What's Sunday evening without a little Ty Pennington and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? I don't catch it every week, particularly if the Dallas Cowboys are on, but the program is a juggernaut for helping people in real need. So we caught news that ABC was planning a green show for April 6 and were put in touch with the team doing a 5 kW solar photovoltaics installation. They're using the Akeena Andalay system, which we mentioned previously was a Top 5 Green Building Product (as voted by the builders). The Akeena Andalay system is pretty sharp, and Linda Panitz, a solar evangelist herself, was on the set with Akeena to install the system. Here's our Q&A:
Q: What was it like being on the set of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition?
There is so much work that goes into a project of this scale that you can’t begin to imagine when watching the show at home. When you’re behind the scenes, you see everything, from the big moments—like when the house is torn down to when it’s framed—to the little details. I was there for the first two days during the beginning of the construction, and then came back on Saturday for the big “reveal.” There’s a lot of camaraderie amongst the installers. During the middle of the night the second day I watched the sleek and modern Andalay panels go up at midnight—there were lights blazing on the set so it was bright as day—that was exciting to watch.
Q: I heard the home received a comprehensive "green" makeover, can you tell me what that will mean for this family now and down the road?
Well, heating and providing electricity to a large home is not cheap for anyone. It’s great to see heroes like this family get solar power. With all the green, renewable, and sustainable additions to the new house structure, the family’s bills will be lower. They now have electricity and heat coming from their solar system. Akeena and all the other project sponsors are leaving this family with something they can actually live with long after the crowds disappear. That’s the meaning of sustainability.
Q: You're a "solar evangelist" — could you take us back to why you originally decided to go solar? What was your rationale when you first made the switch?
I guess I’ve always been energy-conscious, and I’ve been taking these steps at home for years. My goal? Soon I’ll buy a gas/electric hybrid car. I would love to be free from the electric companies AND oil companies in my lifetime. And because I have a time-of-use meter, I’m already seeing that break even point. I’m paying my electrical bill forward, and I’m going to ride free for years—and it feels great.
Q: What was it like to work alongside the EM:HE site crew? What role did you play?
I’m the owner of Handyman Connection in Orange County, so I can appreciate everything I saw at the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition site in terms of green-building construction and the quality of the work they were doing. I got to put on a hard hat and step in right alongside installers and carpenters.
Q: What were some of the challenges? Surprises? How does it all come together so quickly?
It’s incredible how polished it all looks on camera when you know the controlled chaos of the work that those few days of construction entail. It’s a crazy scene. Add to this hyperactive pace of construction, the area for the spectators—people standing for hours watching for a glimpse of Ty Pennington and then screaming at the top of their lungs and bursting into tears when they finally see him. It’s like a sporting event.
Q: What do you think the impact of this type of show is on educating the public about the benefits of sustainable living and using clean, renewable resources like solar electricity?
I’m hoping that along with Obama’s attempt to get America off oil dependence, shows like this special episode for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will bring the sort of mainstream consciousness we need to make action happen, and faster than it has in the past. The more you tell people about the benefits of going solar, the better. Solar power and renewables in general create jobs in America, and then we can all stop buying foreign oil. Going green is great for our country.
Q: Other thoughts about trends in living green in CA and/or the U.S.? Where are we headed?
Anyone who lives in a sunny place (like California and many others) and doesn’t take advantage of the federal and state rebate is just crazy. And from what I've seen with Akeena, you get the peace of mind in knowing that once it’s installed, its good, and it’s going to last.
Editor: Thanks Linda for taking the time! We can't wait to see the whole house …