It was July 2016 when we threw the switch in the basement to bring our mini powerplant online, it was surprisingly lacklustre. There was no noticeable change. It was just your everyday energizing of a breaker that an electrician has done thousands of times. The only difference this time was that power was flowing into the breaker instead of out of it, but that was something you just had to know – it wasn’t noticeable other then the sticker that says “Dual Voltage Source”. That was it – we were making power from that moment onward!
Nothing really changed at first. I did do a couple of weird things like sticking my head in the attic when it rained to check for leaks (no leaks, the way the flashing is installed makes that impossible!) and during a wind storm I huddled in a corner of the yard to make sure the solar panels wern’t moving or going to fly away (nope, panels are still here, bolted down and torqued to factory specs)!
We made power though. Just shy of 5,600 kWh worth in the first year, or 466kWh per month on an annual average. Basically – we are a net zero home! That is perfect, it is what we wanted!
Everything above was 100% expected. Below are things that were very, very unexpected..
The first unexpected “byproduct” of going solar came within the first 4/5 days. It was my first eye opening experience. We had been watching the online monitoring and watching our production pump out onto the grid – we were making our money back! Then it was time to do laundry. After I took the first load out of the washing machine and thew it in the dryer and closed the door, I hesitated to hit start. The dryer isn’t full enough – “I’m not going to waste my profits!” I thought to myself and waited until the 2nd wash was complete in order to get two loads into the dryer. I wasn’t going to run two cycles on the dryer and waste those profits. As the CEO of a Microgen Power Plant – I have a responsibility to keep up those profit margins!
Next came the dishwasher, we are a two person household and run the dishwasher on ‘half-load’. It’s an energy star, we aren’t animals, but why waste power on a half-load when it isn’t double the power to run a full load!
We felt cheap at first. Skip running the dishwasher so you can add in 2 more cups, bowls and spoons the following morning – that’s crazy! Cramming in extra shirts into the dryer to save money – who does that?
I wouldn’t say I am penny pinching, but I am aware of my profit margin decreasing…..
I have always considered myself ‘pretty good’ when it came to conserving water and power, I think I just became hyper aware when we flipped the switch. The next unexpected behavior surfaced when people started asking questions about the switch and the product itself.
One of the first questions I am asked about the products I install is “where are they made?” A point of pride I have is that the equipment I install is made here in Canada. The more I answered this question the more I began to feel compelled to search out other products that are made in Canada and even closer to home. I had the opportunity to do this with the purchase of our bedroom furniture. Yes, admittedly the price we paid for a bedroom set from a company in Quebec was more than the ‘Blow Out Sale’ suites at a home store that featured the majority of it’s furniture veneered particle board, but the wood is Canadian, milled in Canada and we were able to support Canadian jobs. We find we are able to do this more and more on a day to day basis.
We just went deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. When grocery shopping for apples – “product of Chile” or “product of BC” – we chose local. Same with meat – individually wrapped steaks from a big box store, or hand carved slabs of meet from a local farm packaged by our local butcher. We chose the butcher down the street. It really didn’t cost us much more. Buying local food was on par with what ever grocery store you shop at. The only thing we couldn’t do was grow our own food to sustain us, but we could supplement our food. We started to grow just what we could in our city lot. Fresh grapes, raspberries and strawberries. Backyard tomatoes and peppers. Spinach, thyme, oregano, sweet basil, dill, mint, savoury, so many herbs grown indoors made our house smell amazing!
When we built our home, we ran a cable into the attic because one day we were going to put solar panels on the roof. Not for any reason other then two electricians thought solar panels would be “cool to have”. It was such an unexpected byproduct of going solar. I suppose when you put that much time and effort into trying out a new technology and it works so well and you have those logical and emotional ties to something and with the online monitoring – you can see the production, everything is now right in front of you. Power just didn’t come down the lines and into our home anymore, we made it.
It may seem silly that I am so excited about investing in my home, paying less on a utility bill and finding local food and products, but I feel a sense of accomplishment that my local contribution today is greater than it was a year ago.
We didn’t go solar. We went sustainable.