I think most people have played that speculative game with themselves, “If I had to do it over…” Sometimes it’s about life choices, like whether you would have finished or quit school, stayed in your hometown or moved away, chosen a different major in college, or married the person you married. Or it’s smaller stuff: the tattoo, the decision to go/not go to Woodstock, Ford v. Chevy.
Homeowners seem to be prone to the game, especially those of us who have built. We love our island home, yet almost 20 years later we still revisit the choices we made. Many of our reconsiderations come from how we actually use the house or matters of maintenance. If we had wrapped our decks the whole way around, for example, it would be easier to clean windows and put up hurricane shutters. And for that matter, why didn’t we just include permanent shutters in the design? Why didn’t we pay more attention to the arrangement of the kitchen, which is fine for a single cook but keeps two people bumping and getting in each other’s way?
There are plenty of “Yeah, we did that right” thoughts, too. We’re glad to have both a cistern and a well, and that we listened to our builder when he wanted to add two more windows. And we have no regrets about choosing a site not directly on the beach and “building up” to catch breezes and keep any flooding away from living areas.
Our own preferences went into all our choices and most of our idle “if I had to do it over” thoughts. But there is one do-over idea that I should share for a number of good reasons: If we had to do it over, we would have gone solar.
It wasn’t exactly a choice back then. PPC (Provo Power Company) was the only game in town. The company discouraged alternative energy, and besides, rebels were up against a technology that was still fairly new and very expensive. When PPC became Fortis, not much changed except the rhetoric. Now Fortis states that it supports renewable energy, but you can still feel the resistance when it comes to action.
This resistance adds to the argument for trying as hard as you can to work around the company. We who have dutifully paid Fortis year after year can attest to its shaky relationship with customer service. Power outages have become more frequent over the years, and “scheduled” outages are often done at times of maximum inconvenience for families. You would think that a “local” company would know that traditionally, island women do some heavy kitchen work on Sunday mornings, so that dinner is waiting after church. Yet Fortis continues to conduct its routine maintenance then, and even if you have a gas stove, you can’t run water.
And yes, we understand that it takes some time after a hurricane to get things up and running. But does Fortis understand that sending out bills at that time and extracting payments is just a slap in the face? You’re paying for power. There’s no power yet, but you still have to pay. WTF?
Going solar can be done, and I encourage it strongly to those now building their island homes. But be prepared to work hard. According to the Fortis website (fortistci.com), under “renewable energy,” the word is essentially that YOU do the installation, YOU are responsible for damage repairs and YOU follow all the instructions for connecting with their grid. Yeah, you can do it, but you’re on your own.
Online research will help, but I also recommend seeking out and talking with someone who has done it before you. Find someone on Provo who has solar panels on their roof and introduce yourself. On North, talk with Clifford Gardiner about what he’s done at Pelican Beach Hotel. Do your homework on both the theoretical and the practical side.
Or, as eco wisdom has it, Think Globally, Act Locally.
Slowly, Tom and I are initiating do-overs at Aloe House, like extending our roof when it needed to be repaired. Solar is on our list. But if you can make it a do-right and not a do-over, I encourage it.
Just don’t tell Fortis. I really like being able to flush my toilet in the mornings.