Security and Comfort Amidst COVID-19

Sustainable living in the age of COVID-19 and power outages.

I don’t know about you, but my family has been pretty stressed out lately. We have two physicians in the family on the frontlines of this pandemic, each with older parents who are vulnerable to the virus and two small children as well.

This is a time where every little comfort makes a big difference and, in our case, sustainable living practices have been huge.

It all comes down to security. Why might surprise you, so I’ll share the backstory.


Energy security

The early March snowstorm dropped 30” of snow over four days on my little foothill community. Not much by high country standards, but challenging for us here at 3400 feet elevation. Homes went dark, refrigerators stopped working, well pumps stopped working, furnaces stopped working, everything stopped working! A few homes had generators going 24/7, but most people huddled under blankets in candlelight, anxiously checking their cell phones for word on when the power would come back on and waiting for snowplows to come to the rescue.

I woke up to a text alert from PG&E a little after midnight on the 15th telling me our power was out due to fallen trees. It was comforting to say the least, having a solar system with batteries charged up and ready go when the text came through. Another text later that day assured me that crews were on the way and power would be restored shortly. I received that same text every day for 6 days.

When the sun was out, we relied on our solar to power us during the day and charge the batteries for electricity overnight. During cloudy periods we only had to run our generator for a few hours to charge the batteries, not constantly like our neighbors.

Comparatively, during last summer’s outages, the sun alone powered us. The sun charged us up during the day and we coasted through the night on batteries.

Heating and cooling security

Along with electricity, light and appliances, we had heat unlike other homes in our community with gas furnaces and no backup, which just went cold. Those same homes were uncomfortably hot during last summer’s outages.

Financial security

COVID-19 is having serious economic impacts. So it matters that our solar system covers nearly 100% of our annual electricity. We only pay a $10 fee to PG&E each month. Many folk’s immediate reaction is “sounds great for you, but I can’t afford solar.” Yet, in most cases, solar is cheaper than PG&E the very day it’s operational. How’s that possible? Because the fixed monthly solar payments are less than ever-increasing PG&E bills.

Water security

Solar plus battery backup provides people well water when power goes out, and there are generous incentives for people with wells to install battery storage due to being in a high fire risk area.

Food security

We do our best to provide for ourselves what we can. Right now, we can harvest salad greens and carrots from a small raised bed. “Sheltering in place” and “social distancing” is giving us a head start on our garden this year. Additionally, we make our own compost from food scraps and organic matter from our yard, creating a closed-loop between our garden and kitchen.

The bottom line

It has been said many times before that our basic needs are food, water and shelter. And let’s face it, all those rely on energy and money. COVID-19 is stressful enough, so take note.

This is my first-hand account and a takeaway for you: sustainable living goes along a long way towards making my family’s life more comfortable and secure!