By George Harvey
Though Milhouse Enterprises, of Belmont, New Hampshire, is now one of the most experienced solar installers in the Northeast, it did not focus on solar installations at the beginning. When it was founded in 1992, Milhouse engaged in energy retrofits and building off-grid, net-zero homes, to be heated by geothermal heat pumps. Today, this would be remarkable, but in those days it was almost unheard of. Chris Milner of Milhouse Enterprises said, “We were green before green was a buzzword.”
With the passing of time, the demand for geothermal heating became overwhelming, as people began to understand the benefits, causing this to be the main focus of the business. At the same time, Milner understood that with the dropping price of solar power, it would be possible to use it to drive the heat pumps used to heat and cool homes, and so Milhouse expanded in that direction.
Originally, both heat pumps and solar power were outsourced, but in 2003, they brought geothermal in- house, and in 2006, they did the same for solar. The reason for this change was largely because Milner felt that the solar and geothermal installers were not making things as easy for customers as he wanted them to be, a problem he would rectify. The easiest way to make sure the customers have a good experience is to take responsibility for the service.
The economic downturn in 2007 had extensive impact on housing and the building industry. Milner’s change of focus made his business better prepared for this than it otherwise might have been, and he was able to shift Milhouse’s focus away from construction, in favor of solar power and geothermal heat. When construction activity had not improved by 2010, the company became devoted entirely to alternative energy, closing the construction division. In fact, solar installations take up so much of Milhouse’s demand that it is now sometimes necessary to send inquiries about geothermal installations to the competition, because there is simply not enough time to do everything.
Milhouse’s background is important for anyone wanting to install solar at home. Because of its experiences with construction, Milhouse has both expertise and equipment for that field. This means that dealing with ground site preparation, concrete, and so on, can be done by the company itself, and there is no need to bring in outside specialists for the purpose. The upshot of this is that a ground installation done by Milhouse can come at the lowest available price, and at a cost very competitive with a rooftop installation. This is a significant advantage, especially for anyone who might have reason to replace a roof in the foreseeable future, a prospect that can either mean replacing the roof early or putting a solar installation off for a few years.
Milner says his company’s ability to provide lowest-cost ground mounts is one of a number of distinct advantages. Milhouse uses products made exclusively in the United States for grid-tied systems. It has the longest warranties in the market. It uses “the most advanced and accurate shading analysis equipment that exists,” Milner says. “Many of our competitors don’t have this because of the high cost.”
There is a final advantage that will delight some Green Energy Times readers. Milhouse offers not only grid-tied systems and off-grid and battery-backup systems, but do-it-yourself installation kits. Milner says, “Most firms do not do off-grid, and only one other offers ‘self-install,’ which they only sell on Ebay. We assist our self-install customers with paperwork, process, layout and technical support.”
Milner is dedicated to spreading the word on solar power. Since installing solar systems is not a winter job, he travels a lot in that time of year, teaching architects and engineers about alternative energy. His courses are certified by the American Institute of Architects and state engineering boards, which review courses to make sure they are up-to-date and accurate, so professionals can get credits for their licenses by attending them. The courses, given in many places across the United States, are six to seven hours long.
Milner says, “Our goal has always been to be the best at what we do by offering our customers the best experience, quality, customer service, and craftsmanship they can get for a lower price than others can offer, thereby making us the leader in our industry.”
The number for Milhouse Enterprises is 603-300-2943. The web site is www.milhouseenterprises.com.