It is better to conserve than to generate your way out of large consumption. And the very choice of where we live can be an act of conservation.
I've been an avid reader of Home Power for five years. Recently, I heard the derogatory term "McMansion" used on a green blog for the thousandth time. I myself live in what qualifies to some as a McMansion (large subdivision home) in San Diego. Should I feel guilty?
After reading your latest issues, I've found the answer. In our home, we use a gas heater in the early morning for 20 minutes per day (on a timer) about two months each year. We use the air conditioning about five days each year for about two to three hours each day. In one year, our heating and cooling bill is what someone in Montana or Phoenix would likely pay in a week.
Bottom line: We use far less energy in our McMansion than many of the people featured in your magazine. They often have thick jackets on in the photos. Their homes are in either extremely cold places or deserts, and require constant heating or air conditioning. After choosing to live in a very non-green location (from an energy standpoint), they go to extremes to make their living more green, and are then dubbed energy heroes.
By contrast, we coastal southern Californians in our McMansions that people love to judge, just by living here, may end up using less energy at home. Even without solar, wind, or sealing up our houses airtight, we use far less energy per person than those in more severe climates.
Should we feel guilty? Yes, for our swimming pools, SUVs, and hour-long solo commutes to work. But, alas, not for our McMansions. As the magazine writers have said so many times, it is better to conserve than to generate your way out of large consumption. And the very choice of where we live can be an act of conservation. Keep up the great work!
Vinod Lobo • San Diego, California
I drove up to our new property last Thursday to take the last walk-through with the former owner and my real estate agent. I got a primer on the solar-electric system, and managed to get the solar-
powered well pump working without too much trouble. Greg, the former owner, was gracious enough to let me spend the night in the cabin (and gave me the keys), despite the property not closing until the next day.
So I spent the afternoon playing with the solar-electric system. Turned the lights on. Then off. Then on again. I peeked into the water tank maniacally, watching the slow dribble of water into the tank. I watched with satisfaction as the battery monitor said, "Good," even with the lights on and the pump running.
After an afternoon of playing with the system (can't tell you how much joy it gave me to see it running so perfectly), I drove down to Oroville to get some provisions, called my wife Joni to brag about the solar pumping system actually working, and then drove back up the bumpity 2.2-mile gravel road to the 2.75-acre compound.
I got out my sleeping bag, placed it on the deck, and watched the moon rise. I took it as a good omen that the property was to close on the day of a blue moon. I toasted the moon. Gave a wine offering to the property. Neighbors drove by in their pickup trucks. All of them waved. The neighbor's chickens were quite busy with their clucking. Dogs barked. Generators
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ran. Sound travels well out here. It was a little spooky in the Sierra foothills as night descended, but I slept like a baby on the deck. Woke up to a jackrabbit nibbling on my weeds. "Have at it, fella"—keeps the fire danger down and I won't have to weed-whack it.
In this off-the-grid community, your wealth is measured by the number of solar panels you have, multiplied by the size and flow of your water tank...
Again I played with the solar-electric system. Filled the tank halfway. Battery monitor still said, "Good." Got a drink out of the spigot and washed up with my own solar-pumped water. Kept giggling at my good fortune. Simple pleasure.
Old Bill dropped by. Bill has lived up here for fifteen years. Off the grid with 24 solar-electric modules and a 2,500-gallon water tank. A former Ford factory worker, he proudly stated he raised a family. Had a car. A wife. Children. All supported on his good union job. He sold his house and now is an "off-the-grid, solar Libertarian-Republican." I quickly learned that up here in this off-the-grid community, your wealth is measured by the number of solar panels you have, multiplied by the size and flow of your water tank...
On my way back to Calistoga (in the Napa Valley), I received a message from my real estate agent on my cell phone (which doesn't work at the property). "Congratulations—you now own the property." Called Joni and left a message that all was well. The solar cabin is ours.
Allan Stellar • Concow, California
I just read through the twentieth anniversary issue. Such fun, looking at the journey.
Looking at the past prompted me to think of the future. Do you think it is at all likely that you will be doing more
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