For Steve and MaryAnne Hegedus, a large garden equates to far more than its output of 100 quarts of pomegranate juice and a bounty of fresh vegetables every year. It’s an analogy for how they’ve chosen to coexist on the planet.
Growing up in communist Hungary — where his mother stood in bread lines — and earning a medical degree in the United States after arriving here alone at age 18 without knowing a word of English, Steve clearly takes little for granted.
When considering how to further reduce their footprint, this Hemet, California-based couple decided a solar system was a natural progression in their sun-drenched location.
“I’ve been conservation-minded my whole life but this idea came up about how to better coexist in this world, and I realized it’s actually quite feasible,” says Steve, a 71-year old retired dermatologist and passionate foodie.
Real Goods Solar installed a 36-panel array on a ground-mount near the Hegedus garden, and Steve can easily monitor the system. Focusing on time-of-use living and watching their “real time” meter, the Hegeduses wash laundry in the mornings and forego air conditioning by opening windows at night to take advantage of cool temperatures. They’ve reduced their utility bill — sometimes as large as $350 — to just 94 cents.
“I would say we are more energy-minded now, and we like to show off the system to friends,” laughs Steve. “It has been very simple. I hardly even look at it.”
Extending a conscious effort to live more lightly, Steve also changed an energy-sucking pool pump to a variable-speed model and installed solar lights around the pool. On tap next are a tankless water heater and possibly an electric car, according to Steve. In the garden, a homemade irrigation system reuses water and a commercial-grade chipper churns out quality mulch.
With more than 100 trees and nearly an acre of growing space, Steve’s garden is his sanctuary. But what he cultivates here is something much richer than pomegranates. Inviting friends to pick what they want, the Hegeduses embody the spirit of community. Their Real Goods Solar system is simply one manifestation of this intentional lifestyle.
Estimated annual production
36 Sharp 216W panels
1 SMA Sunny Boy 7000W