primarily heated by sunlight which comes through the windows and heat that comes up through the floor, which is black tile over a lightweight kind of concrete that absorbs heat from the sun during the daytime.  His backups are a radiant floor system and propane.

During the summertime, the house stays between 60 and 70 degrees, even without air conditioning.  An overhang shields the home’s living room from direct sunlight.

solar energy sustainability

Mr. Sustainable paid off his solar system in about 4 years, so now he is looking forward to 26 years of free power!

There are many energy-saving measures DiPirro has taken, and he hopes that other people will decide to adopt some of them.  For instance, he watches television on an LED TV that uses 30 watts of power, which he says is much less than what a plasma or an LCD television uses.

Is life any different when you rely solely on the solar panels in your backyard for electrical power?  Yes, but DiPirro doesn’t find the difference to be an inconvenience.  His basement stores 16 batteries which store solar energy; when they’re all full, he has all the power he needs for a week — if he’s discriminating with his use of power, that is.

Doing the laundry is reserved for sunny days, when the power used by the washing machine can be replaced quickly.  DiPirro also reserves the use of his slow cooker for sunny days, when he enjoys making lentil soup.  Leftovers can be reheated with a minimal amount of power.

DiPirro has set up a sustainability blog, where’s he’s connecting with people who are interested in using sustainable energy.  A builder has contacted Mr. Sustainable and may incorporate some of his energy-saving methods in the construction of a South Jersey development.

For most people, the most important aspect of going solar is saving money on the cost of energy.  DiPirro says that paying off his solar panel system took four years, and now he’s looking at 26 years of free power.

If you are interested in following in Mr. Sustainable’s footsteps in New Jersey, contact the NASS solar store located in Hamilton NJ, Bowden’s Solar Store. The professional solar technicians at Bowden’s can assist you in designing your very own off-grid, sustainable home.

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