Pat Pratt

My husband just invested in his latest retirement plan – solar power. He has always been fascinated with alternate energy – wind and solar power, to be exact. He checked on wind turbines, as a lot of wind blows across our country ranch. In fact, it blows so strong from the south that all the trees we’ve planted over the 20 years we’ve lived here point dramatically to the north.

After researching wind power, he realized wind energy wouldn’t be feasible because of the amount of land needed to accommodate the giant blades. I’ve seen those things being transported. Each one has to be hauled individually on a flatbed semi. They’re huge! Our two acres couldn’t possibly sustain more than one of the large turbines – especially since there’s already our house, two outbuildings and a plethora of trees on the property.

Then, at the spring home and garden show at the civic center, he struck up a conversation with a salesman for a solar panel company. A representative came out to our ranch to explain the fine points of solar panel ownership.

Long story short, we are now the proud owners of a bank of sun-catching panels. My husband opted to place them in the back yard rather than on the house – he figures the land will outlast our home. If the house falls down – or gets blown away by a tornado (or the aforementioned wild country winds) he will still be able to generate electricity.

I’m not sure what he’ll do with all that generated power if we have no home but that’s not worth arguing about.

I pick my battles.

For the first couple of months after the panels were installed, they were inoperable – I jokingly called them 60 feet of yard art. I was tempted to paint a mural on them but stifled that urge. My dear husband was very touchy about the subject.

At long last, Oncor synced with the solar company. The field operators came out and replaced some doodad, and we started collecting the sun’s rays.

My husband even has an app on his phone (yes, there is an app for that). He continually checks to see how many amps or watts or whatever the sun supplies us each day.

All this is good – except suddenly he’s become an energy Nazi. He turns off the lights when he leaves the room, which isn’t a bad thing unless I happen to still be in there. He shuts off the switch on my water cooler so I’m forced to drink room-temperature water. I finally fixed that by duct-taping the switch in the ON position and posting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on it.

Now he’s begun flipping off the water heater every night. His reasoning? No one uses hot water while they are asleep. He turns the breaker on again when he gets up. Too bad if someone wants to take an early morning shower. It’s not his problem – he showers when he gets home from work. 

I argued that it probably requires as much energy to reheat the water as it does to keep it hot. He said that isn’t true. I challenged him to show me the figures that prove his theory and he admitted he couldn’t do that.

He reluctantly agreed to leave the water heater on, even though it means cutting into his retirement account. He has visions of the power company sending him a yearly check that will keep him on Easy Street in his declining years. Seems to me he’s already declining if he believes that. Personally, I’ll be happy if our investment just offsets our enormous electric bills.

I realize we all waste energy and I try to do my part without going to extremes. I turn off lights when no one is in the room. I wash clothes in cold water and only run the dishwasher every couple of days.

There’s one other thing I could do but I’m sure my husband wouldn’t be happy about it. I could unplug his X-Box – he plays “Borderlands” for hours. That’s got to consume a lot of energy, right? That’s on my To Do list the next time I have to take a cold shower or drink room-temperature water.

Like I said, I pick my battles.

Today I saw God in His sunshine, freely given.

Where did you see God today?

Pat Pratt is an Ellis County author and writing coach who facilitates the Write Way and Write On writing groups. She also serves as pastor of Community of Christ Church in Red Oak and may be reached at triciajunison@yahoo.com.

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