After more than 14 months of waiting for a date to install Tesla Power Walls at our home in Oakland, Cliff unexpectedly received a message last Sunday that their technicians would be showing up the next day . . . .
Say what? Frankly, we'd given up hope on ever hearing back. (Tesla, you gotta work on your communication.)
On Monday, two polite young men arrived in a shiny white van, set up a work table, and promptly got down to business, and by midday Tuesday, three gleaming new battery walls were neatly installed in our back garden. While not as beautiful as the blooming rose bushes I had to quickly transplant to accommodate the installation, they're definitely more hip and far more useful. As a practical matter, we won't have to throw away the contents of our freezer whenever PG&E cuts off the power - as is happening with increased regularity during the "fire season." (We used to call that "fall.")
These walls don't come cheap, which is to say that for years, Sellers have wondered if "green technology" was a good "return on investment," and the sad truth is, Realtors didn't see a corresponding price differential for dual-pane windows, Ring doorbells, Nest thermostats, or solar panels. They were nice; they were certainly appreciated, and they definitely helped cut down on energy bills, but just as Buyers won't pay more for a sexy new sewer lateral (that's where the sewer line meets the city main, so NOT so sexy as it turns out), BIGGER dollars came to Sellers for the work one could easily see and quantify: kitchens, bathrooms, gardens, etc. - aka: spaces where families gather and entertain (No one's serving turkey around a charging station.)
However, given that electric cars WILL only increase in numbers and that alternative sources for energy and water WILL be necessary to combat global warming, I'm beginning to wonder if there isn't going to be a shift in what Buyers value, or at least a clearer understanding of the importance of some of these technological improvements moving forward . . . where demand grows, higher prices follow. If nothing else, those who have experienced subsequent days with NO power, should be attracted to properties that circumvent the problem . . . but why stop there?
Green technology is just getting started . . . my millennial neighbors next door installed a machine on their deck that actually pulls water from the atmosphere. I'm not sure how it works exactly, but it clicks on and off with some regularity, so I assume it's doing its job. Cliff and I not only have solar panels (and now walls) attached to our house, dual-pane windows, and heavy insulation throughout, we also collect rainwater in huge vats that hide under our wrap-around porch, which in turn, connect to the irrigation system that waters our lovely but thirsty garden. (These tubs hold 3,000 gallons of water and fill up with just a few good rain showers. Low-tech for sure, but a good solution nonetheless.) Meanwhile, our friends in Piedmont just installed a Tesla roof on their stunning Tudor home. In short, more and more people are hopping on the electric bandwagon and not only reducing their energy bills but doing what's appropriate to help heal the planet.
But if "doing the right thing" isn't a good enough reason to propagate environmental changes, many city governments are requiring "green" improvements with increasing frequency when building, remodeling or renovating homes, including Piedmont. These improvements can be as simple as replacing the lightbulbs OR as significant as redressing the single-pane windows in your house, but whether small or large, all are important components of raising awareness and consumer consciousness while we work towards net-neutral environments. (Too little, too late? I hope not.)
While "green" requirements are still fairly novel (and as of yet, unenforced) the newest rules in Piedmont call for an "Energy Audit" or "Energy Score" as a point-of-sale ordinance, meaning that when you decide to sell, we'll need to order an energy inspection for your home. Unfortunately, Sarah and I have yet to see a score greater than 3 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the goal) as the footprint of the building seems to be the number one offender: bigger homes use more resources and emit more gases. Given the generally large sizes of the houses in town, coupled with the advancing age of Piedmont's housing stock, that's hardly a surprise, but what to do about it IS the next big hurdle. In other words, we should probably ALL be downsizing. For more information on the "Reach codes" click here.
But if you are staying put, think beyond tiles and backsplashes when making improvements to your living spaces. Expand your wish list to include smart "green" technologies that are healthy for you, good for your house, cut down on energy consumption, eliminate gas emissions, and ultimately benefit the community, and the world as a whole. (We're in this together.)
And if losing power has been a repeating occurrence - as it has for many homes in the hills - you might want to think about purchasing a Tesla wall - or two - but get on their waiting list immediately; I suspect there's a long line ahead of you. At least that's been our experience.
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.