Aug 29, 2023

Alternative Energy Home Tours this weekend

The Dan and Linda Canton off-grid home located near Decorah is featured on the WED Energy Home Tour June 10. (submitted photo)

The public is invited to tour area homes and learn about solar installations, heat pumps, energy efficiency and sustainable building practices during the upcoming Winneshiek Energy District Alternative Energy Home Tour. WED has partnered with six Decorah-area homeowners for an at-your-own pace self-guided tour on Saturday, June 10, from 1 to 4 p.m. Visit a variety of featured homes and come away inspired to implement these practices at home. Homeowners will be on-site to share their experiences. All homes are located in or near Decorah.

WED's Paul Cutting explained alternative energy details. He said the average house uses about 25kWh of power a day, and the average household uses about 9,000kWh of solar a year. Kilowatts listed below are peak production when the sun is shining. The 4.5 kW represents approximately 14 solar panels – depending on type and rating. Heat pumps can replace a standard furnace and air conditioner, tied to an existing duct system or wall, floor or ceiling mounted.

Featured homes

Dan and Linda Canton, 2746 W. Ridge Rd.

Off the grid, 6.0kW solar, 5.0kW lithium iron-phosphate battery backup, backup LP generator, air source heat pump for AC and supplemental heating, in-floor heat, electric riding lawn mower, electric chainsaws, timber frame, energy efficiency and more.

Built with efficiency in mind, this timber frame off-grid home features 6.0kW of solar connected to 5.0kW of lithium iron phosphate battery storage, a wood stove for heating and cooking, and mini split and in-floor radiant heat for backup. The Cantons have developed several creative solutions to combat the challenges of living off-grid, like "banking" solar production through preheating and precooling, utilizing an electric riding lawn mower and using electric chainsaws for harvesting.

Presenting its own set of challenges and benefits, this home with solar energy production and battery storage with no electrical grid backup takes planning and lifestyle adjustments, making this home an interesting stop on the tour. This home does use LP to manage certain aspects of their energy needs, but averages only about 85 gallons per year.

Chris Frantsvog,504 Jefferson St.

4.0kW solar, ductless cold climate air source heat pump (wall-mounted), hybrid heat pump water heater, newly-constructed energy efficient addition.

This modest 19th century brick home coupled with a newly-constructed modular structural insulated panel and brick veneered addition features rooftop solar on both the house and garage, a multi-zone cold climate ductless heat pump and a hybrid heat pump water heater


Rolf and Laura Peterson, 109 Crescent Ave.

Ducted cold climate heat pump, 6kW rooftop solar, wood stove, soon-to-be installed hybrid heat pump water heater.

This home typifies what whole-home electrification might look like for those living in existing mid-20th century homes. The Petersons are in the final stages of converting all systems to electric and plan to cap the gas line once the new heat pump water heater is installed. Two years ago, the Petersons installed 6kW of rooftop solar and swapped their gas furnace with a ducted air source heat pump.

Porter House Museum, 401 W. Broadway St.

4.5kW rooftop solar, four ductless heat pumps for climate control.

Lack of climate control is the death of any museum collection. See how the Porter House Museum solved this vexing problem without adding financial strain to the organization's bottom line. 4.5kW of rooftop solar paired with ductless heat pumps for air conditioning and heating needs during the warmer fall and spring months were designed and installed to complement this 19th century Italianate home, all while reducing the museum's electric use.

Kevin and Leslie Sand, 2597 Quarry Hill Rd.

Concerned with the amount of propane required to heat their home and its ever-increasing cost, the Sands installed 14kW of pole-mounted solar and coupled it with two ductless cold climate heat pumps. This home is a great tour for those trying to implement electric heating without existing ductwork.

Perry-O and David Sliwa, 2918 Middle Sattre Rd.

4.5kW solar, 1.5kW wind generator, plug-in hybrid vehicle, double wall construction, triple pane windows, passive house principles, in-floor electric heat, ductless heat pump for supplemental heating and A/C, and numerous passive features.

Incorporating lessons from living off the grid for 40 years, the Sliwas built their retirement home in 2016 with efficiency as the guiding principle. The thoughtfully-designed home features numerous passive house concepts like superior levels of insulation, winter solar gain through plentiful south-facing windows, summer shading through extended roof overhangs and optimal site orientation. Requiring minimal energy to heat and cool, all systems are electric and are offset from on-the-grid use through on-site solar and wind production.

The Sliwa's utilize the grid-or are grid-tied-to export power during times when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. That process of giving and taking from the grid is called "net metering." In this scenario, most solar production occurs during the summer months – excess power not used as it's produced is exported back onto the grid and the customer receives credit that they can then draw down on when solar isn't producing.

For more details on featured homes, visit