Follow by Email

StatCounter

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The last electric bill



Today my last electric bill came in the mail. Not the most recent -the last. Service is now cut off, on my request. When we get back home in the spring, we will be relying completely on our solar electric system. There are a few tweeks and upgrades that I'll do, but we already generate enough of our own power to get by.

It's both exciting and scary. Always in the back of my mind was the idea that if the solar electric system had problems, the grid was there to take over. The way things actually worked out is that the vast majority of the time it would be the grid that failed. My homebrewed electrical system is more reliable than the system run by a major corporation. Scary to think they are running nuke plants.

Have you ever figured out what it costs just to have services? Most of my electric bill was for “connection fees.” That bill has to be paid even if zero watts were used. Almost all utilities have something similar. Never make or receive a phone call and you still get a phone bill. Don't use a drop of water and there will still be a water bill. Watch no television and there will still be a cable fee. These things add up.

Eliminating the electric bill was just the most recent of these monthly services to disappear. I've my own well and septic so no water and sewer fees. We don't watch cable TV so no bill from them.

So what monthly services do we pay for? Internet is the big one. That's $42/month. Technically, we could live without it, but we don't want to. In fact, being able to pay bills on-line and do research makes it a tool that pays for itself.

Having the Internet allows us to have our phone service over the Internet through Vonage. That worked our to almost half the price of my previous land line service. Messages sent to my home phone catch up to me in the form of e-mail audio attachments. That's useful to me.

Cell phone service is a strange one. We don't get reliable cell phone service at home so we only use it on the road. Most years we got by with a prepaid Tracfone. It's basic, but cheap. This trip I'm using an iphone and paying on a month by month basis. For me, that seems expensive. Once I get home in the spring I'll probably cancel the servcie. It's good to not be locked into a contract.

Now I know of some hard core folk who don't even have phone service. Some are hermits who just don't talk to anyone. Others are hardcore short wave people. Seems that only works if everyone you want to talk with is also a hardcore short wave person. Some just use it as cell phone replacement to keep in touch with family members.

I am surprised at the number of people on very limited budgets who pay large monthly fees and never think about it. It's a blind spot in their budget. TV is the one that drives me nuts. Shut that off and get a library card. Your life will be better. Okay, less extreem, just put up an antenna or get a Roku device for free Internet channels. Small steps, but once those invisible bills become visible, who knows where it will end? Maybe you'll get your “last” electric bill someday too.

-Sixbears


22 comments:

  1. Congrats been on solar for 1400 days today! My only monthly bills our Verizon and Netflix. Good luck to yoi!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! You know exactly what I'm talking about. :) Good for you!

      Delete
  2. My lovely wife and her 30 year old autistic son seemingly cannot live without the idiot box.
    Then she insisted that we needed a land line telephone too.

    Me? I could do without both of those VERY easily and did while single and living in the 5th wheel.
    Now?
    I think the last cable/phone/internet bill was $180......per month.

    It makes me want to scream.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If the wife ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. You'll just have to look somewhere else for savings.

      Looks like one of those: pay the bill and keep your mouth shut sorts of things.

      Delete
  3. Congratulations Sixbears. Good on you for having the guts to walk the talk...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been so close for so long and it's good to take the final step.

      Delete
  4. You are approaching this in a well thought out manner and you should succeed, I admire what you are doing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. It has been a long time in coming, but it feels good.

      Delete
  5. Hopefully they won't have any reason to come on your property anymore. I remember reading about the "tree trimming." Some of these utility companies act like an easement is a deed to a property and act like they own the place.

    Great job with the expenses reduction. I am trying to follow your example.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks William!

      I'm even less interested in tree trimming as I'm not using the utility at all. Good feeling.

      Delete
  6. Congrats, SixBears. I killed my cable and put up a cheap digital antenna and get 20 some channels here in South MS. I dont watch it but my daughter does when she is here. I would have cancelled my home phone but its cheaper to have a basic phone and internet than just internet. There are days where I cant get a cell signal so its not all bad. Well and septic, No solar yet but I am trying without getting into debt. All electric for now but I have kept my electric bill under $100 a month since my divorce and that is for peak A/C season.

    If things work out to where I can build in a couple years I will be able to be semi off grid. Look, when it is 105* outside and drops to 95* at night. A/C is a plus. I will keep some commercial power while I can.

    Transportation is my killer.I average 2500 miles a month. Traded the big GMC for a 4 cylinder Tacoma, Went from 18 to 24mpg. Had to have a pick up for my side business.

    Trying to pay off the big D and save a little for a rainy day.
    Good post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Nightshift!

      Good job on the cable. Good thing about solar is that you can start small and add to it later. However, it would cost too much to run AC. Cooling is hard to do off grid. Nothing beats a powerful AC unit. Of course, if you save everywhere else, you can afford it.

      Running waste veggie has saved me tens of thousands of dollars over the years.

      Delete
  7. You've talked about this for a while now. Glad to see you took the money saving step and did it!
    Let us know how the new off-grid life goes and what improvements if any may be necessary to your current system.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are changes that will have to be made when we get back. No doubt I'll document that too. Should be fun.

      Delete
  8. We gave up TV almost 3 years ago. I haven't regretted it one bit. I've struggled to slash as many of our bills as possible. As a matter of fact I've cut so many corners that there aren't many left to cut. We do have Netflix and internet. The way we've got it worked out we eat dinner every night and then watch a movie. I know these are luxuries that we could do without but I sure would hate loosing internet.
    I can't wait to hear all about your adventures!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Internet is just so darn useful. Fun too, so there's that. I like Netflix too.

      Delete
  9. Sixbears, First off congrats on the LAST electric bill. You have been a huge inspiration to me to going off grid and got me motivated on your "Start small and build it up idea" I focused on getting my electricity as low as possible and this week I will order two 100 watt solar panels, 30 Amp controller from Amazon. I bought two AGM 100 Amp hour batteries and 1100 watt inverter earlier this year. I'm doing a portable setup that I can use either for the house or RV to start. I figure I will have spent just over $700.00 over 12 months to make the solar generator. With the wood stove working out so well I can see how well going off grid could work in the future!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great start. That's the way to do it. First reduce your needs, then get enough power to handle some basics. Congratulations. Glad I could provide some inspiration.

      Delete
  10. I think it's great that you are able to rely exclusively on solar power! But a friendly warning that needs to be heeded: make sure your smoke detectors are in excellent working conditions at all times. Solar Panels are very dangerous for fire fighters as it can compromise the integrity of the roof and trap in heat during a fire. While this should not impact your everyday life- so long as the installation is up to code- it does limit the roof access a fire fighter may need, as well as leaving your roof at risk of crashing in during a fire and trapping victims and rescue workers inside of the burning home. So make sure you have smoke detectors in every bedroom, stairway, and hallway so if, God forbid, you have a fire, everyone can evacuate your home quickly and safely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My panels are not mounted on my roof but on a tall pole. It's safer, panels stay cooler and more efficient. As a former firefighter, I'm aware of the dangers, but thank you for your concern. Valid points.

      Delete