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.



  1. Like wood heat, it's still nice to have the grid for back-up. Unfortunately, we now heat and cook with a combination of gas and electric.

    1. Bet you could cook on a campfire behind the house if you had to.

  2. being your own power company may be great but at two in the morning your spouse going to growl at you because "it don't work"

    but at least as your neighbors go bonkers as the whole neighborhood goes in the final blackout; a working electric percolator makes it easier to enjoy the end of their world...


    1. Good thing my lovely wife is not the growly type.

      I've already had the pleasure of watching the lights around the lake wink out one by one as their generators run out of gas. It was a massive ice storm that took down the grid.

  3. If the power goes out for too long, I move out into the motorhome and fire up the generator. I try to keep the hundred gallon fuel tank in the RV full to reduce condensation and for emergencies.

    1. Nothing like having a spare house next to your house.

      Keeping that tank full is a real good idea.