around 6:30am i saw a truck parking outside. in my excitement i went out to greet the driver but it was only one of the workers, not the delivery truck (the vehicle was too small anyway). so sheepishly i went back inside the house and waited for 7am, the time the workers were scheduled to begin working. more and more cars began showing up in front of the house, but none of them was the delivery truck. i went out and to move the car in the driveway and that's when i saw some equipment: a dozen medium-size boxes piled up against the garage door and a bundle of long metal rack railings. so there was a delivery after all, probably happened much earlier in the morning. but where were the actual solar panels? maybe they'd be delivered later.
a large utility van showed up, the driver backing the vehicle onto the driveway. could this be the solar panels? but it was just a rolling tool shed with equipment for the workers, including ladders strapped to the top of the van. everyone was huddled around, getting ready to work. the guy who showed up at 6:30am introduced himself as pat, one of the electricians. the guy who drove the utility van was josh, in charge of the roofing crew. we were waiting for one last person, joe the other electrician, an older gentleman with non-stop wisecracks. "diddy diddy!" he saluted me the first time we met.
my parents were getting ready for work and left before 8am, while i stayed home, charged with supervising the solar installation. my father came home intermittently, once after he went to sancta maria to check up on my grand uncle, and then another time around lunch to deliver some food for me.
while josh and his roof crew (3 other guys) were on top of the house marking the position of the eventual racks and panels, joe and pat were in the basement figuring out where to put the various switch boxes. the largest piece of equipment was the inverter, about the size and thickness of an upright vacuum cleaner. typically it's mounted on the outside of the house, but since all our meters live in the basement, that's where they decided to put it (thank god because it would look hideous if it was mounted outside). the one thing that did need to be outside was a shutoff box, as they like to call it, a "disco" (for "disconnect" i'm assuming). this is required by law, so should there ever be a fire, the fire department can shut off the power to the solar panels so they don't accidentally get electrocuted. it can't be hidden but i did get them to place it to the right of a gutter downspout so it wouldn't be as noticeable. the box can also be painted except for the safety sticker.
lucas stopped by later in the morning. he brought some hot dunkin donut drinks for the workers and treated me to some as well. he did in fact come from leominster because of a project. the town inspector wouldn't sign off on a residential install because snow had fallen on the panels and he couldn't see the wiring. lucas went down to meet with the inspector directly and show him photos the installers had taken prior to the snow. lucas seemed to be very busy from now until the end of the year (he only does residential contracts), and then as soon as january comes around, solar work enters a lull period, although this season might be different as the state government just decided to extend the SREC program another 3 months into june. lucas also told me that for tax purposes, all that's needed as proof of solar install is a record of the panels activating (which can be documented through the app software) and the signed contract. an actual PTO is not necessary, and those can sometimes take a while to issue with different town inspectors and their individual idiosyncrasies (for example: leominster). having said that, he was still hoping we get everything activated by the end of the week, though we lucked out by having christmas on a monday, since it leaves the rest of next week for business (as opposed to christmas in the middle of the week, where people end up taking additional days off). lucas said he'd be back tomorrow and give me a call later to check up on the progress.
it wasn't a bad day to be working outside. temperature was in the lower 40's and a little blustery because of the winds, but out on the southern side of the house facing the sun, it felt spring-like.
i hung out in the basement for much of the time, assisting with the electricians. part of it was interest to see what they were doing, but also to make sure i give them some input as to where to mount the hardware. i was also there to clear out work areas, as there is a lot of basement clutter (near horde level). joe was definitely the master electrician and pat his apprentice. i chatted with both, learned a few things. pat told me that united solar is actually the same company as another electrician company. joe, who is far more chatty, told me about his new iphone, how he uses it with a portable bluetooth bose speaker in his car, his back problems and his physical therapy, told me how much they make ($50/hour) and that i should become an electrician as well, that plumbers charge a fortune, and his recent 80's music kick via pandora.
instead of snaking the cable from the solar panels over the roof and down into the front of the basement, they decided to come into the house from the back (near the heating oil inlet), across the ceiling of the basement to the power panel.
while the electricians were drilling a hole in front of the house to allow them to connect to the new shutoff switch box outside, a mouse skeleton fell out from the open ceiling. and when pat was drilling a hole in the back of the house, he discovered a large empty wasp nest (though he called it a "hornet's nest"). the wasps must've came in through the gap underneath the heating oil pipe.
around noontime the construction noises suddenly stopped as everyone went on break. that was my cue to eat something as well, the food my father had brought back earlier. i'd already ate a little bit before, a cup of instant korean noodles, but that wasn't very filling and i was hungry again.
in the early afternoon some guy named andrew showed up. he was younger than joe but older than pat. from the way joe was talking to him, i got the feeling andrew was in charge. earlier joe asked about my router. when i told him it was on the other end of the house, he said they could add something to the inverter so it could wirelessly connect to the router (but it'd cost $500, not sure who would be paying for it). but according to andrew, they still needed a wired ethernet connection. i showed him the router and we determined that we can snake a long cable across the basement. after andrew left i asked joe who he was. apparently he's the right hand man of their boss dan, second in charge of the company. so maybe that was why he was so keen on finding a cheaper internet solution!
by early afternoon most of the outside work was already finished. word got around that the panels wouldn't be delivered until tomorrow, so there was nothing more than can do. joe got 2 of the workers to help out with running an ethernet cable to the router, but i couldn't get the cable up to the first floor through the tightly-spaced pipe edge of the radiator.
around 2pm all the workers left leaving just josh and the 2 electricians. while joe took care of the panel power panel, pat was outside working on the conduit that connects the eventual roof panels to the entry point in the back of the house. by 2:30pm they were all done and called it a day. had the panels been delivered, they could've possibly gotten everything finished in a single day. the fact that it'll take them 2 days to possibly finish doesn't bother me, but that means somewhere else a nervous client needs to wait another day for their own install, with just a few more days left in the year. tomorrow's weather looks to be even sunnier but colder with highs in the lower 30's.
because the installers were coming back tomorrow morning, that meant i'd need to spend another night in belmont. i didn't have any change of clothes but i wasn't that stinky, just some dirt on my jeans from rummaging around the basement. i wouldn't be able to get to my pills but missing a dosage of my high blood pressure medications isn't a big deal.
my parents returned home a bit before 4pm, after my mother had her physical therapy session in davis square. i showed my father the work the installers did. we tried pulling up the ethernet cable but couldn't get it passed that tight squeeze. he ended up drilling a small hole next to the existing opening, hoping to use the preexisting cables as a guide, but no matter what we tried it still didn't work. around 6pm my father left to go visit my grand uncle. my mother made noodles for dinner.
after my father came back and finished eating, we went back to work trying to get the ethernet cable upstairs. we ended up cutting a hole in the basement ceiling so we could see how the cables snake upstairs. only then were we finally able to figure out the secret between the floorboards and snake the cable upstairs.
unlike last night, i had no problems falling asleep tonight. i'd complained to my mother about the smelly sheets and she'd replaced them with fresh sheets. after a quick shower, i hopped into bed. i tried to read some artemis but kept dozing off. once i finally finished a short chapter, i quickly went to sleep.