But that's not all. Our most recent addition to our growing new millenium acquisitions in this old world domain has no less of a daily impact than these other two giant steps for mankind.
As a previous blog might have alluded to, our infrastructure plans somehow forgot to include an alternative to our fireplace (camino) for our hot water needs. Most people in this neck of the woods use gas. How this happened is another story; suffice it to say that it belongs in the same category as the Bermuda triangle and the wreck of the Mary Deare.
Anyway, our fire-for-hot-shower system meant that every time we wanted to indulge in a spot of personal hygiene, we'd have to light a fire. Not a problem when it's chillsome outside, but a real pain in the ass when it's shorts and T-shirt weather. Given the current law of diminishing vestiture that goes with the advent of spring, lighting a fire was becoming something of a bind, if not downright humiliating to my common sense. Hence the solar panels.
It would be something of an understatement to simply say blandly that life has changed since they've gone in. These days, every time I want a shower, I can just go and take one. It's hard to explain to anyone that's never been in such a position, but it's positively a revelation - no going to collect kindling and wood (more than a simple task if it's been raining), getting the fire going, and then waiting at least half-an-hour for the fire to heat the water enough to take the plunge. Since we invested in the best solar panel system (Paradigma from Germany), we can simply step in, and within minutes be smiling under a cloud of steam. Even when it rained for 3 days and we never saw the sun in that time, the system's insulated boiler held sufficient water at a hot enough temperature to have a bone-warming doccia.
Another benefit is that it's going to help in the winter when we're using the fire for hot water and heating - the partially-warmed water from the solar panel boiler is routed to the camino reservoir, giving a head-start in the heating-up process.
Plus, of course, if leaves us virtually free of any gas obligations. our stove currently uses about 6 euros a month in gas, while others who heat their homes and hot water can spend 400 euros a month in winter, and maybe a third of that in summer.
It's a learning process, this living in Italy thing, often a challenge, and always an exercise in patience, but we'll get there in the end. I mean, how can I feel anything but good when we're not only saving money with solar panels (in the long run, obviously), but we're also doing our tiny little bit for the environment.