Water Heater Rescue: Know-How, Solutions, Parts graphic

The House on Hummingbird
Hill: Beginnings

Three models of the House on Hummingbird Hill

In the beginning, there was a tract of ground and an idea. The land lay in a canyon east of Monterey, California, and comprised part of a ridge gently sloping down to the valley floor.

The idea was to build the most energy-efficient house in the United States, one that would incorporate a set of technologies never before assembled under one roof.

The year was 1992, well into the environmental movement, but long before the word "green" was being overused by the media to describe anything and everything. Larry and Suzanne Weingarten had already achieved recognition for learning how to extend the lives of water heaters by servicing what was, until then, simply a throwaway appliance, and had written a book on the subject, "The Water Heater Workbook."

I, Randy Schuyler, had just returned from Europe, trying to "find myself," and found myself, for a few nights, in their spare bedroom. There, on a shelf, was a model, the same one you see on the right. You can judge for yourself as you wander through these pages whether a dream became reality or not.

Things didn't happen immediately. It took a court fight to get an easement to the house site, which was landlocked. The Weingartens and I dismantled a concrete-tile roof in Carmel and moved it to the site to provide a fireproof roof when the time came. That was seven tons of concrete shingles, dismantled by hand and moved three times. A lot of fatigue and one automotive clutch.

And then there were permits to be gotten. Permits, approvals, permits, approvals. Things don't happen very fast where bureaucracy is concerned, but when the Weingartens are driving things, they DO happen. And that is not to disparage building inspectors and such. They're just doing their jobs. But building in California is a bit more complicated than, say, in Kansas. The chronic housing shortage in California attests to that sad fact.

But in the end, despite many obstacles along the way, it got done, so that several years before Sunset Magazine decided, in 2007, to build an "idea house" of "green" technology a few miles down the road, a house with unique ideas was built, functioning, and serving its creators -- The House on Hummingbird Hill.

So, what does that mean? Read on....


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