PEMBROKE — Electrician and heating system installer John Locklear is a man of few words but more than a few ideas.
At 64, an age when most would be considering retirement, Locklear, who has been working as an electrician for Smithfield Foods for 22 years, is actually expanding his area of expertise.
A native of the small area of Prospect, Locklear began working on a side business, called Eagle Horse Wood Stoves, nine years ago, in which he would sell and install wood furnaces for warming homes.
Wood furnaces might sound like an old-fashioned way to stay warm, but last year Locklear attended a seminar which introduced him to a new way of breathing life into an old idea — solar energy.
By using specially made solar panels that absorb sunlight to heat water which is then used to warm the furnace, Locklear, who was already saving money by chopping his own wood, could save up to $1,800 in electricity costs a year.
“You save money [on electricity] and you get hot water without a water heater,” Locklear said. “It is free. You can’t beat that.”
Locklear believes that were he a younger man, with more time and money at his disposal, he’d have happily installed a solar system that would power his entire home.
“Maybe if I were 30, but I’m not a young man and it would cost too much,” Locklear said.
According to Locklear, the cost of installing an outdoor wood furnace is about $2,000, and adding a water-heating solar panel is an additional $2,500. He said that cost is offset in the long run by the annual savings.
In September Locklear installed his first solar panel at his own home and after finding success was approached by his friend Thomas Scott, president of Pembroke’s East Coast Electric, about installing such a heating system at his business’s office.
“I had already been seeing his wood heaters around the community, so I asked him to put one of those in, but then he showed me the solar panel he’d been using and I said, ‘stick that in there too!’” Scott said. “It has just saved me a bunch of money and the heat it generates makes it so we don’t have to burn nearly as much wood.”
According to Locklear, the system installed at East Coast Electric provides more energy than even a large building like East Coast Electric needs. In fact, the system has been set to warm the office, as well as Scott’s house, and the homes of his two sons.
Since the latest installation, Locklear says he has been fielding calls from a number of interested clients who want to “go green.”
For Locklear, who doesn’t consider himself political, or even much of an environmentalist, the reason for all the interest is obvious: “The good Lord never sends you an electric bill.”
For information on Eagle Horse Wood Stoves, call 910-827-2538.