Off Grid Solar Living Lesson #1: Everything Matters in Solar Powered Homes
One of the things we’ve learned during our time living off the grid is to take nothing for granted. Our system with normal sun exposure generates about 200 kilowatt hours per month. While that may sound like a lot, keep in mind the average American home uses about 1000 kw-hrs in a month, so we have to reduce our consumption 80% compared to the average home. We have a backup generator, but the propane that runs it is very expensive so we hardly ever use it.
So how do we do that? Well there are a lot of ways, and we’ll cover them all in the coming blog posts. But the bigger-picture message here is energy consciousness. We are able to greatly reduce our consumption simply by being conscious of how much we’re using.
My wife and I know for instance that opening the refrigerator door open for too long not only makes the fridge run longer but also means the lights inside are on while the door is open. Leaving the computer modem on over night seems innocuous enough, but in fact can make a big difference. Getting rid of unwanted appliances and reducing the use of others makes a big difference. Oops, left the garage lights on all night! That means the generator will kick on and burn through about $20 in fuel. That’s an easy lesson to learn!
Living off the grid requires understanding energy consumption
One easy way to start learning about our energy consumption was the Kill-A-Watt Meter. This handy device simply plugs into the wall and then you plug your electronics into it. It will tell you in watts, volts, or amps how much you are using. This will go a long way to tell you just what the big consumers are in your house. You might be surprised, that new refrigerator might use a 120 watts or so but the hair dryer might use up to 1000!
We’ve had a baptism by fire in energy awareness and we hope that our lessons will help you and your family.
Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar professional from Colorado. He lives off grid with his wife and two dogs. For more information visit his site at Solar Panel Kits.