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TWEAKS+inspiration : Turmoil in Tesla Land

If you live in Northern California like we do, you get used to power shut offs by PG&E. For the last 5 or so years, multiple times each August through November, we loose power. It's super frustrating and loosing everything in the refrigerator and freezer is expensive. Plus, if it's more than a few hours, we have move to a hotel due to medical issues. We looked into getting a generator but it could only be placed next to the sidewalk, an invitation to thieves. For about $5,000 more, we could go solar. So last March 1st, we went online with Tesla, paid a $100 deposit to start the process to order solar panels and two power walls. Let's see what happened next.

Basically nothing. In the beginning, we worked with a Tesla project manager sending requested 10+ photos of roof, electrical panels and so forth. Then, months of just crickets. No response to our emails and customer service hold times were over an hour. Then, in August, Tesla sent someone to inspect. He chuckled, "Bet you thought you'd never see a Tesla employee." Yep. We asked if the two power walls could be stacked in a corner of the garage. "Yep." Eventually, we saw online, that permits from the City of Oakland and another from the City of Oakland Fire Department were pulled. Seems like Ellon Musk can get himself into space but can't communicate with those of us on dry land.

We basically had given up. It became a family joke. Then, something happened. Two weeks ago Friday, we got a text stating our installation would start Monday. Huh? We looked online at Tesla account. The installers would be here Monday, between 7 and 9 a.m. and that we would be without power for up to 7 hours. Really? 7-1/2 months later without barely a word. Was it really happening? I swung into action. Julio hauled away the scrap wood and painted the corner in preparation for bright, shiny power walls.

We couldn't believe that this would actually be happening. But last Monday, ever hopeful, I moved the cars out of the garage at 7 a.m. At precisely 7:30 a.m, 3 trucks and 6 men arrived, including 2 electricians. Tesla Joe talked us through what would happen. Bad News : They had to take off the decorative flap on each roof shingle under the solar panels. According to the electrical plans, the power walls were going on another wall but that was not an issue as the power walls were out of stock. Huh? Then the Good News : Power would only be off for no more than 2 hours (Actually, it was off less than 60 minutes). They did get 2 power walls for our house and they just arrived. Hooray!

We told Joe that the inspector who came in August said the power walls would go in the corner we just painted it. There's a $2,000 fee to change location. Out came a roll of electrical drawings. Joe said there would be no charge to change. Electrician George got the two power walls into position. They weigh 251 pounds each.

Double stacked Tesla Power Walls 2.

The top box is the inverter, the brains of the operation, which converts DC power from solar to AC power for home consumption. I never knew I could be so technical.

With red labels affixed, the power wall install was complete.

Of course, they had to remove a cupboard so the newly painted corner doesn't look that great.

Meantime, others were installing solar panels at the back of the house.

More solar panels were installed over the garage. Despite the clouds, this project wasn't rained on.

Did anyone tell us we were going to have a big white box on our front porch? Nope.

Here's the inside of the box on the porch. It's basically a big switch. That orange knob at the bottom is for the emergencies - the fire department, for example - can shut down the power walls and solar panels by pushing that knob.

Wires from the power walls go into the . . . well, I'm not sure what, but there was a lot of wire.

One of the electricians works his magic on our electrical panel.

Well, that looks official. Four days later, Tesla Brendon texted in the a.m. Could he come by to install a smoke detector and a fire extinguisher with a wax plug above the power walls? If there was a fire, the wax would melt signaling the extinguisher to work. He came about 4:30 p.m., did some work in the electrical panel but didn't have the fire extinguisher with him. Turns out, he is the manager for all inspections and will be present to walk through the City and Fire Department. Hope we pass. He said Oakland is extremely strict and he needed everything to be perfect. We like that they are strict. After all, 30 years ago last week, the Oakland Hills Fire killed 25 and destroyed 2,843 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units. That fire was 7 miles from us.

The four page Tesla manual. Here's the most descriptive page. Maybe there's a YouTube to watch. Fortunately, the install crew were extremely professional and knowledgable. We realize Tesla's customer service is sadly lacking - we're surprised they continue to get business. If you're still interested (and there is a Federal 26% tax rebate through 2022), I'd consider going through another company who sells Tesla product. A company that won't raise your blood pressure every time you think of what's taking so long. Other companies (Tesla, too) offer leasing programs but we decided we wanted to own so there isn't any issue when we eventually sell our house. Buying from Tesla was a decision we regretted for 7-1/2 months.

Then, last weekend, we had one of those "atmospheric rivers" storms Around here, we got about 5-1/2" in 24 hours. By last Sunday night, it was still pouring rain. We were watching "Gangs of Otters in Singapore" on YouTube, when P got an alert from Tesla. We were drawing all our power from those power walls (batteries) in the garage. At the same time, we were getting a text from Pacific Gas & Electric telling us our power was out. For over 4 hours, we did everything we'd usually do (except I didn't run the dishwasher) and were warm and cozy all because of Tesla. OK, maybe we're not that mad at you anymore.


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