What’s your favorite green feature?

There is little not to love about the wonderful home Semmes & Co. built for us, but our favorite features are the solar systems – photovoltaic and hot water – and all that relate to them.

We have a 2.4 KW photovoltaic system that was expected to provide most but not all of our electrical needs.  Now that we have been in the house for a full year and have had our “true up” with PG&E, we have an accurate picture of what the system can do.  We have to pay a service fee to PG&E of about $13 per month for the privilege of being hooked into the grid, so that was an outlay of $156 for the year.  We received a small refund for actual power use because we generated more electricity than we used.  Thus, our electrical bills averaged out to under $13 per month.

Our primary heat source, when needed in the cool weather months, is a high output gas fireplace.  We also use gas for cooking and grilling.  Our gas bills averaged approximately $20 per month over the year, so our total monthly gas and electrical bills for the year have averaged out to about $33.  In previous homes it was more like $300 per month.

Other features of the house contribute to our low energy use, the solar hot water system being a major one.  We try to use hot water-using appliances when the sun is heating water, especially on weekends when electric rates are the lowest.  We don’t know how this system is impacting our electrical bills but it must be helping a great deal.  We also have passive solar heating and thick walls with blown-in insulation that lower heating costs.

It will be a great day when all new homes are required to install solar systems!

by Sandi and Lou Pitelka