Reaping the rewards from solar energy with improved curb appeal, cost effectiveness, and utilitarian benefits were the incentives for Heath Hemauer and his father Tom to design solar sheds.
The Chilton father and son team recently formed HT Energy, L. L. C. to construct and sell their innovation, SunShed.
Traditional solar panels constructed on rooftops pose inherent obstacles. Panel placement must face the perfect angle and direction often not feasible in an existing home or business. The free standing steel frames needed for installation are pricey and once the system is in place it is visually challenged to fit into the surroundings, often diminishing a home or building’s aesthetics. SunShed eliminates those obstacles.
Heath possesses an Aerospace Engineering degree from the University of Minnesota and a Master Electrician license in both Wisconsin and Minnesota. His father Tom built nearly 500 homes during his 30-year ownership of TR Builders, Inc. The pair’s combined knowledge and experience with electricity and construction provides a natural partnership for their new business.
Tom explains the birth of SunSheds. “Heath suggested I install a solar system in my backyard to offset my home’s energy consumption and save money. Believe me, I am a tight wad and wasn’t about to spend a lot of money to save a little later on; however, solar module prices have dropped in recent years but the aesthetics of a steel and concrete structure didn’t please my wife. Rita suggested we make it more attractive. Additionally, she could benefit from the storage space of a garden shed. After pricing steel frames, we realized that for the same cost so much more could be achieved by using conventional wood framing and enclosing the structure to reduce wind loading,” he said.
Planning and experimentation began. New ideas were tried and a few ineffective concepts were tossed aside. The first structure was built in Tom’s backyard—a 160 square foot shed with 12 solar modules each providing 240 watts. A concrete floor was poured for the ballast wood framing, solar modules fastened to the top eliminating the need for conventional roofing, and power ran to the home’s main circuit panel. The solar panels use light to create DC (direct current) which is then converted to utility grade AC (alternating current).
“I use solar generated power for my personal use and any excess is sold to
Tom Hemauer points out some of the inside wiring on the solar sheds he and son Heath have devised.
Above is the first shed the Hemauers built; at right is the improved model viewable on Chilton’s Main Street.
the electric utility. My electric meter basically runs backward and forward. If the utility grid shuts down due to a storm, our system will automatically shut down, protecting the utility workers from harm. Using the electricity produced along with the shed storage value, the SunShed has become an excellent investment for me receiving the attention and inquiries from others,” Tom said.
The pair has since improved upon the original structure with a larger overhang
Margaret Richman photos
for water shedding, solar panels fastened internally, and vinyl siding versus plywood providing for improved eye appeal. A model of the SunShed is located at 610 E. Main St., Chilton next to their workshop. HT Energy constructs SunSheds from 100 to 1,200 square feet allowing for up to 80 solar panels. Energy needs will determine shed size and construction is in accordance with NEC (National Electrical Code) guidelines.
Grant money from Focus on Energy is available; Hemauer received $1,600 for the installation of his system. In addition to an annual average savings of $480 on electric bills and environmental consciousness, Tom points out that a 30 percent tax credit toward total cost is available and that his home insurance was not affected.
HT Energy invites people to view their model at 610 E. Main St. and contact them for further information at www.sun-shed.comor (920) 522-3676.