We do our best to maintain our place in good condition, but we also try to make upgrades every couple of years so that when our guests return, they find it just a little better than last time. Here are some of the major changes we’ve made. We didn’t start keeping this list until 2021, so things get a bit hazier as we go back in time.
2021: Solar Panels and Battery
In 2021, we added a 3kWh solar array and a battery backup to our house. We have frequent power outages, which can get frustrating, but no more! We now have a battery backup that is tied to the grid, the solar system and, if need be, a portable generator. The first time we had a power outage, we didn’t even notice until the power had been out for a couple of hours, at which point we did a happy dance in the living room.
In the summer, the system lets us run essentially indefinitely, because we generate more juice than we use. In the winter, we will get about a day or two out of the batteries, and then might need to fire up a generator to recharge.
Our location is not great for solar power, but we estimate we will generate about half of our own electricity over the year. As of May 1, 2022, we’re currently generating more than we use. Hopefully that will get even better over the summer. That number would be more, but we’ve been slowly electrifying our appliances to reduce our carbon footprint. Given how unreliable our electricity is, though, we are still on propane for heat.
Also, if you are curious why we chose Simpliphi batteries instead of, say, a Tesla Powerwall or any questions like that, get in touch. Battery tech is changing all the time, but we’re happy to share what we’ve learned.
Other changes in 2021
- Added Dish TV. We’ve gone back and forth on this for years. We’re not TV people, but we finally decided to get it for the rental, but not for ourselves. We know that some people will like it and some people won’t. But now guests can perhaps watch the big game.
- Adapters to connect iPhone and Android (USB-C) phones to the TV so you can download movies to your phone and play on the TV. Due to the poor internet here, that’s how we do it. We typically download movies over LTE somewhere with a good signal, then watch at home.
- Living/Dining upgrades: New dining chairs, ottoman, dishwasher.
- Switch to Hughesnet satellite internet. This is not exactly an upgrade. When it works, it’s faster than the T1, but it’s still sub-standard internet and it is less reliable than the T1 which was slow, but rock solid. In any case, we had no choice. AT&T is in the process of shutting off all T1 lines worldwide.
2020: Soundproofing Upgrades
We started 2020 by closing for three months to rip out all the ceilings and upgrade the soundproofing. We got it done just in time to get shut down for another three months due to Covid. Basically, the ceiling is now a double layer of drywall attached to mini shock absorbers. It still isn’t perfect, but it has cut down dramatically on transmission of voice and somewhat, though not as much as we had hoped, on the sound of footsteps above coming through to the downstairs. All in all, though, it’s a substantial reduction in noise transmission between our home and your home.
Other changes in 2020
- New refrigerator, which wouldn’t be that noteworthy but for the worldwide refrigerator shortage.
- New sofa.
- Pergola added to patio. The umbrella on the bistro table just didn’t add enough shade on a sunny day.
2016: Air Conditioning
We added A/C to Alpine Escape mostly because we found a lot of guests from Southern California and the Southeast expect it. But in recent years, it’s also been rather hot and sometimes there’s smoke or pollen or simply noise from down the street in the air. As of 2021, Tom has still never lived in a house with A/C, but now that Alpine Escape has it, he’s starting to get jealous!
- Patio seating area. Table for four out under the sugar pine. Actually, a tiny bistro table, but there are four chairs.
2014: Gas Fireplace
Sure, the ambiance of a fireplace is nice. It takes the chill off. It’s romantic. But best of all, it runs without electricity, so when we lost power, there’s a backup heat source. And indeed, we lost power for five days in the winter of 2011 and decided that backup heat was a good idea. As of 2021, we also have a whole-house battery backup, so now it’s sort of a belt and suspenders thing. But the ambiance is still nice on chilly winter eve!
2010-2012: First Years
We did our best to anticipate our guests’ needs, but there was a lot we missed. For the first two years we asked almost every guest: “If there was one thing you could have had that would have made you more comfortable, what would it be?” We got a ton of great suggestions — an ottoman, shelves in the bathroom, a better can opener and so on. Sometimes in later years people would say, “You thought of everything,” and we would say, “No, our early guests thought of half this stuff.” We’re immensely grateful for the insights all our guests have shared over the years, but the guests in these first years really helped us with ideas.