Friday, November 05, 2010

Bill Nye the Solar Guy

So a while back, Bill Nye the Science Guy stopped by work. I swear he looks exactly the same as I remember him from TV all those years ago. He's also just as goofy in real life as he is in his show.

When I got home that day, I went to the TiVo to set up a recording for 'Bill Nye the Science Guy.' I think I had watched it previously with the kids, but the concepts were a bit too much for the little guys. Unfortunately, the show wasn't currently available so I set up a wishlist to record all Bill Nye shows. It turns out that Bill Nye is on the 'Living with Ed' show. That is a show about Ed Begley, Jr and his quest to be super green with his house. Bill is Ed's neighbor who competes with Ed to be the greenest guy on the block.

It happened that our hot water heater had started to fail as all of this was happening. One of the 'Living with Ed' shows demonstrated Bill Nye's solar hot water heating system. Thinking this is kind of cool, we got some quotes to replace our hot water heater with a solar one. Along with those quotes, we got some solar electricity quotes.

A couple of years ago we had looked at getting some photovoltaic solar panels. At the time it didn't quite make sense. But, during our current investigation, we determined that adding some panels to the south-facing side of our garage roof would work out. Right now the state of California is offering a rebate on the panels and the Federal Government is offering a 30% tax credit. The rebate and credit cover about half of the panel cost. Then, the system pays for itself in 5-7 years with energy savings. Plus, adding the solar panels increases the value of our home, I believe more than the cost of installing them.

The solar hot water part wasn't nearly as cost effective, so we got a regular, but smaller than the previous one, new hot water heater. The kids loved using the box as a house.

Painting the Box House

Of course, the reason the kids were in swimsuits while painting is because we put them in the kiddie pool right after to try to get the "washable" paint off.

We had the same company, Moore Solar and Green Construction, install both the hot water heater and the solar panels. During the hot water heater installation, they were also doing the drawing for the solar panel plan. Dan was hanging out during the process since he had built the new stand for the hot water heater. Gas hot water heaters in garages need to be elevated and our stand had suffered some nasty water damage from the leaky hot water heater. Dan got to chatting about inverters and stuff and found that you can get micro-inverters, one per solar panel to better monitor individual panel output. So now we can monitor everything! Dan has taken up solar output monitoring as his new hobby.

The boys have taken up residence in their new, bigger-than-the-hot-water-heater-box house. It was the one that had solar panels in it.

Skylight Installed in this Box House

It took a while to get everything approved for the installation. In the city of Los Angeles, it takes about a half hour to get the initial plans installed. However, here in Redondo Beach, it can take up to 8 weeks. Fortunately, during the process, the mayor stopped by our house to talk about Measure G which was coming up in the November 2nd election. So I inquired as to the staffing level of the city planning office. After an email or two, we were promised expedition of our process and things finally got going for the install. However, we are currently waiting for final approval from the electric company before we can turn the system on and reap the benefits during the cloudy winter. Hey, at least we didn't do this at the beginning of the summer expecting lots of sun. As this past summer was one of the coldest on record, and one of the most dreary, maybe we are in line for a super sunny winter.

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