According to the president of the Inglewood Historical Society, the Inglewood Craftsman was built before electricity had reached the area. However, the builder(s) obviously knew that electricity was coming to the area, so the house was pre-wired internally and ready to be plugged into the grid as soon as the grid arrived. The natural gas paraphernalia in each room makes me think that rooms were probably lit with gas lamps or maybe gasoliers before the power arrived.
The house was obviously powered normally when we arrived. However, just a few months after moving in, we started meeting with solar power companies. We weren’t impressed with the first few we met with; one had a payment balloon that didn’t make any sense, and it turned out they couldn’t do an installation on our roof anyway because of its construction, and another was overly aggressive, shoving certifications in our faces and repeating stacks of information even though we’d asked him not to. We’d made it clear to both of those companies that we didn’t need to be ‘sold’ on solar, that we knew we wanted it and we were just shopping for the right deal. Despite the weird payment structure of the first one, initially it looked like the best deal, so we went with it… until our wood-shake-underneath-composite roof would have cost us an additional $8000 out of pocket!
We searched for companies who would work on wood-shake roofs, since we are not at all interested in replacing the roof any time soon. After the overbearing second visit, our third experience was a relief. I spoke with the owner of the local company on the phone before our meeting, and he and another member of the team came to see us in person. They did exactly as we asked and explained only the cost options and breakdowns for us. The two men broke down the differences in the types of panels we could choose from, and I surreptitiously googled their statements as we talked- all were accurate. We signed paperwork again and got financing for the project.
In the project, we chose to include a new electric box, at the recommendation of the company. The owner thought our box was a bit small for the house as it was, and it was definitely not up to code, which could have created some serious problems during inspections for the project. Luckily, this meant that when the workers installed the new box, they also labeled each fuse correctly- a luxury we hadn’t enjoyed with the existing box. Note that everything involved with the power looks much, much better when painted with the matching exterior color. We’ve just planted some foliage to help disguise some of the hardware, and we hope it grows up to do its job quickly!
Solar ended up costing us $0 down and $0 for installation, and we financed the overall cost. The installation was incredibly fast after the city approved the plans; workers stayed for 11 hours one day just to make sure our power was back on by the time they left. On this long day, one of our neighbors saw the workers coming in and out of the house in the dark and called the police, thinking we were being robbed!
The electric company finally switched our input to the solar panels over a month after the installation was complete. It’s an incredibly rewarding feeling to sit and watch the meter run backward when the sun is out!
The incongruity of a 1906 home with the latest in solar technology pleases me to no end. I hope more people who restore older homes realize that they can have the same access to green methods as newer construction does… any home with a roof can be a candidate for solar power!