Most of the solar panels are on the sunny side of the house, with a couple on the front. YellowLite, a solar energy contractor of Cleveland, installed the 22 panels in March, and they were operational by April. The system cost the husband and wife $17,000. Renee said they took out an eco-loan, which will be paid off in five years, cutting their $100 electric and fuel bills to zero.

“We needed so many kilowatt hours a month to cover what we used in our house and I thought we’d go a little over that. Basically, we could power more things,” Randy said.

“The price was steep. We got to thinking, what if we add enough power to power an electric car. It turns out it would take the same amount (again) of what we’re using in our house to power a car, so we doubled the size of our solar array. It started to make more economic sense. We can run our house, power our car for zero dollars.”

Renee said she thinks of it like car loan, except this loan gives back after five years.

“We have a guaranteed source for fuel and energy for both our car and home for as long as we live,” she said. “It’s a lifelong investment. We often think short term, and it’s really not that long of a term.”

They bought the solar panels because of the “greenness” of it, but also to sell power back to Ohio Edison.

When they bought and gutted their house on Highland Avenue two years ago, they chose to use all LED lighting, an electric water heater and energy start seals on their washer and refrigerator. They also hang their clothes outside to dry when the weather is nice.

“We also insulated the house,” Renee said. “We got foam insulation and we put 18 inches in the ceiling. You walk up in the winter and you can feel the temperature going up as you go up the steps. Our heating bills were a lot lower.”

They’re in the market to buy a used electric car. They drive a Chevrolet Sonic now and a 1982 Volkswagen pickup that gets 50 miles per gallon. Renee said they’re looking at the Chevrolet Bolt, which has a 320-mile charge range. The 2015 Chevrolet Spark they found online is another option. On a test run, they were surprised how light and quiet the car was.

“My first thought was to buy a Chevy Bolt. It had enough range to drive to work, but they’re an expensive brand, so we started looking at other options,” Randy said. “We want to at least be able to drive to Cleveland and back.”

Their goal is to eventually purchase a Tesla Powerwall, a small rechargeable battery for home energy storage. The battery would allow them to store the extra power they produce, so they could live off the grid without using any public utilities.

“We’re happy we have extra energy to put to the national grid,” Renee said. “We’re hoping as more people put solar panels on their house, they’ll realize it’s a good investment.”

Their summer project has been building a permaculture food forest in their backyard. Mounds of aged mulch cover logs buried under the ground. The decayed trees hold moisture and nutrients, and hazelnut trees, squash, radish, watermelon and tomatoes are starting to sprout from the giant raised beds.

“There’s 30 different varieties of things growing. Strawberries, asparagus, potatoes,” Randy said.

Randy grew up on a farm in Iowa, and Renee has always had a garden and canned, she said. They bought the house for the backyard, which was a concrete slab before they transformed it to an earthy, quiet place to grow food.

Reporter Kelly Maile can be reached at 330-541-9416, kmaile@recordpub.com or @KellyJMaile.