Falling for New Projects

Wednesday, July 24th. And I quote, "Now for a much deserved break from the house..." 
And for once, we pretty much made good on that promise.

Summer Report
As you may recall, we had been feverishly completing exterior siding and stair railing updates in preparation for a lucrative refi in the early summer months. I'm happy to report that we completed that refi and are now saving about $300 per month. Woo-to-da-hoo

As to how we've been spending our summer vacation - let me just say that it's been a whirlwind of kids' activities, weddings, get-togethers, mechanical side-jobs, Fridays off, and so much more. I can't say it was boring - Oh no. It was never boring.

So, where does that leave things today, at the start of the fall season?!

Fall Fall FALL
Hey, we're installing SOLAR!

What?! You just drop that bomb here on the blog after nothing all summer long? Pretty much. The solar ball started rolling some time ago and continued to gain speed through the entire summer. At this point, we're flying like you wouldn't believe.

It all went down like this...

I saw a lawn sign (of all things) advertising SolarizeMass.com. Curious, since two of our neighbors already have solar, I visited the site and contacted someone for more information. Some time later I received a response and an initial proposal based on Google Earth photos of our house. Looked promising... very promising. We went ahead and scheduled a site evaluation.

The site evaluators looked at the main house as well as the garage, took some measurements, and some time after that, I had another more official proposal that was even more promising. Panels on the garage and house would cover all of our usage and pay for themselves in under 4 years. Federal and state rebates would save us around 40-50% off the total cost of the project... then, there's the electricity you sell back to the grid... and the fact that the electric bill would be pretty much gone. (Nevermind, my extreme hatred of NStar. Besides having the #1 worst customer service on the planet, did you know they've decided to blanket Cape Cod with toxic herbicides, the effects of which could poison people and animals as well as damage our fragile aquifer?! All of which could be avoided by the simple and safe method employed for years to control excess vegetation: MOWING.)

Anyway - Solar! It's a no-brainer. To finance the project, we're in the process of getting a home improvement loan product specially designed for Eco-Improvement Initiatives. It requires no home equity and all the interest is tax deductible. Rates are fairly good, and although we're getting a longer term then we might like, we need the flexibility of a lower payment right now. When we can pay more, we will - that's the plan. Plus, once the rebates come in, we have the opportunity to re-amortize the loan for an even lower payment.

Double no-brainer. And did I mention that the entire system is warrantied for 25 years? At which point, I'm just the technology will be such that we'll be ready to upgrade anyway. And the roof, which is relatively new now, will be ready for a re-do too. Very little maintenance... snow is supposed to slide right off. And they can install the whole thing in a day. A day!

The only wrench in the works is trees. Or, I should say, the only wrench in the works was trees. Everyone agreed that with it's expansive roof space and easily accessible attic, the garage was an idea place for solar panels. Problemo - it was shaded. Solutiono - remove trees.

That area on the hill next to the garage was a problemo for us anyway. Dense trees, vines, poison ivy, prickers, and other invasive plant species were abundant, making the area completely un-useable. The shade was nice, with large overhanging maples, but it contributed to the growth of all these ground covering fringe plants. Mike had been talking about clearing out the area for ages, but being a tree lover, shade lover, I was skeptical.

But this project was just too good to pass up. A couple weekends ago, Mike cut and chipped trees. So many trees, I was nervous that it was too many in fact. The hill is looking much different now. And with trees and vegetation cut down on the hill, we now can get a better view of our side yard structure. It's lumpy at best, with a weird up-slope. This looks like a job for... du du duhhh - Super Skid Steer!

But what you also have to know is that the skid steer is another project that Mike began over the summer, in preparation for another hard winter, if we happen to have one. A work-horse for us for nearly 8 years now, the little John Deere skid steer has been on its way out for quite a while now. Motor - done. Toast. Mike found himself a new one, a diesel, and has been working on the change-over whenever he has time.

So - no grading and smoothing until that's completed.

The solar folks came back to the house and visited us again to check on our tree-removal progress. They use a nifty meter to measure sun exposure on the garage roof, a meter which also shows which trees are shading us. Turns out, there were a few more that needed to come down to get the most out of our proposed system. These were marked just last night and Mike will get to them.... when he gets to them.

Once we have our funding, which should be sometime next week, we will continue to move forward and hopefully set an installation date for sometime in December.