Installing Our Permanent Electric Meter

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

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!


Hosting Scott and Sue’s Visit to California

Scott Andersen and Susannah Therrien flew into San Francisco yesterday and will return to Toronto on Sunday.  Scott, from Toronto, has been involved in the design of our remodel and construction since inception.

Al, Dan and Nep continued on the rainscreen while Bryan ensured we met the remaining obligations under our indemnification agreement with the City of Monte Sereno.

Finishing the Week

Bryan had made arrangements to have yellow and black warning signs made for the two live electric panels.  This morning, he picked up those signs and put one on the service entrance panel outside the house.  The other sign was for the 200 amp electric panel in the East Mechanical room.

We completed insulating the ceiling in the Wine Cellar and Wine Dining today.  The soffit needs to be insulated and that will be completed on Monday.  Next steps with the Wine Cellar will be to use closed cell spray foam and fill the cavity and create a moisture barrier.  The Wine Cellar will be at a much higher humidity than the house and exterior, so we need to ensure that moisture remains in the Wine Cellar.  After with moisture barrier is in place, we will be able to install the radiant cooling panels in the ceiling.

Al, Dan and Nep completed the siding on the East side of the house and started on the rainscreen on the South side of the house.  They will complete the rainscreen on Monday, before the first real rains of the season are forecasted to start on Wednesday.

Spending the Afternoon and Evening with Scott and Sue

Scott and Sue arrived at the job site just after 12:00 noon today.  Bryan took them on a quick tour, during which Scott opened the sliding glass door at the back of the house.  Both Scott and Sue were impressed, with Sue noting that their sliding glass door in Panama could be improved with the controls that we are using in California.

As a visitor, Scott had to go for a test drive in a Tesla Roadster 2.5 Sport, the high performance electric sports car developed by Elon Musk, which Bryan enjoyed too.  Yes, Scott had the ‘Tesla smile’ after his test drive.

Since Jo-Anne was finishing the quarter in Boston and returning to California tomorrow morning, Scott, Sue and Bryan went to Enoteca La Storia.  Bryan showed them the empty bottle of 1961 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon, which we opened at the 50/50 party on April 16, 2011 at Enoteca La Storia.

After Enoteca, Scott took Sue and Bryan to Steamer’s Grillhouse in Los Gatos, where Scott arranged for a table instantly.  It was a excellent ending to a great day.

Tomorrow, after a lighting design session on the job site, we’re hosting Scott’s 51st birthday dinner at Nick’s on Main

Scott, after pushing the button, watches as our three-panel 24 ft sliding glass door opens.New yellow and black warning sign on the service entry electric panel on the East side of the house.


New yellow and black warning sign on the service entry electric panel on the East side of the house.

Warning sign, in English and Spanish (thank you for the translation Darryl!).New yellow and black warning sign on 200 amp panel door in East Mechanical room.



Completed insulation in the ceiling of the Wine Cellar.


Completed insulation in the ceiling of the Wine Dining. Note the wine racks in the background.


Rainscreen assembly and radiant barrier on the South wall of the house.


Primed furring strips over the radiant barrier create a 3/4-inch air gap for air to flow and to allow the radiant barrier to reflect heat.


Scott, with the ‘Tesla smile’, after returning the Roadster 2.5 Sport to the dealership on Santa Row.


Scott enjoyed the Roadster!


Sue, Bryan and Scott in Enoteca La Storia, with the empty bottle of 1961 Cabernet from the 50/50 party held there on April 16, 2011.


Bryan explained to Scott and Sue, ‘It was a great bottle of wine but … it was a bit young.’


Everyone enjoyed dinner at Steamer’s Grillhouse.


We enjoyed a great bottle of 2005 Altagracia.


Making Our Solar Rebate Filing Deadline

We made it!  It was a complete team effort by everyone involved and we filed our rebate under the NSHP by September 29, 2011.  Yeah!

Focusing on Our Solar Permit Approval and Meter Release

The first item that we needed was the approval of our solar permit with the City of Monte Sereno.  Then, we needed a ‘meter release’ from the City so PG&E could install a permanent meter to measure the net electricity that we are generating/consuming.  With these two items, our rebate application will be complete and we will meet the deadline of September 29, 2011.

These two items are linked to the indemnification that the City asked us to provide them with regarding the live electric panels in the house.  Bryan agreed to the indemnification yesterday with Brian Loventhal, the City Manager.

When Bryan went to sign the indemnification agreement this morning, Brian explained that we would have to provide a certificate of insurance in with a minimum of $2 million per occurance.  This was a surprise.

Rolling with it, Bryan called our insurance expert, Ed Szylko, at EJMS Insurance Services in Los Gatos.  Ed explained that the first step would be to get the City of Monte Sereno as a named insured on Al’s insurance.  He would investigate our insurance.

After calling Al’s insurance agent, First Service Insurance Inc., Bryan learned that Al’s insurance is limited to $1 million per occurance.  Another issue to resolve.

While Ed worked on the our insurance, Bryan met with Brian Loventhal and explained that we have $1 million per occurance, not $2 million per occurance.  Brian agreed to discuss it with the City Attorney, Kirsten Powell, to see if the lower level would be acceptable.

Then, Ed called Bryan and outlined how he could get insurance for us at $2 million per occurance and, with our approval, could have the certificate of insurance prepared today.  Cool … Bryan agreed to this.

Brian Loventhal called Bryan, who was sitting in the parking lot at City Hall, and said that they had finalized the indemnification agreement, with the $1 million per occurance, and it was ready for signing.

Bryan scootted over to the counter at City Hall and both Brian and Bryan signed the indemnification agreement.  Brian gave Bryan a copy of the signed agreement, then he approved and signed the solar permit, and gave Bryan a copy of the meter release for PG&E (Brian was going to fax it to PG&E directly).

With the documentation in place, Bryan headed over the hill to see Roseanne at the Real Goods Solar office in Santa Cruz.  Roseanne scanned the documents and Bryan returned over the hill, now headed to PG&E’s service planning group in Cupertino.

The PG&E representative that Bryan met with previously, Catherine Only, met with Bryan and reviewed the meter release.  Since we had missed the scheduling deadline for Friday, Catherine set expectations with us that the permanent meter would be installed no later than Tuesday, October 4.  Way cool …

As Bryan drove back to the job site, he spoke with Jo-Anne (who is in Boston as it is the end of the quarter and she has to be available for any and all last minute legal issues that may arise).  Jo-Anne reminded Bryan of his obligations under the indemnification agreement and that he should focus on those items so we are in compliance.  Focus, focus, focus …

Back to the Job Site

At the job site, Bryan reviewed the progress on insulating the ceiling in the Wine Cellar and Wine Dining, and the installation of the siding on the East wall of the house.  Then, he printed the insurance certificates that he had received via e-mail.  Also, Bryan drafted language for the warning signs for the electric panels (required under the indemnification agreement) and then called with his brother, Darryl, in Calgary, Canada who is fluent in Spanish.  Bryan explained to Darryl that we need signage on the electric panels in both English and Spanish, and asked if Darryl could translate into Spanish for us. 

Darryl agreed to do the translation and said he would call back.  Meanwhile, Bryan got Nep to do the initial translation and then went to the City of Monte Sereno.

City of Monte Sereno and Signage

Bryan provided Brian Loventhal with copies of the insurance certification, which named the City of Monte Sereno as an additional insured.  Brian reviewed the certificates and said they were fine.  Then, Brian reviewed the wording for the signage and selected, ‘Warning – Do Not Open.  Live Electric Panel’.  Having fufilled the insurance certification obligation, Bryan headed to Frankie’s Awards to have the signs engraved. 

On the way, Bryan received the Spanish translation from Darryl on his Blackberry.  At Frankie’s Awards, Gloria reviewed the signs and said she would create a draft sign for approval.  Bryan waited and then reviewed the layout and wording.  There was a spelling error, which she caught, and Bryan approved the layout.  The two signs will be available tomorrow morning.

Back to the Job Site, Again

Bryan saw that everything was shut down for the evening and then Kel Marchbank arrived.  Kel hadn’t been to the job site in more than six months so Bryan provided Kel with a quick tour.  Kel loved the siding glass doors at the back.

Oh, Scott and Sue arrive tomorrow …

Al works on the siding on the East wall, by the Kitchen door.

Kitchen window with siding over the Tyvek.


Dan completes the siding on the North corner of the East wall.


Approved solar permit!


Approval and note, referring to indemnification agreement that Bryan signed.


We moved the wine racks into the Conference room so the insulation can be installed in the ceiling of the Wine Cellar and Wine Dining.


The wine racks, looking great, take up a lot of real estate inside the house. It would be great to get the ceiling and cooling panel completed in the Wine Cellar so we could install the wine racks permanently and get them out of the way.


The insulation is attached to the ceiling using sharp spikes, which are attached to the underside of the concrete with no VOC adhesive.


Insulation hangers attached to the underside of the hollow core concrete panels.


The insulation in the ceiling in the Wine Cellar. We will have closed cell polyurethane foam sprayed over the sheets of foam, which will create a moisture barrier inside the Wine Cellar.


Ceiling in the Wine Dining. The central vacuum system is in the dropped ceiling so we will have another layer of insulatin in the ceiling here.


Completing the Siding on the West Wall

Dan, Al and Nep completed the siding on the West wall.  They put in the two pieces of siding on the West side of the North wall and will start on the East wall in the morning.

The best news of the day came with a phone call at 4:38 pm when Bryan received a call from Brian Loventhal, the City Manager with the City of Monte Sereno.  Brian said that they had a arrived at a potential solution to approve our solar photovoltaic system so they could do a ‘meter release’ and we could get out rebate.  Brian was going to have the City Attorney, Kirsten Powell, draft an agreement so they could release the meter tomorrow.

The deadline for our solar rebate is tomorrow …

Dan (left) and Al fitting a sheet of siding on the North side of the house.


The West side of the house, now completed. The siding has been primed and needs to be painted.


The siding on the entire West wall is now complete.


The North West corner of the house …


The West side of the North wall, by Kate’s bedroom.


Picking Up Our Pink CAT5 and Priming the FSC Siding

We moved forward on several fronts today … nothing completed but solid progress.

Submitting a Draft Document to the City of Monte Sereno

The first task of the day was to drop off our documentation to the City of Monte Sereno.  Bryan handed two copies to Howard Bell, the Building Official, who stamped them as ‘Received’ and said he would review the documnet.  Howard will be in a class all day tomorrow so Bryan will follow up directly with Brian Loventhal (as one copy was for Brian).

The deadline of September 29 is looming …

Picking Up Our Pink CAT5

While we don’t need to use pink CAT5 for our C-Bus network, we thought it would be a nice touch to follow the Australian code for lighting controls.  In Australia, pink CAT5 is mandated by the building code.

Bryan picked up 2,000 feet of pink CAT5, which had been ordered through ADI in Santa Clara.  Armed with the pink CAT5 and the ferrules that arrived on September 23, we have all the materials to rough in the lighting control system.  OK, we still need the final lighting design …

Working on the Lighting Design

Bryan is still working on the documentation of the lights in the house.  After the design session with Randall Whitehead last week in San Francisco, Bryan documented most of the decisions.  He needs to finish it off and get the list of lights out to the suppliers.

When going through the Artemide showroom on August 30, 2011, we discovered the Artemide’s Mouette lights, which look like airplane wings or birds in flight.  We couldn’t think where they could ‘fit’ in our home.  On the weekend, when going to the Artemide catalog again, we started to visualize how there could be a series of three individual lights that would like like they were emerging from the lower level (basement) and exiting through the clerestory windows in the atrium.

Bryan gave Scott Andersen and Sue Therrien, who are visiting us on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the address of the Artemide showroom in San Francisco so they can see the lights and then help with the design.

Time to focus on this one …

Priming the FSC Siding

Al started priming the FSC siding yesterday and then Al, Dan and Nep were cutting and installing it.  Al decided it would be more efficient if he and Nep primed all of the siding.  Then, they ccould all work together on getting the siding installed.  Especially since another box of Cor-A-Vent should be delivered tomorrow.

Dan got another couple sheets of siding up today.  These were some of the most difficult sheets of siding as they require holes for the electric receptacles and the air vents.

Lots to do tomorrow.

Especially since Scott and Sue arrive on Friday!

Photo from the Artemide catalog showing the Mouette lights in the San Francisco Airport (SFO). These lamps are very cool ...

Another photo from the Artemide catague showing the asymetric Mouette lamps. Note the glass bridge in this photo.

Our pink CAT% matches the smaller loop of pink CAT5, which was included in our light switches. We can now start wiring the switches together.

Bryan picked up another 5 gallon pail of tinted primer as the FSC siding is soaking up the primer!

Al primes another sheet of FSC siding ...


We're using all stainless steel nails on the exterior so we don't run the risk of seeing nay corrosion caused by nails.


The primed, back and front, FSC siding installed on the West side of the house.

The West wall is looking great after the inital pieces of siding have been installed.