Given everything else that 2020 brought, Don and I are grateful to have moved into our zero-energy home before Covid grounded everyone. When everything shut down last March, my son and daughter-in-law, school principals in Miami, packed their four-year-old daughter Soraya in the car and drove to Indiana to stay with us and work remotely while Soraya and I played for five straight months. She had a blast, and so did her cousin who lives here, June.
During those months Don and I developed our infrastructure. We built a dock, put up more cedar fences and fruit trellises, started composting horse manure from a neighbor, planted our first full year’s garden, built a treehouse, and planned the greenhouse that we finished as winter began.
I was eager to find out whether our house would truly turn out to be net-zero energy as we hoped. And here was the 2020 result:
Most months, from April through November, our 7.9 kw solar panel system generated more than we used. In the course of a year, it made
10,530 kilowatt hours of power, 15% more than expected. Our all-electric
house, powering three extra people Zooming through spring and summer, AND my Chevy Bolt, AND
Don’s electric assist bike, used 11,049 kWhs of energy, less than 1½ more per day than we generated. We were living comfortably, hosting family, driving to town and
biking to work for a year on less power than we had used in a single week in our
old house, after all the energy conservation measures that had cut our
power use in half. Not only are the panels working, but the house itself, which
is made to conserve energy fiercely, is doing what it was built to do. This is where the U.S., and the world, hopes and needs to go by 2050: renewably produced energy powering buildings and transportation. Given the will to invest in the future, it can indeed be done.