SEMRA, IN ACTION ON SITE !

Hey y’all here is one of several posts about… our Bunkhouse Build Team ! A mix of photos, Alumni/Intern spotlights, Natural Building. Check out our mud filled fun !

 

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Here we have Semra placing a note to all who enter… dust, brush, wash that clay away! Kick those kicks off for shoeless entry (please).  Forthought and communication helps make for cleaner communal spaces.

 

SEMRA       – Alumni Spring 2016    – Question & Answer

 

Q:  Where are you from ?

A:  I spent this last Winter in Salt Lake City with a fun intentional community.  Montana doing trailwork before that.

 

Q:  What do you hope to learn/ primary focuses for the Bunkhouse Build ?

A:   Hoping to do things I missed out on last time. Even though we were doing two houses it seemed I was missing out on some tasks.  Im interested in this being a two story, larger situation, get something different from the last build. Most importantly to hone skills to build structures for a Queer intentional farm.

 

Q:   Hobbies/ Moab specific activities you enjoy?

A:  Swim club. Love getting involved in the Community, free film screenings at Star Hall. Also being involved in Moabs enviromental issues, some of which we’ve been facing for decades.

 

Q:  Favorite tool to use on site – embodied, power and/or hand tool(s) ?

A: I’d say the crew as a resource. The knowledge, sillyness and moral on the job site. Love a good trowel.

 

Q: Most interesting, inspired or favorite book you’ve read ?

A: ‘Orlando’ by Virginia Wolfe  –  Based off one of her real life lovers. Whose proganist changes genders and the story spans centuries so its like a time travel novel as well.

 

Q:  Most helpful and/or favorite quote of your life ? Or perhaps one you’d like to table/share ?

A:  “ Beauty must be defined as what we are or else the concept itself is our enemy” CRIMETHINC

 

Q:  What do you most enjoy doing on the build site ?

A: Besides interacting with the crew- problem solving with people and the general physical labor.  And getting better at fractions during framing.

 

Q:  Any shout outs to people, places, things ?

A:  Supportive farming community in Montana. My sweetie in Salt Lake and my community of lovely friends in Moab.

PAT, IN ACTION ON SITE !

Hey y’all here is one of several posts about… our Bunkhouse Build Team ! A mix of photos, Alumni/Intern spotlights, Natural Building. Check out our mud filled fun !

 

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Here we have Pat using to the gas powered mixer.  This is a watery clay batch that will be added to lengthy straw. The straw and mud are mixed and made into balls lovingly refered to as slaw balls! Generally used to fill corners of stacked bale cavities and behind window bevels.

 

PAT    – ALUMNI SPRING 2018

Q:  Where are you from ?

A:  The West Coast overall, up and down between Seattle and San Franciso. Originally Melbourne, Austrailia.

 

Q:  What do you hope to learn/ primary focuses for the Bunkhouse Build ?

A:  Mostly honing and repeating skills on a bigger more complicated scale.

 

Q:  Hobbies/ Moab specific activities you enjoy?

A:  Climbing –

 

Q:  Favorite tool to use on site – embodied, power and/or hand tool(s) ?

A: The angle grinder is great for sculpting. Most power tools tend to be used in very specific ways. Angle grinders can do a lot.

 

Q:  Most interesting, inspired and/ or favorite book you’ve read ?

A:  ‘Solaris’ by Stanislaw Lem. As well ‘The Sea Wolf’ by Jack London

 

Q:  Most helpful and/or favorite quote of your life ? Or perhaps one you’d like to table/share ?

A: My most recent ethos to live by as of recent  “ gentle, humble, kind ”

 

Q:  What do you most enjoy doing on the build site ?

A:  Carpentry, complex framing. Finish plastering.

 

Q:  Any shout outs to people, places, things ?

A:  My dad for raising me around power tools and making things.

IRIS, IN ACTION ON SITE !

Hey y’all here is one of several posts about… our Bunkhouse Build Team ! A mix of photos, Alumni/Intern spotlights, Natural Building. Check out our mud filled fun !

 

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Here we have Iris ! Its important to clean up tools after creating our assorted straw, water, clay mixtures. This ensures longevity of our tools as well an easier use for the next day of mixing. Have you ever tried to clean off dry caked clay off your tools ?! Thanks Iris !

 

IRIS CORAL STARLIGHT      – 2018 INTERN –           Question & Answer 

 

 

Q:  Where are you from ?

A: Originally Vergennes, Vermont and most recently Boston, Massachusettes for 7 years.

 

Q:  What do you hope to learn/ primary focuses for the Bunkhouse Build ?

A:  Become more familiarized in building a Natural Home. Adobe floors and roofing.

 

Q:   Hobbies/ Moab specific activities you enjoy?

A:  Moab, exploring the natural wildlife and community. I’ve realized there are more opportunities  than I could imagine here.

 

Q:  Favorite tool to use on site – embodied, power and/or hand tool(s) ?

A:  The air nailer, hedge trimmer and floor compactor we used to level the foundation.

 

Q:  Most interesting, inspired and/or favorite book you’ve read ?

A:  The End of Night:  Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light by Paul Bogard

 

Q:  Most helpful and/or favorite quote of your life ? Or perhaps one you’d like to table/share ?

A:  “ Live your life flowing like water” and “ always keep your doors open, you never know what you’re going to get”

 

Q:  What do you most enjoy doing on the build site ?

A:  I love the hands on-  the interactions with my fellow builders and making friends I didnt expect. Everyone is super sweet, fun and weird. I love it.

 

Q:  Any shout outs to people, places, things ?

A:  SigiKoko with Build Naturally, she is the one who lead me toward this path.

INDER, IN ACTION ON SITE !

Hey y’all here is the first of several posts about… our Bunkhouse Build Team ! A mix of photos, Alumni/Intern spotlights, Natural Building methods and overall about our mud filled fun !

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Here we have Inder ! Applying ‘slaw’ to the second floor exterior. The strawbales have been set and stacked in the walls and then trimmed. We made ‘slaw balls’ with lengthy straw and watery mud mixture. Ball up a handful and place it in any cavity in the bail walls. Helps for a secure wall and tight thermal evelope !

 

INDER       –      Alumni Spring 2018   –   Question & Answer

Q:  Where are you from ?

A:  Richmond, Virginia. New York. Tennesee.

 

Q:  What do you hope to learn from this build ?

A:  Curious about two story building. Had a killer time working with the community. Building these sculpture houses, in this beautiful place.

 

Q:  Hobbies /activities of interest ?

A:  Practicing with my West African Harp. Feel it goes with the landscape of Moab. I enjoy hiking, being explorative, getting lost in the land.

 

Q:  Favorite tool embodied or literal building tool ?

A:  My core ! Helps me not get hurt and feels more empodied.

 

Q:  Most interesting, inspired and/or favorite writing you’d like to share ?

A:  ‘ Women Who Run With Wolves’  by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 

Q:  Most helpful/ favorite quote or words of your life ?

A : Sheri Hostetler  ‘Instructions’

Give up the world; give up self; finally, give up God.
Find god in rhododendrons and rocks,
passers-by, your cat.
Pare your belief, your absolutes.
Make it simple; make it clean.
No carry-on luggage allowed.
Examine all you have
with a loving and critical eye, then
throw away some more.
Repeat. Repeat.
Keep this and only this:
what your heart beats loudly for
what feels heavy and full in your gut.
There will only be one or two
things you will keep,
and they will fit lightly
in your pocket.

Q:  What do you most enjoy doing on the build site ?

A:  Tasks involving mud and roofing.

 

Q: Shout outs to people, places, things ?

A:  Spring 2018 overall –

Storms In The Desert

As we meticulously finish the concrete pads for the bathrooms and doorways we are
increasingly aware of the clouds approaching from the southwest. They are coming in more and
more quickly and are the darkish gray of the concrete we’re so painstakingly smoothing. Just as
we are finishing up for the day the storm is upon us. Wind and sand blows in gusts and the team
springs into action. The wacker tacker smacks out staples into the tarps borrowed from the
depths of every garage and workshop in the whole town of Bluff. A few of us untangle old baling
twine to tie out tarps to prevent them from pouring water onto part of Malyssa’s future bathroom
floor. What could become a “cool” design on her doorways might also be challenging to sweep
for the rest of the life of the house if the rain is allowed to patter on these floors or if the endless
sand gusts are allowed to drop their load. Energized by the cooler weather and the imminent
rain we all rush about tying and tacking and screwing things to wherever to hold down the tarps
as the rain and wind blow in the sides of the unwalled house. After doing all we can, we stand
back to look at the site and colorful collection of tarps, hung crookedly and rattling in the wind. It
is truly the best we could do and we hope Malyssa can love this rain as much as any desert
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Nothing But A Headlamp And Nutella

The culture of Moab is built on generosity. From day one, we interns were immediately folded into a community that works through giving, sharing and exchanging. Shared resources take all forms: time, knowledge, work, welcoming spaces and, most importantly, food. (Did you know that not all watermelons are red? Some are yellow and orange! This place is amazing!) It’s inspiring to see a community function like this and humbling to be a part of it. It has affirmed a long-held belief of mine, that we must consistently, not occasionally, rely on our shared knowledge and experiences to thrive.

Another humbling experience has come through working with my fellow interns as they learn the basics of construction and architecture. With these areas as my academic and professional background, I take a lot of the processes and practices for granted. But fielding and hearing my friends’ questions has forced me to think more, to be more critical of this act of building, the externalities of housing, of the way communities are knit together and of how a society lives.

I’ve only begun to venture into the world of Fun Things To Do Here, probably because there’s just so much to do. Post-work jaunts to Mill Creek are becoming less essential, which is a bit sad, but with cooler days comes more opportunity for the physically demanding pursuits Moab is known for. I’ve gone for a few mountain biking trips with friends and a good hike happens about weekly. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a place where, on a whim, we can take a 10 minute nighttime drive to Arches NP with nothing but a headlamp and Nutella to make the rocks echo with our laughter.

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Stomp, Trowel, & Howl

Learning to build straw bale homes has been hard work — blood, sweat, tears, and the like. Yet we’re making sure to keep it funky, too. This past Saturday, Community Rebuilds hosted the Floor Stomp of Fall 2018. This event stacked all kinds of functions. It served its primary purpose with flying colors, bringing the earthen floor of the company’s newest house up to the appropriate level. While hauling in wheelbarrow upon wheelbarrow of local subsoil, there was a dance party on top of this same dirt, methodically filling the perimeter cement foundation until it was level with our desired grade line. Simultaneously, the shindig acted as social lubricant — a very natural way of presenting the company’s new Fall interns to the Moab community at-large. We mixed, mingled, and stomped our way to new friendships. It was also a special way for the newest homeowners, Jessica and Thane, to show off their sweet new digs — huge congrats and shout out to them — and the Miller family — for their beautiful, new straw bale homes.

 

Work and play has its balance, though. For that, and other natural homebuilding reasons, we’ve followed up the Stomp with the plastering of the earthen floor. This meditative activity requires a bit more patience, such as carefully spot checking the entire home’s new floor for dips and bumps, levelling it all out, then carefully troweling the whole surface with a clay-sand mixture. We proceeded with the application of multiple layers of linseed oil over the earthen floor, a method chosen to harden the floor while bringing out a surprising luster. It was almost hard to believe the beauty that we were able to summon from this mere ‘reject sand’.

 

And then magic happened. A late-summer opportunity to witness the gorgeous full moon rise through Window Arch would not pass up this adventurous group. Arriving at the one-and-only Arches National Park an hour prior to sundown afforded us the chance to see a spectacular sunset. Yet this natural wonder was literally paled in comparison to the brilliance of the soon to rise full moon. And as my readers have surely experienced before, there was a certain tingle that permeated our bodies upon viewing the enormous orb hovering gently over the Mars-like Arches landscape. Would it surprise you that every member of the cohort, save no one, spontaneously & simultaneously began to howl at the moon — in an eerie, yet tantalizing unison? Stomp, trowel and howl — One of the best weekends of my life.

An Englishman In Moab

Finally I’m here, after failing to get my visa almost a year ago my second visa application proved more successful and so I’m here a year later than planned, and with initial regrets that I didn’t postpone my arrival by a further 6 months: the heat! Summers in the UK usually get no hotter than 90 F with plenty of wet and cooler days along the way, so to be working outside in the sun (rain is a rare occurrence) in temperatures that regularly reach 115 F is a shock to the system and has me immediately questioning my reasoning behind coming here in the middle of summer and not the Spring Semester in January, where temperatures would start off cold but once the summer arrives everyone would be working inside in the shade.

Led by the sagely advice of our experienced instructors steps are taken to mitigate the impact of the heat – days start early, interns are encouraged to take regular breaks to keep hydrated as well as enjoying the occasional iced lollypops, and shirts are ideally lightweight and long-sleeved with wide-brimmed hats and neck scarves, all of which can easily be removed and soaked in water at regular intervals to further regulate the body temperature. Even after being here only 3 weeks we’re all growing accustomed to the heat and adapting well. I felt like the first week took place at full pace despite the heat for whatever reasons but perhaps as we were all eager to get involved and were fuelled by the excitement and enthusiasm for the project and the months ahead.

One advantage of the extreme heat, which my mum would thoroughly enjoy, is the speed with which you can dry your clothes outside – 10 minutes in the mid afternoon heat!

As the only non-American I’m on my own when it comes to trying to get my head around the imperial system. Don’t get me wrong, us Brits are at a half-way house of trying our best to operate fully metric but still retaining a few key imperial measurements such as one’s weight and height. But once you work in construction in the imperial system the banality of it all is clear almost on a daily basis. Multiply 5′ 7″ by 3 anyone?!

Moab has been good to me so far though. Highlights of my short 3-week stay here so far include:
There are (almost) enough functional bikes for all interns who need them, useful for getting to/from work or about town, but having some World Class mountain biking trails on the doorstep gave me the encouragement to seek out a bike worthy for the neighbouring area. A short message on the Moab Community Facebook Group page resulted in a handful of offers from locals for the free use of a good bike for my 5-month stay. A reflection of both the friendly nature of locals and the high regard that Community Rebuilds has in the community, which has been apparent elsewhere throughout my short stay here.
Free use of the public indoor/outdoor pool and gym – not just any pool, but one of the best public pools I’ve had the pleasure of using.
2 day/1 night camping trip to the nearby La Sal Mountains. 16 of us took a 90-minute drive along highways and dirt tracks to camp at Medicine Lake, in the foothills of the highest mountains in the La Sal mountain range. A few of us climbed Mt. Tukuhnikivatz (12,482 ft/3,805m), a couple of hundred feet shy of the neighbouring Mt. Peale, which is the highest in the range and second highest in Utah. Hiking from lush green aspen-forested landscapes to the barren stony screes leading to the summit where we were dive-bombed by playful swifts was memorable.
Living and working with such a variety of people, all with their own interesting story to tell and unique journey in getting here.
Knowing I’m going to be fulfilled and happy for the next 5 months, both during the build and trying to choose from the myriad of activities and places to visit in our spare time.

Moab Fall 2018 Intern – Tristan Wooller

 

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Soaping and Stoning

This post was written by Spring 2018 intern, Callie Ochsner.
Recent experiences call to mind the forces that are shaping our existence here, the build up and break down of ourselves and our surroundings.

The focus on the build sites this week was all around Tadelakt, the traditional Moroccan lime plaster that lines the showers in the houses built by Community Rebuilds. The plaster is built up in layers before being finished and burnished to a glossy sheen.

The process begins with limestone. This naturally occurring sedimentary rock is formed mostly of calcium carbonate, or calcite. When limestone is heated to temperatures near 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, it releases carbon dioxide and becomes calcium oxide. When water is added to the calcium oxide, it becomes calcium hydroxide, or hydrated lime. That hydrated lime is the binder used for lime plaster. When hydrated lime comes in contact with carbon dioxide, it transforms once again into calcium carbonate, effectively becoming limestone again.

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Finished tadelakt in one of the showers.

Being a lime plaster, Tadelakt depends on this lime cycle to be effective. The technique is dictated by the behavior of the plaster itself, meaning that moisture and timing are the essence of the process. Three thin layers of lime plaster are applied to the shower walls, the last one troweled on the surface. As the plaster hardens, metal trowels, plastic trowels, and finally polished stones are used at specific times to smooth and burnish the plaster, compressing particles together and creating an impermeable skin. Finally, olive oil soap is applied to further hydrate the surface as well as contribute stearic acid. This reacts with the plaster to create calcium stearate: soap scum that protects the surface.

One inspiring characteristic of lime plaster is its ability to heal itself. In any lime plaster system, there are free limes that are unreacted. When a crack forms in the surface, those free limes travel to the scene and, once exposed to the carbon dioxide, continue to form a limestone matrix in that space. The crack, though it may be visible from the outside, has actually been healed from within. The matrix is perpetually building itself.

To punctuate a week of assembling limestone, a trip to Druid Arch in Canyonlands National Park revealed masses of stone being broken down and eroded away. In this geological area, layers upon layers of sediment were deposited over hundreds of millions of years by many different water systems and climates, compressing and creating magnificent strata of colorful sandstones and limestones. Starting about 15 million years ago, geological uplift caused these layers to rise thousands of feet in elevation. Water began its work, rivers and streams eroded and transported sediment as freeze and thaw cycles cracked and weathered the exposed surfaces. Unique patterns of joints between sections of rock created weaker areas that disintegrated to reveal spires of rock.

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One of these spectacular structures is Druid Arch, a 450-foot-tall double arch comprising specifically Cedar Mesa sandstone, made up of ancient coastal dunes deposited over 200 million years ago. These dunes included red and white layers dictated by the iron content of each deposit. The trek to the arch was nothing short of magical. The trail wound through delicate ecosystems, living soil crusts, fractured and undulating rock layers, and paths carved by flowing water. The landscape challenged and impressed, making sure we understood how much we were at its mercy, how little power we possessed in the face of this perfect system. Our arrival at the arch came with awe and relief and a long rest. Though arduous, the pilgrimage was immensely rewarding.

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Right now I picture the binding of a sediment matrix, the curing of a lime plaster when I think about the group of people with whom I am sharing this experience. We begin as individual pieces of limestone, as separate grains of desert sand. With some heat, pressure, chemistry, and magic, what was once many separate parts becomes one system. Loose particles are brought into the matrix, pinholes and gaps are filled, and the system continues to grow and cure itself for as long as it lives. However, external forces are constantly wearing away material, transporting sediment from weak places and leaving the strong. I have a feeling that one of the most beautiful things we can hope for out of this is to let each other wear away and burnish our weaknesses, to be broken down and built up again, to be strong and impenetrable once we have found a way to exist together.

 

Permaculture Reflection

This post was written by current intern, Isaak Oliansky.

A nearly 30 strong Community Rebuilds and friends delegation just returned from a 3 day stay at Hopi as guests of the Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Institute. Permaculture education is often taught in several week or month long design courses that balance classroom time with experiential learning at a living permaculture site- often with a homestead, farm, and animals. We experienced a truncated version of this, with two days of coursework and a half day of fieldwork, that made for an excellent introduction.

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Class room day with Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture.

The site where the institute hosts it’s projects is based at the home of Lillian and Jacobo, a couple who run the program. The house itself was built by the building end of the Hopi Tutskwa program, which partners with Community Rebuilds to bring affordable housing to Hopi.

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Interns transplanting starts at the first home built in partnership between Community Rebuilds and Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture.

It was interesting to see the ways in which each program took different approaches to building straw bale homes. In Moab, Community Rebuilds turns out between four or six homes a year using a combination of conventional construction methods in tandem with earthen plastering, flooring, and straw bale insulation. At Hopi, in a much more rural area where the nearest hardware store is more than 40 miles away, most of the materials are harvested by the interns and instructors. Stones is quarried and shaped by hand. Trees are felled in the Flagstaff area and milled back at Hopi. These trees became large timber beams that were beautifully exposed in their homes. I came to appreciate how each program was responding to local needs and conditions- in and of itself a form of permaculture.

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Interns enjoying dinner at the accommodations at Youth With a Mission, Tribal Winds.

Another element of the trip that fascinated me was the gradations of desert that exist transitioning from Southeastern Utah to Northern Arizona. While some decent springs exist at Hopi, from my understanding there are only washes that flow during the rains, and the land is otherwise dry. This makes rainwater harvesting paramount to creating an off the grid home in the area- the sites we toured were able to store thousands of gallons at a time. I admired the flexibility that a lack of building codes allowed them- in rainy western Oregon, where I am from, all water is considered property of the state, and one must apply to harvest rainwater or build out a pond. It’s just as well, during a drought in an already dry area, every drop is precious. Jacobo explained to us how they tried to wean their perennial vegetation off of rainwater and slowly have the plants tap directly into the groundwater. Although I live in an opposite climate, it satisfied me how applicable the principles we learned would be to my own future homestead.

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Interns planting lettuce starts.

Coming back into Moab, I was struck by how green it was. One of the folks in my car remarked that compared to where we were, Moab seemed like Ireland. Moab is lucky to have the Mill Creek which provides a year round flow to nourish this fertile valley. Having this experience in a different part of the four corners gave me a deeper sense for the region, and I’m incredibly humbled by all that this program has taught me.

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Plaster Run Down

This post was written by Spring 2018 intern, Carey Alcott.

We’re now over half-way through the build and finished elements are starting to appear. We’ve got good boots (foundations), good hats (roofs with solar panels installed), guts (wood framing, straw-bales, light straw clay walls, a cob palette wall, plumbing and electrical wiring) all in place. And we’ve just started putting on the skin.

The adobe floors are almost done. We’ve poured and floated the sub-floors. Then they were coated with linseed oil to harden. All that remains for the floors is an 1/8th inch layer of finish plaster and a final coat of linseed oil.

Plastering is 90% prep work, so we spent several days slipping the straw, taping the windows, and adding mesh to corners and weak points in preparation for the plaster. After the prep, last week, we put the brown coat of plaster on the houses and they are really starting to look and feel like livable spaces.

Plastering is fun!

Solar for the Soul

This post was written by Spring 2018 intern Michele Deluca.

Reading the past posts from my lovely fellow interns left me feeling all warm and fuzzy, but I’m here to interrupt the feel-good posts to drop some cold, hard knowledge about PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEMS!!

We had the pleasure of welcoming Ken and Spencer last week, who came to show us how to install our solar panels and systems , and to give us some background on how they work (a throwback to some forgotten days of high school where we learned about things like amps and watts and voltage). Our crew got to climb up on the roof and pretend to be solar installers for the day – attaching racking, panels, and inverters and wiring up the electrical. We’re basically professionals now!

Deciding where to place solar panels is an important part of the installation process. Panels that are shaded by something even as small as a leaf can lead to a huge loss of efficiency. Ken showed us this super awesome gadget called a solar pathfinder which can be helpful when placing a solar array. It features a glass dome that reflects any trees or buildings in the area, which is overlaid on an image showing the path of the sun throughout the year. It allows you to determine any trees or buildings that could potentially shade the solar panels over the course of a day or year. It’s a very low-tech but super effective device, and fun to play with ! All our solar panels face south, because we’re in the northern hemisphere, and are most effective on a ~30 degree slope.

Ever heard of Net Metering? Each of the houses we’re building has an array of solar panels that will produce electricity, which will be used directly in the house on sunny days. Any excess electricity is sent onto the grid. At night and on cloudy days, when the panels aren’t producing enough electricity to meet the needs of the house, energy will be drawn from the grid. The homeowners end up paying for their net energy use, which is the difference between the excess they produce and the energy they draw. This usually ends up meaning zero energy bills!

The price tag on solar panels can sometimes seem like an intimidating investment, but with energy costs increasing at such a high rate, solar is becoming more and more viable. On average, it takes homeowners just over 10 years to start making money back on their solar setup. Young homeowners – get into solar! Your future selves will thank you when you’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars in energy bills. Oh, and did I mention, it’s clean energy that’s good for the planet?!  The sun’s not going anywhere (anytime soon, at least) and the technology behind solar panels is taking off, making this an exciting time to be learning about the possibilities of Sun Power!