our house

One way we are privileged is that we paid off the mortgage on our house. Retirement is thus a lot easier than it would be otherwise. I have my wife to thank for this, as for so many other things.

I feel like I've gotten to know our house especially well over the past months, because I never leave it. OK, my hermit-like tendencies have always meant I'm home a lot, but since March 11, when we went out to see Emma. as part of Geezer Cinema, the quarantine has kept me almost entirely indoors. I have more warning signs than my wife, so she is in charge of actually going out, although it's limited. Once a week we order take-out breakfast from Homemade Cafe ... I drive, she picks up. One morning, my sister and brother-in-law joined us at a nearby park for half and hour or so. A week ago I left the house on my own for about an hour to have some blood tests. And then, finally, we drove up to Sacramento Friday for the grandson's 8th birthday ... their home is part of our "pod".

Other than that, I've been in this house for almost all of 135 days and counting.

Have I learned anything about our house in that time? Not really ... we've lived here in 1987. We have friends staying in the basement, although the virus means we rarely even see each other. My wife did buy an air conditioner for the attic, which was about 30 years overdue. That is probably the main difference between our house now and what it used to be like.

I may have posted this before ... here is my wife, the first time we did breakfast take-out:

solar update

Bear with me, because I don’t know exactly what this all means, but I understand the result. PG&E charges us in tiers. “Baseline” tier costs a little more than 13 cents per kWh. If you go up to 30% over the baseline in a billing period (Tier 2), the extra costs around 15 cents per kWh. But if you go 31-100% over baseline (Tier 3), everything over 30% costs around 32 cents per kWh. If you go still higher (Tier 4), the extra costs around 36 cents per kWh.

So the idea with the solar panels, as we planned it, was to bring our usage down to no more than 30% over baseline, because that would eliminate the most costly part of the bill. On the last bill before solar, we spent as much on Tier 3 as we did on Tiers 1 and 2 combined. And we spent about 30% more on Tier 4 than we did on Tier 3. In short, those top two tiers constituted about 3/4 of our bill.

And those two tiers have disappeared thanks to the solar panels. That is, we’re using the same amount of energy, more or less, but a good chunk of it is being created by us, not by PG&E (to say nothing of the excess solar energy we sell back to PG&E), and what electricity we use from PG&E is low enough now that we’re out of the “Tier 3/4” zone.

I’m pretty sure I’ve confused things rather than clarified them. Suffice to say that so far, the solar panels are doing exactly what we were told they would do.

solar panel update

We’ve had the panels running for about ten days now, and have eight days of data to work with.

  • From November 7-14 of 2012, we averaged 37.75 kWh a day from PG&E.
  • From October 30-November 6 of 2013, we averaged 24.5 kWh a day. (We had more people staying here last November.)
  • From November 7-14 of 2013, we averaged 10.75 kWh a day.

So we’ve taken roughly 70% off our electrical usage from a year ago, and more than 50% off our usage from the period just before the solar panels kicked in.

The website that monitors our panel usage includes tidbits like this:

  • Since starting solar, we’ve reduced emissions equivalent to not driving a car for 179 miles.
  • We’ve reduced our carbon footprint equivalent to 181 pounds of CO2.
  • We’ve reduced emissions equivalent to planting two seedlings grown for ten years.

Keep in mind, it’s November in Berkeley. The daily power produced varies according to the amount of sun we get (i.e. how much fog there is). We’ll make more power in the summer time.

The PG&E bill will be lower by more than 50%, since they use a tiered system where you pay more for energy you use over a certain baseline. Our solar system is constructed to reduce our usage to approximately the baseline, so the 50% or more that we don’t use will reduce the bill by a lot more than 50%.

THE solar company

We’re almost ready to crank up the solar power. Yesterday, the folks from THE Solar Company stomped around on our roof all day. Today, they placed the panels, and are done as I type (before noon). Monday the inspectors will come, and then PG&E has to do one last thing, I think. But it won’t be long, now.

Big thanks to Nerí Jacobo, Chris D, and Pedro F for the great job! They aren’t just any workers, they are THE workers.

raise the roof

The new roof is done, and it only took three days. The folks at Wonderlin Roofing Systems were terrific from start to finish. Yes, we had a problem because in our stupidity it didn’t occur to me that the removal of the old roof, combined with the absence of a ceiling in the attic, would result in some rough moments. But that was Monday … this is Wednesday. Yesterday they laid down the plywood, today they did the shingles. They also installed a few vents, and replaced our old fan. All in three days. It looks terrific … it’s all ready for the solar panels. Once again, I get to recommend a company that did right by us in every way. If you’re reading this and ever need roofing work done, check out Wonderlin.

Here are a couple of pictures … don’t really show much, but better than nothing. Here’s a picture of the house back when we painted it a few years ago:

new paint one

You can see some of the wear and tear on the roof. Here’s what it looks like now:

new roof

life sucks when you don't have a roof

We're having solar panels installed, and the first step is to put in a new roof. It's time, that's for sure... We've been here 25+ years without doing the roof. But there are things we didn't think of, obvious things. There is no real ceiling in the attic. Today they removed the old roof. Tomorrow they will begin putting a new roof up. But as I type this (on my Nexus, the computer and other important stuff are in the attic), the attic is open to the skies. There are no shingles.... There is no ceiling... Just sky, wooden slats, and plenty of room for squirrels to come in and attack us in the night. Plus the attic is covered in the leftovers of a day spent tearing up the roof.