Friday, May 12, 2006

Goin' Solar

Originally uploaded by drmacro.
We've finally gotten our planned solar panels (photovoltaics or "PVs" to those in the know) installed, although they are not quite hooked into the house electrical system and will need to be inspected by the city before they can be turned on.

The system is a 3.3kW system, meaning that it's maximum output is 3300 watts DC at any given moment. The official rating is 2.56 kW to the grid to account for the loss when converting from DC to AC current. This system should produce about 4500 kilowatt hours per year, or roughly 20 percent of our total energy requirements per year. Of course one cool thing about PVs is that they produce the most electricity when A/C demand is highest, so it will have a disproportionately positive value in terms of reducing demand on the grid when the grid is under greatest load.

The system is tied into the grid which means that it can only operate when the grid is operating, so if there is a power outage we are still without power--this is for the safety of the people restoring the power. This also means that the city buys back any excess power we produce (at some discounted rate), so it is possible for our meter to run backwards.

I also checked our usage for April, the first full month in the house. We averaged 27 kWh per day. By comparison, our old house, which is 1/2 the size of our current house, used 25 kWh per day for the same period last year (which was a little cooler as well). So that's pretty good.

The PV system is sized to maximize our rebate from the city (and is also as much as we could afford to put up given our cash reserves (and we could only afford it at all because of the adoption expense tax credit, which essentially refunded us the cost of the system)). As you can see from the picture we could have a system four or five times as large and probably supply most, if not all, of our electricity needs. Of course a system like that would cost close to 100K (no rebate to offset the additional cost). Maybe if PV cost drops significantly in the next 10 years (which it should) we can do that.

As it is we expect about a 15-year payback on the system based just on saved electricity at current electrical rates. Of course we can expect electrical costs to go up over that time, so maybe the payback will be closer to 10 years. But you can't really see it as an investment but as The Right Thing To Do.

But what I really want is a plug-in hybrid and another PV system on the garage used to charge it so that we can have a solar-powered car....

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Picture from Ba

Originally uploaded by drmacro.
Here is Dada admiring the picture her Grandpa Ba got for her. The picture is a signed and numbered print of a painting by Debbie Hron, who is an illustrator of children's books and also known for figurines and greeting cards (and thanks to Google I also know that she runs 5 and 10K races around the country and is also an accomplished Akido master).

Other Dada news: today she put on her pajamas by herself, which we don't think she'd done before. This means that she is now capable of dressing herself. We were pretty excited. She's also growing like a weed, measuring between 35 and 36 inches and closing in on 30 lbs. This puts her a little above average on the U.S. growth charts and off the top of the Chinese charts.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Bike Ride Daddy?

Originally uploaded by drmacro.
Julie ordered this very cool bicycle child seat and we got it mounted on my bike this weekend. The seat mounts behind the handlebars and is very stable.

Dada loves to ride on the bike--we took a couple short rides on Saturday and on Sunday we went to the Veloway, which is a 3-mile paved bike and rollerblade track in south Austin, and took a longer ride.

The picture above is Dada and her daddy out on the Veloway where we had stopped to take some pictures of Dada among the wildflowers.

Image025This bike seat opens up whole possibilities of family biking, making it possible for us to go lots of places on our bikes as a family, such as to restaurants, nearby parks, the playground, Amy's Ice Cream, and just get out and get exercise as we did on Sunday.

Sunday afternoon, as we were hanging out in shade of the carport enjoying some refreshing beverages, Dada came up and started asking "bike ride Daddy?" She was very disappointed to hear that the time for bike riding had passed for the day.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Settling In

We've been in the new house a little over a month and we're starting to get settled in. This picture shows Dada holding the cat of one of our new neighbors, Macy. Macy and her mother are staying with Macy's grandparents while Macy's father arranges a new house for them in Dallas (they're relocating from Great Falls, Montana). Macy is four and she and Dada have become fast friends. The other night we passed their house while we were walking the dogs and ended up staying there for an hour talking while Macy and Dada played in the front yard. Unfortunately Macy will only be around for another month or so. To my knowledge this is the first time Dada has held a cat.

We've pretty much go everything unpacked that needed to be unpacked. We've put a nice rug down in the livingroom. We got all but one of the remaining light fixtures installed last night (we have the last fixture but didn't have the right canopy kit for it).

We've settled into a pretty consistent daily routine--I leave for work about 8:30 and get home between 5:45 and 6:00, depending on traffic. On day's when Dada in mother's day out Julie can go ride her bike on the Veloway (which is south of us and was too far away to be practical when we lived farther north) and in the mornings I can do a ride around the Town Lake hike and bike trail and get back to the house before Dada wakes up.

By the same token, Julie can now easily take the dogs to the dog park, which is now just 10 minutes away instead of 30 minutes (and a cross-town drive) away.

This is one reason we wanted to move closer in--to be conveniently close to a lot of the activities we like to do, as well as being closer to our friends.

We're finding we really like the neighborhood--we've met a lot of our neighbors and they're all friendly. It's a much more diverse neighborhood, both ethnically and socially--a greater mix of ages, incomes, and so on. And a there are a lot more chickens.

Image005In the evenings after work we're finding we like to sit out on the driveway in front of the carport enjoying the evening breeze while Dada plays--as the architects predicted, the large apron in front of the garage and carport makes an excellent place for Dada to run around, ride her bike, blow bubbles, and whatnot. In the evening the area is shaded and the carport acts as a breezeway, making it remarkably cool. Sitting there facing the street we can still see our neighbors passing.