April 1, 2016

If you’ve happened to call us sometime in the last year, then I’m probably the one that answered the phone.  My name is Jamie Brooks, and my job at Solaire Energy is the “Office Administrator”, which basically means that I spend my days in the office “administrating” our auditors and crew…which can be challenging at times, especially when you are married to one of them!  I push a lot of paper, making sure the wheels keep turning when it pertains to scheduling, audit and crew paperwork, purchasing, billing, filing and updating the website.  Well, okay, so I update the website when I have the time to think about it!  But last week I had the unique experience of working on crew for New Year’s Eve.

So here’s how a New Year’s Eve on Solaire Crew went down: 

Ryan came home late Wednesday night and quipped, “Boy, we could really use your help out there tomorrow!”  I wasn’t sure if he was serious.  Actually I don’t know if he was sure if he was serious!  But as we talked about it we began to think it might not be a bad idea.  Thursday was New Year’s Eve, and we were already down one guy on the crew due to the holiday.  Not to mention this job was already taking longer than we had estimated, and we wanted to be able to finish it.  With the bosses’ blessing, I found myself travelling far away from the comforts of the office to Bloomsburg the next morning!

When we arrived, our dear customer was excited to show me the other projects we had already done for him in past years - namely a 6.3kW Solar Photovoltaic System and a Solar Water Heating System.  I had camera in hand, thinking about a possible future website update and was happy to snap a few pictures! 

And so the day began. 

The job consisted of us installing drywall on the ceiling of the garage, building an attic hatch, installing batt insulation in the garage walls and blowing cellulose insulation above the garage ceiling.  Now, before you get the wrong idea…we are not drywall contractors!  However, we do specialize in making your home more energy efficient, and depending on the circumstance drywall can be a great way to air seal a particular area.

By the time I arrived on the scene, the wall insulation and most of the drywall had been installed (phew!), but we still had the hatch to build, the seams to mud and tape and the attic to blow.  Ryan finished piecing in the last tricky areas of drywall (see that hole up there in the picture on the left?), while Chris began to cut out and build an attic hatch.  I grabbed a caulk gun and a ladder and air sealed the perimeter where the drywall ceiling met the walls.  Well, actually Kerrin had already started the air sealing, so I can’t take full credit for that!  I was just there to pitch in wherever I could. 


After the caulking, I taped all of the drywall seams.  At some points one or the other of us would have to drop what we were doing to give someone else a hand, as demonstrated in this picture above on the right.  Chris is up inside the hatch hole and Ryan is handing him a drill.  I’m taking the picture, of course.  Initially, I thought I would end up with more pictures than I did, but it turns out you spend a majority of your time on crew actually working!  Especially when your husband is the crew leader.  ;) 

He did let us take a quick break for sandwiches, and then the customer’s wife brought us some amazing pumpkin bread, still warm from the oven!  (Now, we do not require this of our customers, but those who bring the crew fresh baked goodies tend to hold a special place in our hearts!) 

 After I finished taping the seams, Ryan had already started on the drywall mud.  Chris was still busy building, insulating, air sealing and damming the hatch, so I began ladder patrol – moving one step ahead of Ryan so he could move from one spot to the next without getting up and down each time.  I also swept up and loaded the truck with the tools we were finished using.

The time went by surprisingly fast!  Before we knew it, it was almost five and we were ready to do the final step – the insulation blow.  It was later in the day than we had hoped, but we were determined to finish the job. 

Unfortunately, things in this industry do not always go as planned.  We fired up the generator and turned on the blower machine, only to find that the blower wasn’t responding.  What followed was about two hours of troubleshooting.  Is it the cord?  The generator?  The machine itself?  A breaker?  A fuse?  We finally narrowed it down to the blower relay, which was not a part we could just pick up at Lowe’s.  Devastation!  We had to leave the job unfinished, but we really tried to give it our best shot.  At the end of the day, sometimes it comes down to things you just cannot control – and it was just one of those days for us.  Our lovely customers were sad but very understanding.  We certainly felt that they appreciated our every effort to finish the job, working late and far from home on New Year’s Eve!  Truthfully, I was happier to be working with Ryan than sitting at home by myself to ring in the new year. 

Here are some pictures of the (somewhat) finished job.


The finished hatch.  I wish I had gotten a picture of the insulated side.  Well, maybe next time. 


These are the closest “before and after” comparison shots I have.


I learned a lot!  I’ll be able to offer more grace to the guys when I’m asking them for information I need for billing.  When you are focused on the task at hand, it is easy not to clearly remember the details that are so important to being able to bill a job – how many hours did it take?  What materials did you use?  I have found myself disappointed when I learn we need to return to a job that was supposed to be finished on a particular day, but this was my first time experiencing it as a member of the crew.  Boy, does it stink to get that far and not be able to finish!  I certainly felt it in my muscles the next day, all of that up and down the ladder and looking and reaching to the ceiling.  I’m so proud of our crew and their hard work and dedication! 

So we can expect that 2016 will bring it's share of good news and bad news, of jobs that will go exceptionally well and of times that we may struggle, but at Solaire Energy we take each day as a new opportunity to learn and grow and believe that God's grace will carry us through another year.  We hope and pray the same for you and yours!  

Happy New Year!