SOLAR Tour #1: Bäretswil
More than 100 years ago, the Zurich Oberland around Bäretswil revolutionised the textile industry by using renewable energy: by the middle of the 19th century, countless spinning mills had sprung up along the banks of rivers and streams, all of them running their machines on hydropower to process cotton fibres into yarn. Mathis and Claudia Rutsch now live with their four sons, Tiziano, Moreno, Matteo and Valerio, in one of these mills, which had formerly stood empty for decades.
“Only recently, in 2012, the building was converted into 16 apartments,” explains Mathis. He himself reinstated a crucial component of the original mill in his own home: renewable energy.
Let the sun shine
Nowadays, it is not hydro energy, but solar energy that the Rutsch family uses to power their home. Since October 2016, 62 solar panels from IKEA and its partner company Helion Solar have been providing all the power for this family of six; from the dishwasher and washing machine to lights and all other electrical equipment and devices. “Our roof is our fortune: facing due south, perfectly pitched and no trees to cast a shadow over it,” says Mathis, with a smile on his face. “The solar power system took just seven days to install. After that, the sun started to work for us.”
And to top it all – solar mobility
The first person in the family to suggest the idea of using solar energy was Moreno, the second eldest son. “I’m studying environmental science, so renewable energy has been a big issue for me right from the start,” explains Moreno. “And naturally, I tried to exert a positive influence on my family when we were discussing this at home.” With resounding success, it would seem. But the Rutsch family has not stopped at merely running its home on solar energy.
A new power cable had to be installed in the basement garage. This is home to two electric cars, which both run on solar energy generated by the family. As a result, the idea of “topping up on sunshine” takes on a whole new meaning.
Bikes, snowshoes & system optimisation
The Rutsch family pays close attention to its carbon footprint, right down to the smallest details. “For me, sustainability means using as few plastic bags as possible and not constantly flying round the world,” summarises Moreno as he sips his coffee. When it comes to the family’s hobbies and free time, no one has to travel very far. “In winter, we can put on our snowshoes and go for a hike over the snow-covered hills and mountains right from our back door,” says Claudia. “In the warmer weather, you will find my husband and sons taking to their mountain bikes for some downhill sport.”
And Mathis Rutsch’s most recent and time-consuming hobby is developing, monitoring and enhancing his own energy system. “I can use the monitoring tools that have been installed to track the amount of kilowatt-hours (kWh) our solar power system is producing, live, as it happens. That’s impressive!” exclaims Mathis.
He has even come up with the idea of making an even stronger link between power production and control, in order to use as much of the solar energy produced on-site as possible. “That could mean that, as soon as the sun comes out and produces plenty of electricity, the boiler switches on automatically, the heat pumps start to work and the battery on the electric car begins to charge. But that’s still a pipe dream.”
In the SOLAR Tour series, we are profiling households across Switzerland who cover their electricity requirements with solar power systems. Have we whetted your appetite? IKEA would be happy to advise you at any time about switching to solar energy.