Digging for Water
When a company develops a new product the “beta” version is an early version of the product generally used to gather real information about how the product performs, how people use it and what kind of failure modes to expect. My storage system for holding the summer heat to use in the winter is really a beta product, even though it wasn’t called that when I bought it.
The adage that we learn more from our failures than our successes holds true for many endeavors – from classes we take in school to entrepreneurial efforts we might undertake later on in life. The mistakes and failures teach us invaluable lessons which, in the case of a new product introduction, can make that product more reliable, easier to use, more efficient, or better in many ways.
That’s the title of the talk I am going to do at the NESEA (Northeast Sustainable Energy Association) conference in Boston in March 2012. The conference, BuildingEnergy 12, will be held at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston on March 6-8. There are 10 different tracks of workshops on “renewables and high performance buildings”. Check it out. You can get a ton of information at this conferences.
I was very excited to have my presentation selected. All the work we’ve been doing on the renovation of my building has been well documented and I will have a years worth of real data and results by then. I applied to present at this conference last year but my project schedule slipped and my move-in date was too late to get any real feedback as to the performance of the house, so they asked me to re-apply this year.
Solarfest was a lot of fun this year! I learn so much from the attendees and the other vendors. It is an important part of my renewable energy continuing education.
This year I learned about fixed magnet versus electromagnet motors (as used in wind or water turbines) and how to provide appropriate electrical circuits to support them. I learned a few more good uses for composting toilets and backyard garden composters based on what people are actually doing with these products. I got the answer to a question that one of my customer’s had about his grid-tied battery backup system that didn’t always sell all his solar power back to the grid. And I heard a few more interesting ways that people are making their own hot water batch heaters.
The Grand Re-Opening of Energy Emporium was a lot of fun last weekend! Thanks to everyone who helped cook, clean, entertain, and, most of all, to those who came! I think we had between 70-80 people. At times the parking lot and the store inside were both jammed.
As a kind of self-guided tour, I put up bulletin boards of pictures around the store. Here is a link to the “Renovation Tour“.
The renovation of 78 Main St is finished and we are moved in! I’m working on a short slide show presentation as well as information cards to talk about the history of the house, the goals for this renovation, and the choices we made to reach the goals. I’m trying to get that all organized for Saturday’s open house!
Cluttered Store (before picture)
Since I moved into the new store I’ve had to plan and re-plan the layout as it was not obvious to me how people would enter and move around in this new space.
My first store was basically a small rectangle of space and I put my desk at one end. That served pretty well for chatting with customers, register check-out area for buying things, and an office work space with easy access to files, catelogs and reference materials from many vendors. It was small enough that there really weren’t many choices for layout.
The New Energy Emporium
I think the title of this blog is a little optimistic, perhaps wishful thinking. If the definition of “finished” includes all items have been moved to the new place and boxes unpacked… then I’m not really finished at all. In my case I still have store items in the old store and home items in the container outside…so there is quite a bit of work still left to do.
But…symantics aside…I am now working and living in my new digs at 78 Main St! So, for all intents and purposes I am moved in. And it is great to have a place to call home!
As is probably the case with many big renovation projects, we went a little over budget so I took on a few of the finishing projects myself with quite a bit of help from my brother-in-law, Jared, and his friend, Jeff (thanks so much, guys!).
On March 31, 2011 I got the occupancy permit for the residential section of our building at 78 Main St
! And I moved in last weekend. There is still some work to do on the commercial side (Energy Emporium’s future home), but I’m hoping to finish that and move the store in by the end of this month.
It has been a lot of physical, mental and emotional work, a lot of red tape (from permits to loans), and some interesting tweaking and modifications of the solar powered heating system to get to this point… but it came out really well. A lot of thanks goes to my general contractor, Don Roberts, who has been great to work with even while I changed things at the last minute to meet LEED (Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design) and ZEB (zero energy building) requirements.
I’m at that point in our house renovation (78 Main St
) where the end is just around the next corner… I think. And then I get another barrage of decision requirements: what color for the second floor bedroom walls? What is the trim in the downstairs bathroom? What counter top did you pick out for the kitchen? What ventilation hood? Which carpet is going in the master bedroom? What tile is going around the tub? … If you’ve done a renoation, you probably get the picture.
I have been to the tile place, the counter top place, the carpet place, the granite place, and the bathroom fixtures place quite a few times in the last few weeks and one day I think I hit three or four in a 1 hour period.
Back of 78 Main St, Aug 2010
78 Main St
Back of 78 Main St, Dec 2010
, the house and new store we have been renovating over the last year, has been unoccupied for over 10 years. It was gutted quite a few years ago with just holes for the windows on the back and one side of the house. The windows were completed in the late spring and the siding was finished this fall (to be painted in the spring).
Now, in the last week of 2010, the house insulation is finally finished – and it is ready for winter (better late than never!). It is very exciting to walk in now and “feel” the warmth after years of feeling the outside air rush in. I bought the house almost 2 years ago and after the economic realities of 2009-2010 caused banks to run away from construction loans on multi-use properties … we were finally able to secure financing and began making serious progress on the house starting last September.