Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Living on Solar

panel pointing to the morning sun

panels for midday sun

We live totally off choice. When I tell my friends on the mainland that we live with solar, they often console me, have pity for me. No way! We're quite happy being off grid. No need to feel sorry for us at all.

So many people think that if you are on solar, it means that you can only have dim lights, no modern conveniences, can't have saws, TV, a freezer. Not true. Sometimes people think that we have to run a generator at night. Again, not true. Our house runs like a normal house, just with a few differences. One big difference involves a lifestyle change. It means, no wasting electricity. It means weaning yourself away from all those electrical gadgets that nibble current 24 hours a day. It means becoming aware of what items are energy hogs, then doing something about it.

Our house is wired for AC, like any other house that is on the grid. The only thing that  is wired DC is our water pump. It's a marine pump, thus DC. Situated out near the solar equipment, it is simple to have it wired directly to the DC system.

Our refrigerator and our freezer are Steca chest units. They are DC units, but being located in the house too far away from the solar array, they get their electric power via an AC to DC plug-in inverter. We could have them set up with their own solar panel and batteries, but we find the small plug-in inverter works just fine. Simple. Whisper quiet. Some day we might change this set-up, but for now it's ok. We used to have a propane refrigerator but it was so expensive to run. We upgraded to a small regular electric frig. But I wanted to have a chest freezer. Looking around we discovered the Steca and fell in love. I'm very pleased with them. The two units combined use less electric power than the small refrigerator did. Far less.

Our range is propane, non-electric. Finding a non-electric range is difficult nowadays! Ours is a Premier range.

All our light bulbs are compact fluorescents. No night lights. No outdoor floodlights. And that's by choice. We've progressed to the point that we dislike wasting power.

Clothes washer is a normal, small electric model with no bells 'n whistles. No clothes dryer. If I wanted one, it would be propane model, but I have no need for it. I use an outdoor clothes line.

House appliances are normal: microwave, vacumn cleaner, iron, blender, toaster, etc.  I just have to be aware not to have two energy hogs running at the same time. So if the microwave is running, I need to wait before using the toaster. Not a big deal. If that was an issue, our system could be expanded. But we don't need to at this stage.

We use iPads or a laptop for our computer needs. We have an old desk top the we use for watching movies. No TV, by choice. Anyway, they don't use much electric, so the system could handle a TV easily.

We've learned not to waste power. Lights are turned off when you leave a room. Appliances are unplugged when not in use, especially microwave, phone chargers, tool chargers, etc. We do not use electric clocks. Computers and printers are unplugged. Nothing that uses "ghost" power.

We have learned to use high energy users on a sunny day so that the system has time to recharge. Clothes are washed in the morning. Vacuuming done before noon. Power tools, like the saws, run before lunch.

Our hottub is heated by a submersible wood burner. What little heat we need for the house comes from a wood burning stove in the living area. Most cooking is done on a small wood burning cookstove on the lanai (roofed porch). We prefer using wood. It has nothing to do with being on solar, but it surely benefits the system. 

Hot water is supplied by a Paloma....propane fired. 

We find that living on solar has some good benefits. We still have power even when the grid goes down! Our neighbors are in the dark, but not us. We also like the idea of not giving our money to the electric company each month. 

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