solar-houseReady for its moment in the sun: the Ptak house on West Westside Avenue. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)


It’s not uncommon for Peter Ptak to have complete strangers knocking on his door, poking around his yard and asking him a list of questions about that funny-looking roof of his. So when a steady flow of strangers show up this Saturday, it won’t be such a big deal.

But in a sense it is.

Saturday is the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association‘s annual Green Buildings Open House, which showcases local projects like Ptak’s solar-powered home, to interested locals.

Its purpose is to show the public that living in a more sustainable and energy efficient home is somewhat simple, even if it extends beyond screwing in a couple compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Billed as the largest sustainable energy event in the northeastern U.S., it showcases homes and buildings as far south as Delaware and up to New Hampshire, but only a few are featured in Monmouth County.

Ptak’s West Westside Avenue home and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County, in Lincroft, are the only ones registered in the Red Bank area, according to the association’s website.

For Ptak, the rationale for solar-powered living is more than simple.

“Did you pay your electric bill 3 years ago? Five Years ago? Are you going to pay your electric bill this year? Eight, twenty years from now? Why?” he said.

Since installing the panels in 2006, Ptak, who owned two other homes on his street and installed panels on them as well, says his highest energy bill has been a whopping $12.

“Needless to say, I’m hooked on solar,” he said.

Over at the church in Lincroft, Stephen Knowlton said installing solar panels wasn’t just an economical choice; it lined up with the church’s values. But it has been nice to cut the electric bill down — by 21 percent since the panels were installed in 2001 — he said. The church also replaced an old oil furnace with two gas boilers, which Knowlton said has cut the bill by 6 percent.

He said he wants to show people this year that, yes, it is possible. And to slowly remove yourself from the grips of the grid is a pretty good feeling too, Ptak said.

“So you wonder why everybody doesn’t do this. Exactly why don’t they?” Ptak said. “It’s a pretty simple thing, I tell people.”

More info about the open house is at the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s website.