In the last nine years, ice storms have created more destruction than tornadoes, costing the state more than $1 billion in damages, according to the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives.
After extended periods without running water or electrical power, more and more homeowners are looking to solar energy.
“We are seeing a lot more people turning to solar homes because of the ice storms,” said John Miggins of Standard Renewable Energy, a national company with offices located in Tulsa.
Miggins said most inquiries are from people wanting to save money. His business has increased by 25 percent, he said.
Technology harvests energy from the sun and creates electricity, hot water and heat.
When homeowners use less power than they have generated, grid-tied power generation systems allow them to sell electricity to power companies.
Miggins said hundreds of Oklahoma homes use grid-tied systems, and that number is growing.
Miggins uses his solar-powered office and 800-square foot rental house to demonstrate solar products. Electricity costs at the rental home, which has a wood burning stove, average about $75 a month, he said.
Mike Powers said he has lost count of how many solar homes he has built or remodeled since 1981.
“Typically I am working on two at a time, but I have built as many as eight at a time,” said Powers, whose construction business in Jay includes a division called Solar Homes.
Solar products can add $10,000 to $30,000 to a home’s price tag, Powers said. Homeowners usually make that up in energy savings in about six years.
A conservative solar package includes the panels, a solar water heating system, insulation and window upgrades, and a radiant heat barrier that reduces summer heat by about 45 percent, he said.
Solar is for all income levels, not just the wealthy, Powers said.
“But you can start with simple things first, such as insulation and windows,” Powers said.
During the most recent ice storm, which brought single-digit temperatures, Powers never used his furnace, relying instead on a woodstove and solar energy to heat his home.
“A woodstove is the perfect marriage with solar in reducing heating costs in a home,” he said.
The most wood Powers uses a winter is less than two riks.