With the growing concerns of finding "planet friendly" energy sources and the cost of living rising each year, people are looking for alternative ways to supply their family's needs. Raising and growing their own food supply is becoming popular again, as well as is seeking more economical and cleaner energy. Solar, wind, and hydro technology have advanced leaps and bounds over the years. This blog is about our family's journey in search of simpler living and using today's innovations to accomplish it.
Over 4 years ago, we were led to leave the "hussle and bussle" of a fast-paced world to the slower pace of country living. We were concerned about the ever-increasing losses of our freedoms and government "interventions," so we decided to go "off grid" as much as possible. Our belief in self-sufficiency would require some changes in our lifestyle, however. Our power needs would be at the top of this change.
Our family of five and the energy required to maintain our accustomed lifestyle would be substantial. Little did we know the changes that were in store. For a solar set-up design for our home, I contacted Backwoods Solar, a company I would highly recommend for anyone interested in setting up their own system.
I was told by them that I needed to figure our power needs first. How many watts of electricity would my family use in a day? The list included everything from refrigerator/freezer use, lights and their light bulb wattage, how many hours the TV and stereos would be used, even how much we used a toaster or hair dryer. (With three adult women in the house you can understand that one!) The list was long with things we had never considered before. Phantom loads of electronics like alarm clocks and timers could not be overlooked. And the use of fans, irons, electric blankets, and air conditioning were also important to figure in. All of these had been taken for granted when the local electric company was the source!
After the energy audit was completed, the solar system was designed. It would be a 48 volt system with 12 solar panels that would be able to supply approx. 5000 watts a day. That seems like a lot, but when a fridge uses 800 watts per day, a single light 60 watts per hour, a washer 200 watts per day, and so on, it doesn't take long to add up! We found out anything that used a heating element in any way either had to be used sparingly or not at all. We had to use a propane oven and a propane water heater instead of their electric counterparts. Air conditioning was out the window. A wood burning stove would be our sole source of heat in the winter for the entire house. Yes, our simpler lifestyle would require some major changes.
For months I was constantly monitoring the solar readout panel. My family constantly heard me saying, "Turn off the Lights," "Do we really need that on right now?" or "We are low on electricity! I don't think so," even "Sorry Honey, no Christmas lights on tonight!" ( I've definitely paid my dues for that one!) But as time has gone on, we've learned to adjust to this new way of life. The appreciation we have for sunny days increased a hundred fold. When a huge winter ice storm put our neighbors out of power for over a week, we were so grateful for our solar system, which allowed us to go on without skipping a beat!
Most people always end up asking what it cost us to put this system in. Let me just say it will take a commitment. You will have to consider it as a long term investment in your family's future. The beauty of a solar set-up is that you can start small, supplementing your power use, and over time, build up to become completely off-grid and self- sufficient. And the overall benefits include a piece of mind of reliable energy, no monthly bill in the mail, and the contribution to an eco-friendly world!