Bill and Debbi Lord’s retirement home on the Maine coast produces its own space heating, hot water, and electricity, using only the sunlight that shines on its roof. In fact, in a region with severe winters and modest solar resources, the home generates more electricity than it uses.

If you’re picturing a rustic cabin, think again. The house looks and functions like a gracious custom home — and that’s exactly what it is. It features modern comforts and amenities, without the utility bills.

Solar Design Associates, Inc. (SDA), Harvard, MA, worked with the Lords to design their elegant, sun-filled home. “With whole-building design and quality construction practices, we struck an energy balance in the house between energy supply and demand,” explains Steven Strong, president of SDA.

“This balance results in comfort levels that exceed those found in conventional homes,” he continued. “At the same time, the Lord home is responsible for less pollution, fewer greenhouse gases, and less nuclear waste than a comparable conventional home, because only a small percentage of its electricity comes from traditional power plants.”

Built in 1996, the 2,800-sq-ft, energy-autonomous home incorporates a passive solar design for space heating and lighting; solar thermal systems for radiant heating and hot water; and building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) roofing materials to generate electricity.

Sited on a lot overlooking a wildlife refuge, a meandering tidal river, and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance, the house is oriented to the Southeast to catch more of the early morning sun and to take full advantage of the glorious view.


Over a 12-month period, the solar electric system on the roof exports more power to the local utility company than it uses, so the Lord’s monthly electricity bill never exceeds the utility hook-up charge of about $8 per month.

Seven months of the year, the house produces an excess of electricity. Only during exceptionally cold winter months does the house require more power than it produces.

Because the Lords effectively “bank” kilowatt hours when they are exporting excess electricity to the grid, their utility bills remain constant. If there is a net excess at the end of the year, the Lords “generously donate the extra power to the local utility,” according to Bill Lord.

For more information on the Lord house, visit Bill and Debbi Lord open their home each year for the American Solar Energy Society’s National Tour of Solar Homes. This year’s tour will take place on October 13, 2001. For more information on the Tour, visit

Publication date: 10/15/2001