Monday, November 28, 2016
Electric needs change
A buddy of mine called me up the other day. He needed some advice on alternative energy systems. About six or seven years ago I helped him set up an off grid solar electric system. That generally worked out pretty well for him for a number of years. Like anything else, there's a learning curve, but he sorted it out.
Fast forward to now. When he built his off grid house it was just him and his wife. She had a full time job and was out of the house most days. Then they had a child. His wife quit her job and spent a lot of time at home with the baby. Their electrical usage shot up quite a bit. He had a generator to top off the batteries, but sometimes he was away for work and batteries got drawn down very low. That's bad for lead acid batteries and shortens their life.
He's got a good plan to expand the system to meet the increased needs. I gave him what knowledge I had to share. They'll be fine. Fortunately solar panels have come way way down in price.
The thing about off grid living is that you are you own power company. If you need more power, you have to either find a way to make more or reduce your usage. If you don't do those things you'll be sitting in the dark.
It's different when you are tied to the grid. All you have to do is pay more. How many of us have gotten the surprise electric bill? That bill that comes out of nowhere and is three times what you normally use? That happened to me before I put in the solar electric. My well pump had developed a crack in a hose fitting inside the well. The pump would turn on constantly as the system lost pressure. Water at the house was slightly reduced, but not enough to cause alarm so the problem wasn't caught right off.
Due to the excessive number of duty cycles the pump burned out. That was bad enough. Then the electric bill came in and it was more expensive than the pump was. Talk about adding insult to injury. Now my pump is wired up to the solar electric system. If there's an excessive power draw it will show up on my meters and can be dealt with right away.
Being totally off grid has its challenges, but the honking big surprise electric bill isn't one of them.