“It’s the best thing since sliced bread,” our gardener wrote when I told her we were going solar. I loved solar and was excited about our impending conversion, but wasn’t this a bit of an exaggeration?
We live in a town where our Mayor has been pushing energy efficiency, and for a while, at least, initiated a partnership between the City and a company that installed solar that let us retain the energy credits – this is really important – and the phone number was available right from City Hall website.
STEP ONE: We make the call!!
STEP TWO: Sunlight Assessment – A young man came out to our home with a very large sun meter at the end of a pole that extends telescopically. He extended the pole and placed the meter portion in various spots along our roof to measure how much sunlight we would get in each and which spots maximized the use of the sun’s light. The process was pretty quick, and very clean. We could see the meter and see for ourselves. Yes, sunlight, indeed! And that’s where the tree is shading that portion of the roof. It was very very neat!
STEP THREE: Signature and Legal Commitment – We received a fat packet from the company that showed all the charts and numbers, tax credits, how long it would take until we are paid back on our initial investment, etc. We look it over. All it takes it a signature to make that commitment. This is HUGE!!! WE SIGNED and faxed it back.
STEP FOUR: Engineers, Design and Approval of Design – Shortly thereafter, a different department began coming up with a plan for how the panels would be arranged. When done, it was sent to us for approval. Also, the company needed to come out once more to check the structure of our roof to make sure it’s strong enough to hold the weight of the panels so a few emails go back and forth. We emailed them some engineering drawings of the attic that provides measurements and information on the beams, and so on, including obtaining a permit with our City, and a little while later we were approved. We are approved! No going back now. We were heading into the 21st Century.
STEP FIVE: Electricians – Out came the electrician, first. He worked in the room where the electrical boxes are kept. Pretty soon the light below would be operating off the sunlight that we have captured.
Meanwhile, another electrician was working on the outside of our home, and drilled a hole that goes in to the basement where our electrical panels are. This line will run from the panels into the circuitry.
These electric lines, encased in metal, go all the way up to the roof and would eventually connect in to the panels! They did a nice job of hiding the casing by shielding it on the inside of the rain downspout.
STEP SIX (Next Day): Roof Panels Installed – We are really lucky. Mid-November in New England should be cold, if not snowing, but it was neither. It was warm and sunny. Another entirely different crew came. Their job was to install the panels on the roof. First, they set up little solar panel mounts that serve two purposes: They keep the panels in their fixed position, and they transfer the power from the solar panel down the side of our home, and into the grid.
Panels got installed on the top of our dormer, a perfect place, being relatively flat. The panels cannot even be seen, and they catch the sun as it burns its way from east to west, from sunrise til sunset.
Here we are showing off a solar panel! Here is a really nice guy on the work crew to the right!
With the mounts mounted, and the electrical wiring complete, the panels began their journey up up up to their permanent work site, where they would face and harness the energy of the sun and pass it along to us, and to other households in our grid (ISO New England), which includes all of New England. Our panels are on the east side of the home and even with that we collect plenty of energy.
“Welcome to the 21st Century,” my husband said. And I begin to realize that this is the best thing since sliced bread. I imagine how early man must have felt when he discovered how to create fire for his own domestic use. How to harness what exists naturally for the betterment of our lives and mankind overall. It only took how many years to develop the technology to do this? But it’s here, and it’s on our roof!
STEP SEVEN: City Electrical Inspection – The city electrical inspector came out to our home to make sure that all the electrical work had been properly done. He talked electric stuff and the only thing that I understood was “Everything is labelled correctly.”
We pass! A little orange card goes on our window that he signs, indicating we’ve passed the electrical inspection. Next week, the building inspector would come out, sign off, and take the card with him.
STEP EIGHT: After the electrical inspector left, he notified our energy company that we’d been approved and to drop off a NET METER at our home. What is a net meter? Because during the hours of sunlight we are sending energy into the grid, it will actually run backwards during daylight hours! During the evenings, when we need to pull the energy from the grid, it will run forward. The meter will reflect the net amount of energy we’ve consumed.
Our city’s building inspector approved the overall, that is, that the panels do not affect the integrity of the roof, etc.
STEP TEN (SEVERAL DAYS LATER): Power ON – Somebody from SolarFlair came out. He unlocked the handle and let me FLIP THE SWITCH! This is far more exciting than Times Square on New Year’s Eve. It’s not just a new year, it’s a new era!
Where are electrical panels are, he shows me the breakers, what to do, what not to do, and we look on my computer at the internet-based program that will supply my household with information about our energy production. On screen, I can see the panels have gone from black to blue, meaning they are generating electricity from the light of the sun, as we talk. On a bright sunny day, they will be very light blue.
I write everything down to tell my husband.
Next: Flip out!!