So far outside the box you can't even see the box from here.
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Sunday, December 21, 2014
Curse the darkness
Here in the Northern Hemisphere we are experiencing some of the shortest days of the year. Well, that's not exactly true. The days are still 24 hours. What we are missing is sunlight. It hasn't helped that we've had a lot of snowy, rainy, and just plain overcast days. When we do get a sunny day, it doesn't seem to make much of an impact. By the time the sun struggles over the eastern mountains it seems it's almost getting ready to set behind the western ones.
My solar electric system is struggling. There are two factors working against solar electric this time of year. The lack of sun is a major issue, but there is another problem. The battery bank for my house is in a very cold basement. Cold batteries are unable to store as much power as warm batteries. That's one of the reasons your car might not start on a winter's morning.
The batteries are enclosed in a vented box. That retains some heat and keeps the batteries from freezing. I could insulate it better and that would help. As for the solar panels, cutting a few big Hemlocks would give me a small amount of extra sun exposure. However, in the summer those big trees are one of the reasons the house doesn't need air conditioning.
My battery bank can be charged up either from a generator or the grid. Keeping a battery bank charged up prolongs its life. Should there be a major power outage we'd be able to go days just with the stored power in the batteries. That's a huge benefit. Generators are nice, but it's not very efficient to fire up a generator when you just need a light to get to the bathroom. With a battery bank generators can be run under load for short periods of time. That saves fuel and wear and tear on the unit.
It used to be possible to turn the battery bank charger on from the comfort of my kitchen. A heavy duty relay failed so now I have to go down to the basement to manually set the timer on the charger. If I was going to spend the whole winter up north I'd fix it. Since I'm heading south in a few weeks, it's not worth spending the time and money on it right now.
The lack of sun affects people too. Some suffer from Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): depression brought on by the lack of sunlight. Most people in the north have chronically low vitamin D levels. I'll be taking D3 supplements until I get far enough south to run around in shorts. People are solar powered too.
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.