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A2Z Homeschool - THE A-to-Z of Homeschooling
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A to Z Now Produced by Sunbeams

I am excited to announce that A to Z Home’s Cool of Milpitas, CA, is now being produced using sunbeams. We got Solar Energy installed!

Our carbon footprint has just become considerably smaller as electricity for our computing and other household and business use will be considerably generated by two sets of 8 solar panels: one shown on the south-facing roof in the photo above, and a second set of 8 on the second story west-facing roof.

The salesman and the installation crew from REC Solar did a wonderful job this past Thursday and Friday, April 17-18, 2008. The City building inspection was on the following Monday, and PG&E also needs to make the final connection to the meter, but it appears for the “sunny” months we will be selling more electricity generated by solar energy back to the power company then we normally have used in the past.

Update April 29, 2008: PG&E hooked up a new meter to our solar energy PVC system shortly after noon today. My husband is happily watching the meter showing a credit to our energy account.

Update June 8, 2008: We just got our first full month’s gas and electric bill for the month of May. Are you ready for this? Combined gas and electricity bill was $29.83! The electricity part was $8.69, most of the rest was for hot water heated by gas. Fred figures the bill would have been $270 without the PVC installed.

Update December 12, 2010. With most of our energy efficient projects finished, our total PG&E bills in the past 24 months through December 2010 has come to $2246 for 24 months, averaging $93.60 a month for gas and electricity. Past 24 months our electric bill alone has been $1288, or $54 a month on the average. In 2006 & 07, before the energy efficiency was in place, our PG&E bill had been $4405 or $183.50 a month. Electricity had been $3516 of that ($146.40/month.) We are paying 64% of our previous electric bills. Rates have gone up, or it would be better than that.

Several months ago we replaced our dishwasher with a highly efficient model. Our older Maytag dishwasher was being recalled, and the Maytag company offered us to either fix it or give us $75 toward a new one. At the same time, the power company was offering a rebate, and a nearby appliance store had a sale on a KitchenAid Energy Star dishwasher.

All three toilets on our home office are water efficient models. Two are EcoQuantum toilets which have dual flush capability: down for #1 (1.0 gals.) and up for #2 (1.6 gals.). We watched for rebates, and so were able to get a partial refund from the area water company for installing more efficient toilets. Kitchen and shower faucets are all low-flow.

We have been recycling for years, so I almost forgot to mention it. We have three large bins: one for garden waste to be composted, one for recyclables, and one for ordinary trash. We have a compost barrel in our back yard, so much kitchen and garden compostables go in that.

Most of our lighting has been replaced with Full Spectrum Compact Florescent light bulbs. As many of you know, I find natural spectrum lights more harmonious, and they make my photographs look their best, so I was glad that florescents finally came in this spectrum range. Driveway, entry way and back deck lights are motion sensitive, so are only on when needed.

Most of our bills are viewed and paid online through our credit union, saving who knows how much paper waste. We are also doing all we can to refuse junk mail. Paper waste is shredded and goes in the compost pile.

Our front lawn has been replaced by a low-maintenance butterfly and hummingbird attracting garden (Seen in part in the photo), and so is a delight to all who pass by. We don’t have a lawn anywhere else either! We go to the community park next door when we feel the need to be on grass.

Our pool has been solar heated all along, but will be getting an upgrade soon. One of the perks of working from home: jumping in the pool to cool off, and working in my swimsuit. (No, you won’t be seeing a photo of THAT any time soon!)

Extra insulation has been added under the roof, in the attic, and Reflectix under the floor.


We added an attic fan to help keep our place cool in the summer, so we seldom need air conditioning. It comes on automatically when the attic temperature hits a certain temperature.

Our cars? Well, they may not be the most efficient, but we all work here at home, so we have eliminated commuting costs. When we do go out, we try to run at least three errands, and plot the most efficient route to get the most done. My husband is working with a group to try to make hydrogen-fueled cars a reality. Update: We traded in Fred’s “clunker,” and purchased a black 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid on July 31st. Took to 2 a.m. on August 1st to complete the sale. What a madhouse!


I don’t know if we are the first large homeschool site to go so majorly Green, but I believe we’re the only one posting about it. I would love to have some competition in this area!

Now you know where your money goes when you make purchases on this site: to make payments for these Green improvements and more to come. We refinanced our home loan, and got some money out for these improvements. (Fixed at 3.375% for about 1/3 the current value of our home.) The payments are less than they were earlier, so this helps us out by having both lower mortgage payments and lower power and water bills. Improvements were made over time, and not all were recent. We are paying less and using less limited resources. This allows us to save for the next earth-friendly improvement.

March 2009. Installed much more energy efficient heating and cooling system. There’s been improvements since 1976! We got an Amana system as our heating and cooling needs here in Milpitas aren’t very extreme. We bought it from AAA Furnace & Air Conditioner. Allowed PG&E to install a remote switch incase there is a power shortage.

All the downstairs and upstairs windows are now double-paned and better sealed.

April 2009. Added energy efficient windows upstairs. Downstairs had been done another year. We got ones built by Desert King Windows. If you decide to buy these based on my recommendation do tell them Ann Zeise sent you.

We also managed to find a beekeeper, Mark Small of Small Bees, to rescue us and the bee hive that had thrived between our living room ceiling and roof. He captured most of the honey bees and the queen bee in a gentle vacuum, and, after checking their health, will find them a new home in some orchard.


Got the energy star laundry appliances: a pair of GE Profiles.

We’re not done yet. Stay tuned here to hear about new Green improvements to A to Z Home’s Cool. We saved for and now have:

  • energy efficient TV – √ Got an LED TV
  • upgraded energy efficient pool filtering, heating and sanitation – √ Got upgraded system that cleans pool in shorter amount of run time. Discovered that the “bubble wrap” cover keeps the temperature just fine, no need for any heating system. Old cover sent to plastic recycling through our waste system here.

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