Going Solar

“This roof is perfect for solar panels.” That was not just another offhanded observation about the house we would soon buy, it was a persuasive selling point for us. We had been renting apartments in California for 7 years and knew when we made the leap to a house with the option of installing solar panels we surely would do so.

Solar panels installed on my roof

Electricity from the grid in California is expensive, relative to the US average, though that wasn’t my primary motivation for going solar. Sure, saving money is great, but we are a two person household using relatively little electricity. We will eventually buy a fully electric vehicle (EV) to replace the plug-in hybrid that’s in the garage right now, but unsure how far off into the future that is. Our motivations to go solar are a bit less obvious.

A sampling of states’ average cost of electricity for residential customers shows California is at the high end, but there are a number of other states with higher or comparable rates.

I mentioned that I don’t use very much electricity compared to the average person. I switch off the lights off when I leave a room, though with highly efficient LED bulbs that doesn’t matter quite as much as it once did. It’s the way that I use electricity that makes me want that electricity to come from sustainable or renewable sources. My audio recording gear and music making toys are very inefficient.

To my ears the best sounding amplifiers have old fashioned arrangements of components that draw a lot of electricity, making them rather inefficient. If curious, read about Class-A and Class-AB versus more efficient power amplifier topologies on Wikipedia. (More on my gear in the post script section.)

Making music is important to me, but making it with vintage gear feels increasingly frivolous. There are audio processing plugins that do a very good job of replicating all the classic gear. My only justification for using hardware is that I get better results and stay engaged longer when I’m turning knobs and pushing faders. Now if only I could do it without dirty power from the dirty power company (LADWP in my case)!

Solar power makes me feel alright about keeping all that tactile, interactive gear switched on humming along for as long as it takes to make something exciting. With the photovoltaic (PV) panels on our roof produce more electricity than we draw from the grid, over time. Net Energy Metering (NEM) lets us cover the cloudy months with the sunny months. 

I will share an update when we’ve got a full 12 months of solar behind us. So far, so good, and so loud. 

PS – What gear you asked?

My mix monitors are ADAM Audio F7, which I love and recommend to anyone shopping for monitors. ADAM explains the amplifiers inside the F7 and even shows a nice little picture of the amplifier that powers the ribbon tweeter on their F7 A/B Amplifier page. Optimizing for best audio reproduction means sacrificing some efficiency and Class-AB operation means there is always some electrical current being drawn by the amplifiers in the F7’s.

 

My big, hefty SUNN guitar amps sound amazing to my ears, but they were designed to fill clubs with sound. They did that by making their big vacuum tubes draw lots of electricity, running them hot! That heat is the evidence of wastefulness. I feel a bit better knowing that our solar panels are offsetting that by putting more energy back into the grid than we pull out. My SUNN is powered by the sun.

 

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