Ohio Professors School Solar Tourists on Making “The Switch”

Marlin Languis at his Westerville, Ohio home

Paul Wendel taught high school physics for 18 years before relocating to Otterbein University’s education department. Marlin Languis retired from the Ohio State University neuroscience department in 2012 at age 80. In October, the men schooled Green Energy Ohio Tour attendees on what it meant to “go solar.”

“On average, once a year we take on something new and incorporate it into our lifestyle,” said Wendel, referring to his and his wife’s commitment to alternative energy.

Before making the switch, they breezed through books like Green Building and Energy for Dummies and read magazines like Home Power to sharpen their energy knowledge. Now, 20 years later, they own 2.4 kW of solar panels that collect sunshine atop their Westerville, Ohio home. Their out-of-pocket investment: $6,095.

“We didn’t really do it for money,” Wendel said. It would take another 20 years to make good on their investment, even with the 30% federal tax incentive and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC) applied to the cost. “We did it for love,” he said.

For Marlin Languis, the heart was the motivation as well. “My biggest motivation is not money,” he said.

“It’s not financial. I see myself as an advocate — an educational advocate — to help people understand alternative energy.” And at age 82, he drives a solar-powered vehicle.

Paul Wendel and his wife at their Westerville, Ohio, home
Paul Wendel and his wife at their Westerville, Ohio, home

Before switching, Paul Wendel developed a few other energy-saving habits. He rides a bike to work, mows the lawn with a reel mower, owns a wood-fired stove, and has insulated his entire home.

The Wendels did all of this before switching to solar because it just wasn’t working out at first.

“I’ve been interested in solar for 20 years, easy, but it wasn’t practical for us for a long time.”

The roof on their first home wasn’t compatible with photovoltaics, and at the time, battery-powered solar panels were too expensive. The 1990’s development of grid installation changed things for them.

82-year-old Marlin Languis’s solar-powered Prius – Courtesy: Ecohouse Solar

Since mid-March, they’ve produced more electricity in their home than they’ve put out, slashing their energy costs and giving them a positive balance on their electric bills.

Likewise for Marlin Languis, who has opened his home to Green Energy Ohio tourists for a second year. This year, he announced his energy-saving results. It was his first full year. He said the success of his installation debunked two myths Ohioans face when considering “the switch.”

  1. There’s not enough sun in Ohio.
  2. It can’t happen on a flat-roof home.

“Both of those arguments have been dispelled by my house.” said Languis.

Like the Wendels, Languis had a tree and roof problem. He uprooted the trees and replaced his flat roof before signing a contract with Westerville, Ohio’s Ecohouse Solar. Now he can boast about having a solar energy surplus.

The panels on his Westerville home were designed to produce 7.3 kW with 84% annual use. After the first year, they’ve produced 8.4 kW of electrical energy — more energy than predicted by Ecohouse Solar owner Kevin Eigel last year. After applying AEP’s Renewable Energy Technology Program (15-year SREC prepaid credits) and a 30% federal tax credit, his total investment: $13,150.

Right now, he has a $300 credit with AEP, the largest electricity transmission network in the nation, with more than 40,000 miles.

“AEP essentially buys my electricity from me,” said Languis. “It looks like they might cover 90-95% of my bill.”

Though technically retired, Languis volunteers to teach about energy responsibility around Columbus, Ohio. He saves a portable solar panel unit that he once toted around for almost two years along with some solar cookers in the Dublin, Ohio school district.

Paul Wendel is still teaching science education at Otterbein University in Ohio.

These life teachers are not only solar energy advocates — they are green energy advocates.