Archive for October, 2011

Operating Our Solar Photovoltaic System!

Friday, October 7th, 2011

PG&E inspected our solar photovoltaic system and installed a bi-directional electric meter so we can be a generator of electricity and send power into the grid.

The following web site shows our electricity production through Enphase’s Envoy reporting system:


Our 'smart meter' that is calibrated accurately in both directions. PG&E installed the meter thi\s afternoon.

Continuing to Work with PG&E

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Nothing is easy.  We thought we were there with PG&E and, surprise, we’re not there yet.

We did start to move the control system for our sliding glass doors at the back of the house into the permanent location in the East Storage room.

Yes, it poured rain, starting at ~3:00 am for a couple hours.  Our site handled the rain just fine.

Moving the Door Control System into East Storage Room

When the control system for the three sliding glass doors at the back of the house was set up, we were not ready to mount the control system in its permanent location, which is in the East Storage room.  Now, it is time to do so.

The control system, made by Doors in Motion, requires a dedicated 15 amp circuit and has four wires going from the DC electric motor to the control system, including the switch.  The four wires, which have multiple conductors, are for the power (the transformer to DC and backup battery are housed in the control system), the door switch (open, close, stop, lock, reset), the motion detector, and the encoder unit itself.

We decided to run the wires in a dedicated conduit containing only low-voltage wires.  The conduit is the flexible, orange corregated one-inch conduit by Carlon.  We’ve been obtaining our low voltage products from ADI in Santa Clara.  Hank Malloy and Jordan have been extremely helpful in sourcing the correct products for us.

The conduit included the four wires for the door and the CAT5e wires for the lighting control system (C-bus).  The lighting control system includes a pink CAT5e and a yellow CAT5e.  The pink wire is for the main system and the yellow wire is for a backup (redundant).  All other data CAT6, with a spline, will be blue.

When connecting the wires to the door control system, we found a problem.  Jason Cruz, who installed the door control system, helped Bryan to isolate the problem.  They didn’t solve the problem yet and should complete it tomorrow.

Installing Our Permanent Electric Meter

Although the two-person crew from PG&E installed our permanent electric meter on Monday, October 3, they didn’t have the correct meter for a 400 amp service.  Knowing that the meter would be changed again to a bi-directional meter for our solar photovoltaic generation system, they put in a 200 amp meter.  However, PG&E’s process and internal systems still show our temporary service in place as the correct meter had not been installed.

Thus, PG&E dispatched a meter technician to our job site to install the permanent meter for our 400 amp service.  The meter technician, AJ, smiled as he installed the correct meter saying, ‘I’ll be back in a couple days to install the bi-directional meter that will measure your generation and your electric vehicle consumption.’

We’re just following the process …

Motor for our sliding glass pocket doors at the back of the house. We need to have the wires to connect the control system to the motor in a dedicated conduit.


The path for the flexible conduit will go through the Dining Room, into the soffit and through to the East Storage room.


The one-inch orange conduit will join the two-inch 'smurf' tubes in the soffit going to the East Mechanical room.



The door control system will be located permanently in the wall to the left of the three lighting control system panels.


We're taking the opportunity to install the 1-1/2 inch polyisocyanate insulation against the concrete throughout the lower level (basement). We removed this insulation from the roof and stored it so we could use it again. This insulation will be covered with spray foam, encapsulating it. Note there is two inches of rigid foam insulation outside the concrete wall.


The meter technician from PG&E, AJ, installs the correct Smart Meter for our 400 amp service. This meter replaced the 200 amp meter that was installed on Monday. The next meter that will be installed is the bi-directional smart meter for our solar photovoltaic generation and time-of-use electric vehicle (E-9) rate service.



Thanking the City of Monte Sereno and Preparing for Rain

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

The first rainstorm of the year is forecasted to arrive tonight.  100% probability …

To prepare for the rain, we moved all of the wood inside the house, including the insulation from the deconstruction, and then we covered the soil in front of the house with the scrap wood from the old roof.  Also, Al and Bryan ensured the roof drains were clear and Al put some temporary downspouts in place from the Upper Flat roof to the Mid Level and Lower Level flat roofs.

We’re ready for some rain.

Thanking the City of Monte Sereno

With only 3,400 men, women and children living in Monte Sereno, it is a small community.  It is nice to be able to attend a City Council meeting and be able to speak for 3 minutes on any topic you wich.

Bryan attended the City Council meeting tonight and spoke for three minutes.  First, he showed two graphs, which he obtained from Acterra, regarding the extremely high consumption of electricity in the City of Monte Sereno.  Then, Bryan thanked three employees of the City of Monte Sereno.

Given the extra work that was done for us to meet all the requirements for our solar photovoltaic system, we wanted to thank the people involved.  Bryan, standing in front of City Council, thanked the Building Official, Howard Bell, the City Attorney, Kirsten Powell, and the City Manager, Brian Loventhal for working together to find a solution so we could have our solar permit signed off and our permanent meter released.

It was nice to be able to say, ‘thank you’.

Installing Our Permanent Electric Meter

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

With our permanent meter in place, we’re a step closer to our rebate.  Every day we seem to get closer …

It rained today and is forecasted to rain through Wednesday.  We are prioritizing our activities to keep our materials dry … bone dry.

Installing Our Permanent Electric Meter

Before we can have an electric meter for our solar generation, we need to have a permanent electric meter in place.  To have a permanent electric meter, we required a ‘meter release’ from the City of Monte Sereno.  The meter release was issued by the City of Monte Sereno on September 29, which was our rebate filing deadline.

Bryan called PG&E several times this morning and learned that our permanent meter was scheduled to be installed on Wednesday, October 5.  Knowing this was delay, Bryan started to call our various contacts at PG&E.  When speaking with the scheduler, Barbara Aker, Bryan explained that if a crew was available at the last minute then we would be ready to have our meter installed.

To our delight, Barbara called and said that a crew came available and they could install our permanent meter today.

Way cool!

Portable Charger for a Nissan LEAF

While getting some parts for Al at Electrical Distributors in San Jose, Bryan noticed a Nissan LEAF in the parking lot.  Bryan spoke with the owner of the LEAF, who explained that he was assembling a portable charging station that could plug into various types of 240 volt circuits.  Further, he explained, the benefit would be to use 240 volt circuits that are available in RV/trailer parks.

For people who buy the LEAF from Arizona used Nissan Dealers, or anywhere else in the country, it can be frustrating not having many charging stations easily available when driving. The portable charging station can fix all of that.

Installing charging stations in RV/trailer parks could be done quickly and easily, which would help deploy the infrastructure for electric vehicles across the U.S.

An interesting idea …

The two-person truck arrived at our job site at ~ 11:30 am this morning.


The service entrance panel had to be secured and then sealed before the meter could go in.


Our permanent meter is in! This meter will be replaced with a 'net meter' that will measure the electricity that we generate and send into the grid.


Charging station that can be used in RV/trailer parks for charging a Nissan LEAF.


Mocking Up the Atrium Lights and Celebrating Scott’s Birthday

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

After watching Kate’s soccer game and then having lunch, Bryan and Scott Andersen went to the job site to work on the lights in the Atrium.

It was Scott’s birthday today so we took Scott and Sue Therrien to Nick’s on Main for dinner.

Mocking Up the Lights in the Atrium

We’ve been working with Randall Whitehead on the lighting plan for the  house.  He has explained to Bryan, in no uncertain terms, that each room, including the Atrium, should have the four layers of lighting: ambient, task, accent and decorative.  In working with Bryan, Randall has suggested alternative fixtures to use and, of those alternatives, recommended which fixture he prefers.

In reviewing the Atrium, Randall had recommended strongly that we include decorative fixtures.  Our overriding design concept has been ‘clean and simple’ and emphasizing function over form.  By definition, decorative fixtures do not provide much function although they can often provide accent lighting.  So, we still haven’t made a decision on the decorative fixture(s) for the Atrium.

When creating the lighting design plan, Randall recommended a number of Artemide fixtures in various locations.  To really understand how the fixtures would look, Anita Synovec, who works with Randall, arranged for Bryan to visit the Artemide showroom in San Francisco and Bryan toured the showroom on August 30, 2011.

While in the showroom, there were several fixtures that caught Bryan’s attention.  All of the Artemide fixtures have a decorative element to them, and several fixtures that were of Bryan’s interest were not on Randall’s list of alternatives.  This was no surprise as decorative fixtures are very much a personal preference and it takes a significant amount of interaction with another person to understand their personal preferences.

Bryan has always admired Scott Andersen’s eye for design and Bryan’s personal preferences are very much aligned with Scott’s personal preferences.  So, when Scott and Sue were in San Francisco on Friday morning, Bryan asked then to go through the Artemide showroom and look at fixtures.  Then, when they walked through the house on Friday and Saturday, they could identify additional decorative fixture alternatives.

Last night, over dinner (and wine) at Steamer’s Grillhouse, Scott and Bryan reviewed the lighting plan and what Scott had seen in the Artemide showroom earlier that day.  After some discussion, Scott sketched out how three Mouette fixtures could be mounted in the Atrium.  The three different Mouette fixtures are the Asymmetrical, Symmetrical and Mini.

This discussion continued over lunch today and Scott recommended that we mock up how three Mouette fixtures could be arranged in the Atrium. 

Then, Bryan and Scott spent several hours at the job site and, using cardboard and string, made a mockup of how the three Mouette fixtures could work. Of course, having ‘objects’ for decorative fixtures in 3D modeling software, such as Autodesk’s BIM software (see Green Building) could be used to ‘see’ what the lights look like when designing a house.

And it was time for dinner …

Celebrating Scott’s Birthday at Nick’s on Main

With Jo-Anne back in town after spending several days closing the quarter in Boston, we all went for dinner at Nick’s on Main.  Last year, we were in Toronto on October 1, 2010 to celebrate Scott’s birthday.

We arrived and enjoyed a glass of J Cuvee 20 NV Russian River Valley sparkling wine on the sidewalk while waiting for our table.  After moving inside to our table, we had an excellent dinner with a magnum of Chateau Montelena 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Napa Valley.  The wine was spectacular.

Scott, using the temporary deck as a craft table, cuts some cardboard to mock up the smallest Mouette fixture. Scott on the ladder hanging the cardboard mockup of the smallest Mouette fixture in the Atrium.


Scott on the ladder hanging the cardboard mockup Mouette fixture in the Atrium.



Continung, Scott hangs the second cardboard mockup Mouette fixture in the Atrium.


The two carboard mockups look excellent!

In order to visualize the placement of the three fixtures, Scott used a string line from the temporary deck to the celing.

Bryan, Jo-Anne, Sue and Scott enjoying a glass of sparkling wine in the alley next to Nick's on Main.


Enjoying dinner with Scott and Sue at Nick's on Main. Happy Birthday Scott!