Sunday, October 26, 2014

notes on visiting india


  • Smog. So much of it. Everywhere.
  • Cars and motorcycles. Everywhere.
  • Use the hotel car service. Not public transit or a cab.
  • Traffic wasn't as bad as I had imagined. Delhi is a huge city so it took time to get across town, but the traffic was not as gridlocked as I imagined.
  • A lot of people. A lot of poor people. Some of the conditions are as bad as one would imagine (e.g., in old Delhi, and Agra), but it was not overall as bad as I had imagined.
  • Not as many beggars on the streets (kids) add I had expected. 
  • Things aren't cheaper. In some cases they're more expensive. 
  • Restaurants and hotels were not cheaper than the US. Even the mom-and-pop side of the road restaurant was $10 for a small sandwich and a coke.
  • Cars invite drivers to honk at them to warn (they literally have bumper stickers that say "Honk at me if you're behind me"). There is a lot of honking.
  • Traffic rules are based around the person in front having the right of way, even if they cut in line to get there. To some degree it simplifies driving rules, but traffic is a mess.  The cows in the middle of the road have priority. 
  • It was really easy to obtain a SIM card at the airport. $25 for 3G of data (I didn't opt for a voice plan). The Airtel booth is in the lobby right before exiting the airport. Just show them your passport (they make a copy) and the take your picture, and pay the equivalent of approx $25 (for data only). They did accept USD. Activation required a phone call to customer service after the purchase. 
  • Not many American brands (hardly any Starbucks, McDonald's).  No beef. 
  • Everything is against US code ... driving laws, wiring, everything.
  • Third world junk (trinkets). Overpriced.
  • Must be a lot of corruption to have people that poor yet their tax rates (including VAT) aren't that low. 
  • Makes one realize the entitlement people in the US have. 
  • Not as many tourists as I expected. Very few Americans, Europeans, and Asians. Mostly Indians from other parts of India.
  • Racism - white people have privilege.  Non-whites are treated a bit differently (it was not blatant, but was perceptible).  Hotel staff was fine. Drivers, guides, waiters seemed to have some issues. 
  • "Why don't foreigner's talk to locals?" someone asked. Because every time we do, there's a scam involved.
  • Everyone has a scam, everyone has a motive. It usually involves setting overpriced junk. 
  • Lots of men on the streets, not many women.  10:1 ratio?
  • Insect repellant is a good idea although I didn't see too many mosquito's.
  • Hand sanitizer is very important. A couple small 1oz bottles will last a week. 
  • "5 star hotel" is a relative term in each city.  Stick with known chains. 
  • Fewer people speak English than I had expected. Most speak some English. Fluency was rarer than I had expected. In the service sector apart from hotel staff, English was rare. 
  • The only people men show affection to is other men by holding hands. They aren't gay.
  • Don't bother getting to the airport super early for departure. You can't check in until the 4 hour mark (at least on United). You have to show passport and boarding pass (electronic fine) to get into the airport. If you have airline status the check in person will give you a pass to a lounge. The lounge B that I was sent to was very nice with full dinner and drinks and showers. Security is tight - multiple screenings. 
  • Hotels provide bottled water, which is safe to drink. Use bottled water, or boil water in the hotel room teapot, for brushing teeth. Ice cubes in hotels/good restaurants seemed to not cause problems.
  • Go to the Dr. and get a prescription for Azithromycin (antibiotic for traveller's diarrhea). Take it if you feel really bad cramping combined with ... other issues.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

post processing notes

  1. Physical attributes
    1. Crop
    2. Rotate
  2. Color/Brightness
    1. Set levels using histogram (shadows/darks, mid-tones, highlights/fill)
    2. Brightness
    3. Contrast
    4. Saturation
    5. Temperature
    6. Color Balance
    7. White Balance
  3. Characteristics
    1. Exposure
    2. Recovery
    3. Vibrancy
    4. Sharpness
  4. Clean Up using Clone and Bandiad
  5. Noise reduction





Wednesday, August 13, 2014

ricoh gr setup

Equipment

Custom Settings

MY-Autos

  1. Default: Av, f/8; Continuous off; Multi AF; Snap Focus Distance 5m, full press snap on; ISO Auto-Hi (up to 3200); manual flash; AFL Focus Multi AF
  2. Street: Tv, 1/250, Continuous on; Focus Snap; Snap Focus Distance 5m, full press snap on; ISO Auto-Hi (up to 3200); manual flash; AFL Focus Multi AF; monitor off
  3. B&W: Shooting mode Auto, B&W

Function Buttons

  1. Default: Target zoom
  2. Default: Timer
  3. Default: Effect

Adj. Lever Setting

  1. ISO
  2. Focus
  3. Cont. Mode
  4. SnapFocusDist.
  5. Expo. Metering



AEL/AFL & C-AF switch/button

The lever allows you to switch between AEL/AFL and C-AF (Continuous Auto Focus).  When you press the button in the middle, it activates the setting that the lever is directed to.

Lever set to AEL/AFL - You have three options (determined in config):
1) AFL (Auto Focus Lock) - When the button is depressed, the camera will attain focus and remain locked as long as you hold down the button. Exposure is determined with shutter press.
2) AEL (Auto Exposure Lock) - Same as above, but it will lock the current exposure setting (Aperture, Shutter Speed, & ISO) instead of focus which is controlled by the shutter button.
3) AEL/AFL (Auto Focus Lock/Auto Exposure Lock) - Button press locks both Focus AND Exposure (this is my choice).

You can also set the config so that these functions are “locked” once the button is pressed, and only "un-locked"/removed once the button is pressed a second time (i.e., a lock-hold).

If lever assigned to C-AF - When the button is depressed, the camera will continually search for focus (ideal for moving targets).

photography basics

Reference

The Golden Triangle:  ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture

ISO

What it controls: Sensitivity to light.
How it is measured: Low ISO numbers are less sensitive to light than higher ISO numbers. 400 is twice as sensitive as 200, etc.  
How to use it:  Use a low ISO for bright light conditions, high ISO for dark conditions.  Higher ISO allows faster shutter speeds or smaller aperture, but higher ISO introduces more noise.

Shutter Speed

What it controls:  Amount of time the shutter remains open.
How it is measured:  In fractions of a second (or seconds).
How to use it:  Use slow shutter speed for low light (but can cause blur if the camera shakes or there is motion); fast shutter speed for motion.  

Aperture

What it controls:  Size of hole in lens, lets more or less light through to the sensor.
How it is measured:  Expressed in focal ratio to the lenth of the lens from the sensor.  Inverse relationship:  Low numbers mean wide opening, high numbers mean smaller opening
How to use it:  Controls depth of field (sharpness of scene, or the part of the scene that is in focus). Small opening (higher f/ number) = larger depth of field; large opening = smaller depth of field. Wide aperture is ideal for darker conditions or no shadows;
narrow aperture for bright light or heavy shadows.
Interaction with Focus:  Focus determines the focal point, depth of field determines how much in front and behind that point is clear.

Generally Useful Defaults

  • Auto-Hi ISO, capped at 3200
  • Use aperture priority to manually control depth of field (higher number = bigger depth of field - usually will want as high of an aperture setting as possible while having a fast enough shutter speed for the conditions).  In aperture priority mode, camera automatically determines shutter speed based on the aperture you set, plus the available ISO.
  • Aperture set to f/8 maximizes sharpness of lens.
  • Use exposure compensation to quickly override automatic settings and adjust exposure on the fly.
  • Rather than using flash, increase ISO. If that introduces too much noise into the photo, use a tripod and increase shutter speed.

Common Scenarios and Settings

Low light

ISO Auto-Hi; Shutter speed Auto (will be low); Aperture Priority (low number, to let in max light; will result in depth of field being shallow); May require tripod to avoid shaking; moving subjects will require flash to freeze movement.
If shake is a problem:  Full manual - Increase ISO, open the aperture fully and make the shutter speed as fast as possible, Use 2-second timer to avoid camera shake.

Action

ISO Auto; Shutter speed priority, high; Aperture low, depth of field may be shallow; Will require high light or flash to freeze motion.

Motion blur

ISO lowest possible; Shutter speed auto (will be lower, creating blur); Aperture Priority with a higher aperture. Turn on ND (neutral density) filter.

Background blur (bokeh)

Aperture priority with a higher aperture to increase depth of field. Stand close to subject, background will be blurry. Turn on ND (neutral density) filter.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

photographing travis - about

Photographing Travis
Photography Journal by Travis Wise

Social: FlickrGoogle+InstagramFacebook, TwitterTumblr, RSS

Influencers: Steven Gong, Modern MonkTimmie R.Ivan MakarovKorey Lee, Roger Spiniti

Equipment: Nexus 6, Ricoh GRSony A7R, Moto X, Canon Powershot SD 880IS, Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTSamsung Galaxy Nexus, Google Nexus S, Google Nexus One, Canon Powershot SD 800IS, Canon Powershot SD 300, Canon Powershot S230

When I was in elementary school, my parents bought me a plastic film camera. That sparked my interest in photography. I shot an entire roll of film in one day! Then my parents explained how “developing film” worked, and how much it cost compared to my allowance. When I was in high school, my first job was at a 1-hour film processing store. Our specialty was developing pictures for real estate appraisals (and amateur porn). I used a film camera with basic zoom abilities, and was captivated by photography. In the late 1990's, I was given one of the first consumer digital cameras. The camera stored 10 low-resolution pictures, but it was amazing! I later upgraded to Canon Powershot cameras, and then graduated to a Canon Rebel DSLR. More recently I take most of my pictures with a cameraphone, but also use a Ricoh GR and Sony A7R. Over the years, I have taken tens of thousands of pictures, a subset of which I think are worth sharing here.

Friday, July 25, 2014

tourist in san francisco

[Reference:  List of things to do in San Francisco - from my friend Andy]

By Car:
There is a 49 Mile Scenic Route that takes you around San Francisco (and marked by small signs, but first print it out in case you miss the signs). This route takes you through or near several of San Francisco’s cool spots - be sure to stop and take pictures! - including:
1) Presidio & Golden Gate Bridge
a) Stop and walk to the middle of it from SF side
b) Optionally drive across the Bridge to the Marin Headlands for a fantastic view of the Bridge and San Francisco
2) Top of Twin Peaks - A birds eye view of the center of the city. You may want to return at night - clear nights are particularly beautiful.
3) Golden Gate Park - Golden Gate Park is larger than New York’s Central Park, and is home to several attractions. To name a few:
a) The de Young Museum
b) California Academy of Sciences
c) Golden Gate Park Aquarium
d) The Conservatory of Flowers
e) Buffalo (Yes, there are live buffalo in the middle of SF)
f) Strawberry Hill in the middle of Stow Lake - waterfall, bridges, paddle boats
4) Haight/Ashbury District - ground zero for the San Francisco flower power “hippy” movement in the 60s, it still retains a shadow of its bohemian culture today.
5) Presidio & Sea Cliff - Wave at Robin Williams and Danielle Steel as you wind your way through this beautiful part of San Francisco
6) Cliff House & Sutro Baths & Sutro Heights - The Cliff House overlooks Ocean Beach to the south and Sutro Baths to the north. Adolf Sutro built the Baths in the late 19th century as a giant public indoor swimming pool. He built his home just up the hill on Sutro Heights. Both home and baths are gone, but the remains are still neat. The Cliff House still remains. Definitely worth stopping at on the 49 Mile route.

By foot or cable car:
The 49 Mile Scenic Route will also take you through some neighborhoods that you’ll want to take a closer look via foot or cable car.
4) Union Square - the ceremonial heart of San Francisco, and our big shopping district. San Francisco brands such as Gap, Levi, Banana Republic, and Old Navy have their flagship stores here.
5) China Town - the oldest Chinatown in North America. Walk north from Union Square to the Dragon Gate entrance at Grant and Bush street
6) North Beach - a neighboring neighborhood to China Town, North Beach is San Francisco’s Little Italy
7) Fisherman’s Wharf & Pier 39 - the most touristy spot in all of San Francisco. Be sure to have some clam chowder in a bread bowl
The quintessential San Francisco thing to do is to ride the Cable Car through the above-mentioned neighborhoods.

Monday, May 26, 2014

aquarium set-up

Water Change (20%)Weekly
Water ConditionerWeekly w/water change
Fluval Bio-Foam (basket)6 months
Fluval Carbon (basket)1 month
Fluval Water Polishing Pad (basket)3 months
Fluval BioMax (basket)3 months
Gasket12 months
Foam screen foam6 months
Clean filter and hoses6 months
Replace algae magnet pad3 months


Tank (50 gal acrylic)
Heater
Light
Moon Light
Substrate: Eco Complete, 84lbs
Acrylic cover w/rubber feet 36"x9"x3/16"
Slate tiles for substrate support
Accessories
Thermometer
Timer for main light
X10 controller for moon light
Power strips (2)
Algae scraper magnet (large)
Filter System
Fluval 306 Filter
CO2 System
Nalgee bottle (32 oz)
Tubing
Air trap
Bubble counter
Diffuser
Yeast
Sugar
Furniture
Cabinet
Living Things
Plants
Snails
Bottom-dwellers / Algae-eaters
Fish
Driftwood
Shared Accessories
Net
Test kit
Small bucket
Big bucket
Tongs
Plant scissors
Fish food
Water pump
Vacuum/Water Changer - Mini
Vacuum/Water Changer - Large
Container to store accessories
Algae scraper
Angle scissors

utah parks

DateActivityTransportationHotel
Day 1Fly to SLC
Drive to Moab
Fly in the morning
Drive
Checkin - Hotel TBD
Day 2Day trip to Mesa Verde National Park(2 hour drive each way)
Day 3Canyonland National Park
Dead Horse State Park
Day 4Arches National Park (rearrange to do sunset at the delicate arch)
Leave Arches as 4pm for SLC airport
Drive
Fly home in the evening
Checkout

education

Del Mar High School


High School Diploma


August 1990 - June 1994


GPA 3.50, SAT 1190 (570 English, 620 Math)


San Jose State University


B.A. (cum laude) in Political Science


August 1994 - May 1997


GPA: 3.50/4.00; 3.70 in major.


Santa Clara University School of Law


J.D.


August 1997 - May 2000

LSAT: 157, GPA: 3.27/4.33

Saturday, May 10, 2014

congratulations on graduating from law school. now get to work.

Congratulations on finishing law school! I'm sure it feels wonderful... for about a day. Then you realize you're not done yet.  

A few key tips for the next phase:

1. Don't panic.  You went to a good school, got good grades, and you're going through a bar prep program.  You, and 95% of your classmates, will pass.  Just stay on track, and put in your time studying.

2. This is a full time job.  40-50 hours a week - 8 hours a day, 6 days a week type thing.  Don't fall behind, it's really hard to catch up.  But take one day a week completely off and do fun things.  

3. Find the method that works for you.  Lots of people start off outlining, because that's what they did in law school.  It does not scale well for this amount of information.  It's also passive.  Flashcards may work better for you (I carried flash cards with me EVERYWHERE).  But the key is to find what works best for YOU.

4. Broad, not deep.  Your goal is to learn a BROAD range of information, but not very DEEP.  You don't have to become an EXPERT at wills and trusts.  You're going for BROAD knowledge, so that you can (1) spot issues, and (2) bull shit an essay about those issues.

5. Put some things on hold. Your friends and family and significant other need to understand that you're basically going away for 2 months, except for when YOU are available.  You'll resurface and resume normal life in 2 months.  They need to respect you and this requirement.

6. Enjoy it.  You are going to have a lot of black letter law thrown at you.  Don't get hung up on nuances or inconsistencies with what you learned in law school.  This is just a ton of black letter law.  Learn it, enjoy it.  Enjoy learning all the concepts you THOUGHT you knew, but didn't.  Absorb it.  Enjoy it.  Look forward to every day of learning this wealth of interesting information.  Remember, you don't have to become an EXPERT. 

7. Plan something for after.  You're going to want to take a trip or otherwise do something fun after the exam.  Something simple that doesn't involve a ton of planning.  Make a commitment to do that now, so that you have something to look forward to.

Monday, March 3, 2014

tips for buying a house

A friend recently asked me for tips for buying a house.  My tips are below.

The biggest tip I can give you is not to stress.  It's expensive, it's complicated, and it is the biggest purchase you'll make in your life.  It's easy to stress.  Stay calm, people buy houses every day, and you've got advisors to handle all the paperwork.  At the end of the day, just make sure you trust your advisors, and feel comfortable with the house.  

I bought my first place 14 years ago or so in downtown Campbell.  A small condo.  It was $435k (a bargain today!), and I put 10% down, got an 80% primary mortgage, and a 10% secondary mortgage.  The $44k that I put down was the most money I'd ever had in my life at the time (I had just started at PwC).  But my point is this... it was incredibly stressful.  Especially the first offer I made (I ended up making 10).  Signing my name to a piece of paper committing to spend that much money was so stressful.  The second home I bought was tons easier... no stress by that point, and I just signed anything they put in front of me.  It wasn't just that I had more money available, but just that I learned the experience wasn't worth having a panic attack over.  In other words ... remain calm.  Some pointers:

You're going to sign a lot of paperwork. I've never read it all.  I've never read .. basically any of it.  It's all boilerplate.  I probably should have read more of it.  But my real point is:  Don't stress.  People buy homes every day.  If you TRUST the people you're dealing with (real estate agent and finance person), and you've done your homework on the house you're getting (inspections), you should either feel comfortable, or not comfortable. If you don't feel comfortable (pressured into something) - just say no.  If you feel comfortable, and you trust your advisors, then don't stress.

Every home has something wrong with it.  Every wood home in California has termites.  When you have your home inspection done (you need to hire your own inspectors - it's not that expensive and it's routine), they'll find problems.  The only question is are any of the problems really bad (electrical wiring is unsafe, etc.).  I panicked about termites, only to discover later that every wooden structure has them.

- Because no house is ever going to be perfect, you're going to have to make some compromises.  But don't make big ones.  You're going to live in this house for a very long time - you need to be happy there.  You and Becca might want to make lists of what's important to you, prioritize, and compare.  You can always change the wall color or the flooring, or replace the toilets and fixtures.  But it's hard/expensive to add another bedroom.

- It's a LOT easier to replace flooring and paint walls before you move stuff in.  If you do plan to do any renovations, you'll want a time buffer (a week?) between when you move out of the rental and move into the house.

- You're better off hiring movers than trying to do it yourself.  You can box everything up yourself, but hire movers to transport the boxes and move the heavy furniture.  It's just not worth it to do it yourself if you have a house full of stuff.

You likely won't understand your mortgage closing statement.  Even with a financial background, if you can understand it, you're a genius.  I am convinced they make it purposefully confusing to hide things.  Make them explain everything to you, and just realize that things like "title insurance" and "escrow fees" and "recording fees" such are basically just ... borderline scams.  But they're required, and it's part of the process.

- Owning a house is more expensive than just the mortgage payment.  Property taxes are a lot, and they come twice a year, so you have to budget for it.  Every April and December, writing that big check is quite a shock.  You may also have HOA dues, and you will have insurance.  You'll also probably have to buy some furniture and appliances.  It's not cheap, but those are one time expenses.  I made a list of what I needed to buy (everything from a refrigerator to a BBQ set), and prioritized.  Some of the things I still haven't bought - it just wasn't that important in the end.  Don't go cheap on appliances - you're going to have your fridge and washer/dryer for 10-15 years or more ... get good stuff.

Don't skimp on insurance.  God forbid, but if something happens, you want your insurance company to give you a new house.  Not write you a check for the *depreciated value* of the contents.  You want a new house with new contents ("replacement value").  And smoke detectors in every room, including the garage.  Safety is important.  If it's a 2-story house, you need escape routesfor the kids (i.e., those ladders you throw out the window so you can climb down, if the main staircase is blocked).

Check out the neighborhood at various times of the day/night.  I parked my car at 9pm to check out the noise levels at night.  Is there plenty of lighting at night?  What's the neighborhood like?  How far is freeway access, and what is the traffic like getting to the freeway access points?  Where's the nearest grocery, drugstore, and Target?  Do the neighbors seem ok?

- Before you move any furniture in, make a video (cell phone camera is fine) of every room, and every wall.  That will record where the outlets are, in case you cover any up with furniture.  Once you're moved in, make another video of every room and every closet.  Do this once a year.  It's useful for insurance purposes should anything happen.

- Set an annual reminder to do some basic annual home maintenance (I do mine every Thanksgiving):  Replace the furnace air filter, replace the water filter in the fridge if you have one, replace the batteries in the smoke detectors, paint touch-ups.

- Hidden keys are useful:

- Keyless entry for the garage door is also handy:

I have yet to be impressed by any real estate agent.  I've found it best to do your own searching for houses (Zillow, MLS Listings), use the agents to get you into the house, and handle the paperwork.  Otherwise they seem fairly useless.  Even with handling the negotiations, it isn't clear to me that they work for me -- they're paid as a % of the purchase price, so they don't have an incentive to drive the price down.

Their fee comes out of the seller's pocket.  If the list price is 100, the agents split 5%, the seller gets 95.  The agents typically get 2.5% each (buyer and seller).  So it's tough to know if they're acting in your best interest since they have a financial interest in this.  Honestly, I'm convinced the only thing real estate agents are good for is the paperwork (and there is a lot of that).

You also want a good mortgage person - it sound like you have that - but if there's ever a snafu in buying a house, it's with getting the mortgage funded.  The first time I used a loan broker who was just a middle-man.  After that I've always had a mortgage person who worked directly for the bank (Chase or BoA).  That seemed to cut out the middle-man, and since there's only like .... 5 banks left in the world ... it's not like there's that many places to get a mortgage from these days.

Since you're going to be owning the house for what I assume is a long time, and interest rates are still basically at record lows or close to it, I assume you're looking at 30 year fixed rate mortgages.  The variable rate mortgages have lower initial interest rates, but obviously interest rates are going up not down long-term.

       Have you fired your agent before? Is it hard or common to do if I had to?

I haven't really had to do this, but the usual rule is that unless you put an offer down on a house they find for you, you're under no obligations to them.  With my current house, I found it myself, and it was new construction so I didn't technically need an agent (the seller's sales agent handled everything).  I "fired" him before I signed the paperwork, but I paid him some money for his time of showing me around... I didn't feel comfortable not giving him something for his time, but 2.5% of the purchase price made no sense given what he didn't do. 

Usually when you hire a real estate agent you don't sign a contract with them, at least not that I remember, so you're not on the hook.  They get paid by the seller, not by you.  Having said that, firing a real estate agent wouldn't be ideal so it'd be best to find someone you're comfortable with.

If the offer gets accepted, you're on the hook.  There are "outs" (contingencies) if the inspection turns up a bad problem, or you can't get financing.  Otherwise, you're on the hook if the offer is accepted.  In a hot market the agent might urge you to "waive the contingencies" - to make your offer more attractive.  I wouldn't be keen on doing that.  I'd want an "out" if the inspection turns up bad.  Unless they've already had the place inspected and the report looks trustworthy.  Otherwise if you do withdraw your offer after it's accepted there is a penalty amount (the amount of your deposit that you have to commit to when you make the offer).  I forget how much that is - $20k or something, but that's not a situation you'd want to be in. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

going solar

In the Spring of 2014, having just acquired an electric car, I decided to take the next logical step and install solar panels on the roof of my house. Here are the photos from the installation.




Choosing an Installer

I talked with both Sungevity and SunPower (and SunPower's subcontractor Poco Solar).
  • From my experience, Sungevity was less expensive, with slightly less powerful panels, and was encouraged me to do a prepaid lease of the panels. A prepaid lease is a lease, with all of the payments paid up front in a lump sum. This works out to be slightly cheaper than owning, with the company responsible for maintenance. At the end of the lease period, the company can take back the panels, although in reality it seems they would be unlikely to spend money to reclaim essentially worthless panels (if the company is still around).
  • SunPower was slightly more expensive, for panels that had slightly higher output. SunPower did not discuss a lease option with me - they discussed only an ownership model.
I spent about an hour with each company discussing system size, configuration, how the net metering works with PGE, financing options, etc.  Both companies were very patient, and able to summarize what I needed to know. I had done my homework, so I was already conversant in kilowatt hours and PGE's rate plans.  After weighing the pros and cons of leases vs. ownership, and the experience of dealing with both companies (generally very positive), I went with SunPower.
  • Sungevity/Lease:  Maintenance free, less expensive, less powerful panels.
  • SunPower/Own:  No hassle of dealing with a lease if the house is sold. Higher cost, higher output panels.
Both companies had good warranties on the panels. In terms of maintenance, the only expected maintenance over the life of the panels is to replace the inverter after about 8-10 years.  Inverters run around $1,000. If I own the system, I have to replace the inverter. If I lease the system, the solar company replaces the inverter (this assumes the solar company is still in business).

Making the Purchase

Proceeding with the purchase was straightforward: I signed the one-page purchase agreement, and put down a $1,000 deposit.  The purchase was contingent on HOA approval, and PGE and city permitting.

The purchase price was $24,299, less a $1,000 discount, less a federal tax credit of $6.990, equals a net cost of $16,309. I also opted to spend $900 for monitoring equipment - essentially a box that sits next to the inverter to provide power data (with a web and app interface).

HOA

I live in a planned community (PUD) and have a homeowner's association (HOA) with an architectural review committee.  California law (very well summarized in this report) has a Solar Rights Act of 1978 that significantly limits the restrictions that HOA's can place on residents installing solar panels.  In short, an HOA can restrict an installation only if the restriction does not add 20% to the cost, or limit the power output to less than 80% of the proposed system.  I submitted a packet to the HOA consisting of a diagram of the roof provided by the solar company, with the location of the panels penciled in, and brochures describing the panels and installation process. The HOA approved.



The Installation

Soon after the purchase agreement was signed, the contractor visited and measured the roof to get a precise layout of the panels.

The system specs are twelve SunPower SPR-X20-327 modules covering 211 square feet, and one SunPower SPR 3600p-TL inverter, which results in a 3.92 kWh DC (3.47 kWh AC) size system.  The system is expected to produce an average of 6125 kilowatt hours (6.125 mWh) per year.

Because of the layout of my roof and city fire code requirements about placement of panels near the top of the roofline, there are two solar arrays - 4 panels facing west, and 8 panels facing south.

After HOA approval was secured, the installation started. The workers were amazing, explaining everything they were doing, the times they would be working, and how the components worked. There were three workers, two handling the roof work, and one handling the inverter installation and wiring.
  • Day 1: Started mounting of rails on roof, started installation of inverter and conduit.
  • Day 2: Continued mounting of rails on roof, finished installation of inverter (including connection to master circuit breaker panel), installation and painting of conduit for wiring, and installing monitoring equipment.
  • Day 3: Mounting and connecting of the solar panels. Completed installing inverter, wiring, and powering up system. Explained system to me. 
 

Once the installation was completed in mid-March 2014, the system was powered on, and started feeding power back into the grid. Until PGE provisioned my account for solar, I wouldn't get credit for the power I generated and fed into the grid, but it was free for me to consume at the time of generation.

The city came and did their inspection about a week after installation was completed.  The city caused some delays by requiring a different type of circuit breaker, and a harness on the roof for inspection.  The contractor negotiated with the city and the city relented, but this took an extra two weeks.  The contractor then submitted the application for Net Energy Metering (NEM) to PGE.  About a week after that, in mid-April 2014, PGE came and installed a new SmartMeter, and a few days after that, my online PGE account reflected the net energy usage (i.e., a credit for my generation) effective from the day the SmartMeter was installed.  That was it, I was up and running!


The Results





I am able to track data about the system in several ways:
  • The optional SunPower monitoring equipment feeds data into a website and a mobile app.  It's quite handy, I highly recommend it.
  • PGE provides net metering data. Basically, this means that PGE does not know how much I generate vs. how much I use - they only know on a net basis how much I am pushing to the grid at a time, or drawing off the grid at a time. If I use power that I generate, PGE has no way to know that. The amount I generate, less the amount I push to the grid, theoretically equals the amount I've used directly off the panels.
Stats (from installation on March 13, 2014 to August 5, 2014):
Total Solar KwH Generated: 2.4MW
Total Solar KwH pushed to PGE: 2.0MW
Total Solar KwH consumed: .5MW
Average Solar KwH Generated (daily / yearly): 20.6KwH / (TBD)
Max Solar KwH Generated (daily): 24.5 KwH