Estero resident hailed as ‘Champion of Change’ honored at White House

Dell Jones stands near the solar panels he helped to install at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Photo by Alex Pena

Dell Jones stands near the solar panels he helped to install at Florida Gulf Coast University. Photo by Alex Pena

Making a difference sometimes get you noticed— even by the White House.

That’s what happened to Estero resident Dell Jones, who was honored in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday as a “Champion of Change” for his work in providing mass-distributed solar hot water services throughout the Gulf region.

“The White House Champions of Change initiative profiles Americans from all walks of life who are helping the country rise to the challenges of the 21st century,” said Meghan O’Shaughnessy, with Washington, D.C. based nonprofit The Clean Economy Development Center. “These Champions of Change are doing extraordinary things in their communities to innovate, educate and build a better America.”

Jones, 54, is among several innovators across the country being honored in Washington this year.

The Estero resident travelled to the White House this week, where he met with government officials about his renewable project development plan.

Jones has spent more than 30 years in the energy business, three years of which were with Florida Power and Light. He helped install solar panels at Florida Gulf Coast University.

But what caused Jones to receive national attention is his work with solar thermal energy.

Since 2009, he has been installing energy conserving solar panels in homes across Lakeland.

Jones’ Lakeland Solar Hot Water Service gives users efficient solar-heated water in their home. To have the solar panels and an 80-gallon hot water system installed in a home is free, and the service costs about $35 a month.

“And that’s a fixed charge that never goes up,” he said. “The rate is more like a satellite dish than anything else. You’re not buying anything so there’s no financial or consumer risk.”

The panels work in a very efficient but simple way to heat the water in a home. The water stored in the 80-gallon tank is flowed to solar panels on a home’s roof, where it heated up to a perfect 120 degrees and piped back into the house.

Jones spoke with White House administrators on Tuesday about this new concept on energy conservation.

“Water isn’t very exciting, but to heat it with solar energy is very cost effective,” said Jones.

He also gave advice as to how to convert your house to a energy efficient home.

“The first thing homeowners should concentrate on in terms of going green is energy conservation and efficiency,” said Jones. “If you have a fridge over 10 years, it’s time to replace it with a newer model.”

According to Jones, for every dollar you spend toward energy conservation, you will eventually gain three dollars back with your solar electric system.

Jones said he has experienced setbacks expanding the business due to the troubling economy.

“Everybody wanted to be the first or second person to sign up,” he said. “But now that we have Lakeland, we expect a domino effect throughout Florida.”

For more information about Jones’ Solar Hot Water Service visit www.solarlakeland.com. To learn more about the Champions of Change initiative visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.

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