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Going solar in Vermont just got easier

Ronald Kohn started Solar Heat Vermont in Middlebury. It is a business that sells solar heat kits. A simple kit enables the buyer to build and install a passive solar panel without spending thousands of dollars.

Inside each $85 solar kit are instructions, a parts list, an aluminum-mesh collector plate, vent templates, airflow flapper valves, fasteners, and hardware cloth. Also included are telephone and e-mail support from Solar Heat Vermont.

According to Kohn, the purchaser will need to spend an additional $80 to $90 on framing lumber for installation. Kohn believes his customers are any individuals interested in saving money on heat. Because his is an Internet-based company, he will sell to anyone interested in his product.

When Kohn retired in 1998 and moved to Vermont, he had no idea he would be opening a new business. His company started at the result of an article he read in Mother Jones magazine about simple solar heaters. "I ran across a collectors design two years ago in December 2006 and I decided to build a simple solar heater. Before that solar designs were so complicated that there was no economic payback for going solar; it was more a status symbol. I was fascinated by this new ideal and I put one on my garage. I couldn't believe how efficient it was -- it blew out so much heat. I couldn't believe that something so easy had made such a difference. I went out and tried to start a non profit. I did a couple demos but there was very little interest in doing it, perhaps because it wasn't complicated enough. "

Interest in Kohn's business has been growing as fuel costs rise. He recently re-started his company as a sole proprietorship to take advantage of this growing market.

Check it Out: Solar Heat Vermont is open for business Monday through Friday. Its URL is solarheatvermont.com; the e-mail address is FreeHeat@solarheatvermont.com. The telephone number is 349-5833.

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