_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES ________________________         EBOOK


Cerritos Home Reaches Milestone, Now at 100 Percent Renewable Energy 

By Laurie Hanson

April 27, 2022~ change advocates Norma and Alan Williamson celebrate their Cerritos home reaching 100 percent renewable energy, just in time for Earth Day on April 22. 

“We reached a milestone last week,” Norma said. “We are a 100 percent renewable energy electric home due to the turning off of our home’s ‘natural’ gas.” 

Norma, 70, and Alan, 72, have been climate activists for more than 20 years, and Cerritos homeowners since 2003. Norma is an award-winning Green California Schools Teacher, and Alan is a retired solar industry/energy efficiency professional with 20 years in the industry. 

HELPING TO SAVE THE PLANET: The many advantages inside/on/outside the Williamson’s home that shows what it takes to convert to all electricity and lessen your carbon footprint

Their home was featured as the cover story of Solar Today Magazine, Nov. 2006, and its energy makeover was featured online at PBS/NOVA This Solar House. They are in the process of getting it certified as a new zero energy home through the 1000 Home Challenge. 

The couple is also frequently seen picking up street litter while walking around Cerritos in their effort to avoid contributing to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” In 2020, Norma successfully started a Cerritos based campaign to ban the use of the Roundup Weed Killer in public spaces. It was unanimously voted on by the entire Cerritos City Council, she said.

While camping last summer in Washington the couple directly experienced climate change with the Pacific Northwest Heat Dome, a sign further telling them our planet is in trouble. 

“It was 114 degrees 50 miles from the Canadian border,” Norma said. “We really felt the distress.”

Though they were always into earth-friendly activities such as organic vegetable gardening, organic diets, herbal remedies – behaviors they inherited from their parents, they added behaviors like natural childbirth, camping, backpacking, bicycling and more to their life as a married couple. 

“We have always respected John Muir – Father of the National Parks,” Norma added. 

But their motivating factor to “Go Green” came in the early ‘70s, while reading and studying the Whole Earth Catalog by Stewart Brand. It was the first time they were introduced to photovoltaics and ecology.

In 1999, after reading a Time Magazine Special Edition cover story, on global warming, the couple started taking climate crisis seriously.

“The scientific reports kept us up at night but after a while we realized that taking green action is a great antidote for climate fear and depression,” she explained.

The following year, Alan got laid off from MTA (Mass Transit Authority), and Norma became the “bread winner” while he pursued training in solar installations and building performance energy efficiency certification. In 2001, Alan got hired full time by a private solar company, EE Solar (Energy Efficiency Solar), and installed a 2kW solar system on their home in Bellflower. Shortly thereafter they proceeded to purchase their first 100 percent electric car, a Toyota RAV4 EV. 

By 2003, they moved to Cerritos, and immediately took out a $35K HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit), to begin creating their now 100 percent renewable energy electric home. 

BACKUP: Cerritos’ residents Alan and Norma Williamson in front of their Tesla PowerWall battery storage system. Powerwall is an integrated battery system that stores solar energy for backup protection, so when the grid goes down the power stays on. The system detects outages and automatically recharges with sunlight to keep your appliances running for days.

“We would like to encourage homeowners of the advantages of an all-solar electric home especially now in light of the latest U.N. Climate Report and the funding of Putin’s war chest coming so prominently from the oil and gas industry,” Norma said. 

“We have the renewable energy technologies and know-how to continue to enjoy the amenities of modern life if only we can exert our personal and political will to break our addiction to fossil fuels,” she added. “We can’t afford to wait for governments to act or to buy a ‘home of the future.’ We can all begin to upgrade our own existing homes right now and start new ‘green’ habits from the comfort of our homes.” 

Since 2007, Norma and Alan have paid close to zero dollars on energy bills.

“Our ‘natural’ gas consumption was so low that several times SoCalGas technicians were coming out to check if the meter was defective,” she said. “They finally suggested this April that we turn off the gas. We happily complied!”

A GAS TECHNICIAN turns off the gas at the house last week making the house completely energy efficient. 

In 2016, Alan retired from working for GRID Alternatives. GRID is a nationwide nonprofit organization that installs small, low-cost solar systems for low-income families. Norma went on to take her Solar Academy (a career tech education, California Department of Education grant-based program). 

As a La Mirada High School teacher, she always incorporated environmental lessons into her Spanish as a world language curriculum. She also wrote and coordinated environmental grants valued at more than $300,000 were implemented in a multi-disciplinary approach that included teachers of science, language arts, mathematics, and other subjects. Her students participated in beach and creek cleanups, built a street-ready electric car, a solar dollhouse to name a few activities. 

“We participated in Plug in America electric vehicle ‘parades’ before Tesla Roadsters made EVs popular,” she said. “We have been members of the Sierra Club and Citizens Climate Lobby.” 

Norma and Alan’s professional and personal efforts all eventually culminated in the reconstruction and rebuilding of their Cerritos home in line with their ‘going green’ lifestyle. They insulated all exterior walls with cellulose insulation made from recycled newspaper and cardboard. They tore out the home’s natural gas furnace and HVAC air conditioning system and installed electric ductless air source heating and cooling heat pumps. The home’s rooftop was fitted with a thermal hot water system, and they also installed a skylight and solar tube to provide natural lighting along with 50 LED lights. Their windows were replaced with high efficiency dual pane thermal windows throughout. 

“Alan installed the circuitry for our kitchen’s electric stove, and the ‘crowning jewel’ was the 6kW solar rooftop array which helps us generate 90 percent of our electricity,” Normal explained. By 2020, their home got a Tesla Powerwall battery storage system which protects it from blackouts and allows the home to use its own solar generated electricity at night. Their financial return on their cost investment for the 6kW solar system equals to 4 years of gasoline savings by their electric vehicle.

The 6kW SOLAR ARRAY on the Williamson’s house supplies all the power to the home, appliances and outdoor equipment.

Norma and Alan have conducted several solar tours of their home to the public through American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and had more than 200 guests one year. Subsequently they were invited to write an article about it in the ASES magazine, Solar Today. As the cover story, it featured cutting-edge renewable energy technologies which are still not mainstream today.

“ASES flew us out to Key West, Florida in an all-expense paid trip for a PowerPoint presentation at an environmental conference,” Norma said. “This started our 15 plus years of community presentations to civic groups like the Rotary Club, Soroptimist International Club, etc., on the ways homeowners can incorporate renewable energy and lower utility bills.” 

“We have presented over 20 community-based PowerPoints on renewable energy home upgrades,” she added. “Due to the COVID 19 lockdowns, we decided to create a website (www.zehomeupgrades.com), instead of delivering in person presentations, on our home’s energy retrofits to help others switch from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy.” 

In carrying their message and vision on how each of us can avert climate change, the Williamson’s believe all of us can by doing several earth sustaining activities and lifestyle adjustments.  Their suggestions include composting green waste/kitchen scraps, incorporating a plant-based diet as much as possible, buying organic produce, planting a vegetable garden, planting moringa trees which absorb CO2 faster than other trees by 20 percent and are drought tolerant and grow quickly. 

Other suggestions include planting milkweeds, the natural habitat and food source of monarch butterflies (95 percent endangered) and using electric lawn mowers (since a single new gas lawn mower emits the same amount of CO2 as 11 new gas automobiles in the same period). 

Also important to the Williamson’s is recycling soft plastics in recycling bins at certain department stores and participating in beach clean ups like the monthly Seal Beach Cleanup on the 3rd Saturday of every month. They suggest self-education by reading the online Solar Today magazine which has sections on lifestyle changes including sustainable living tips, consumer options, solar basics, efficient homes, and off-grid living. If possible, they suggest visiting the Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Energy Education Center in Irwindale to observe and experience the latest on energy saving technologies. 

“To ‘save’ the planet, one doesn’t really need to join marches or major in environmental studies at the college level, or work at a green job,” Norma said. “Just choose a new climate-friendly task a month, read about it and begin doing it.”

“If we wait any longer it will be too late, as we will have reached the tipping point with earth’s climate system,” she added. “Life on earth will be unbearable with more and more ferocious storms, droughts, coastal erosions, etc. People need to pay attention to the urgency of this climate crisis.”

“Act now and quickly,” Norma said. “The window for breaking our dependence on fossil fuels is getting smaller. The latest United Nations Climate Report (April 4, 2022) states that ‘it is now or never’ that nations need to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, only 8 short years away.”

“All of earth’s 7.8 billion people contributed to trashing our only home so we all need to do our part to clean it up, especially those in industrialized societies,” she added. “Nature’s beauty surrounds us. We need to do all we can to preserve Mother Nature’s bounty for our grandchildren and their grandchildren.”