I wanted to sort of talk a little bit about the truth of living off-grid and how that really plays out.
When you’re living on the grid you have all kinds of electric devices that you’re generally powering – plasma TV, surround systems, dishwashers, microwaves, electric heaters, electric ranges, even curling irons and hair dryers.
These are all things that at the flip of a switch you can just turn it on and run it and you really don’t think twice about it.
Are Solar Panels Worth It?
Maybe when your power bill comes in you might think about it, but for the most part you don’t think twice about it. You can turn on what you want, when you want it but when you move to an off-grid scenario like we are you really have to be conscious of what you’re using and how you’re using it.
Off-grid solar is a huge change in life-style but is worth it from many points of view. We use less of the planet’s resources and it’s easier on the pocket. Solar has never been cheaper and it is worth-while for anyone wishing to save money in the long-term.
I wanted to talk a little bit about the truth of living off-grid with solar and the first thing we’re going to start with is what exactly is this system powering? … I really want to clarify what our system is using.
So what is getting continuous power right now is going to be our refrigerator, our internet router and also our outlets for things such as our wall outlets where we are charging.
Those are the only things that we have on at any time and you notice I didn’t say ‘lights’.We don’t hardly ever use lights any more. So those are the things that are running at any one given time and that’s the main thing that our system is powering.
Now everything else is highly dependent on the weather. If it’s a nice sunny day we can run certain devices. If it’s cloudy, then we’re running off the battery bank and we need to be very, very careful as to what we’re using and how we’re using it.
Even when the Sun is completely out we still have to be very, very careful as to what we use and how we use it, because it can overload this system and shut it down.
The first thing would be our our water pump and this has an initial surge or draw of up to about 15 amps. When that pump kicks on, that surges the system and it’s a really, really heavy load for this system. That means we need to be very, very careful as to how we use water.
It’s not something that most people think about when living on the grid. For example, how does that play out in our everyday life? Well, for our showers, we don’t run the shower continuously.
We take what is called a ‘navy’ shower or even a ‘German’ shower, where you turn the water, you get wet, turn it off, soap up and then you turn it back on to rinse off.
Things such as our washing machine – when our washing machine is running, nothing else is running. Things such as our toilet – we go by the saying ‘if it’s yellow, let it Mellow’.
We wait a few times before we flush the toilet. That way we’re not running that water pump all the time and also we’re not draining down our spring, which has a limited amount of water coming in.
Lights are something that we hardly ever use any more. We have a lot of battery-powered lights, some solar lights, even headlamps, that we wear all the time. We even at night-time we hardly ever use our lights any more but the lights that we do have we turned over to LED lights.
Our kitchen appliances – really the main two kitchen appliances that I use are my wonder mill to grind grains.
I do use the hand crank one as well but it’s a lot easier to use the electric one, and also my food processor, which is something that I really really love using. it’s really, really handy.
Those things actually have a really high surge when I’m turning them on and they do draw down the system, so nothing else in the house can be on when I run those appliances. we keep a small fan in our living room that is something that we keep on part of the time.
We need to be very careful how often we run our computer. A computer is another thing that we run part time and we have to make sure that we check our batteries. Make sure that they are topped off and we’re running off a direct solar when using our computer because it is an engineering computer.
We specifically have an engineering computer for engineering computer purposes. I know a lot of people mentioned a laptop.
We could convert it over to a laptop which would draw a less power but the investment that would be probably bout 5 grand so we’re not ready to invest that. Right now we just have to be very careful when we use a computer and how often we use it.
I miss AC on solar power!
We are able to able to run our AC unit off of our solar power. This is probably the biggest adjustment that we’ve had to make and probably the biggest adjustment that somebody would have to make moving off grid, especially if you live down south like we do, where the temperatures get over 100 degrees with a heat index.
The humidity, which is the really really bad thing, gets up there at 80 to 90 percent, sometimes up near 100 percent. We do have a very small a/c unit but we can only run that during peak Sun hours. That means usually between 11 a.m. and about 5:00 p.m. in midsummer.
Now that a/c unit, because it’s so small and because we only keep it on part of the time, only cools the house down to about 85 to 87 degrees.
Because we live in a trailer that cool air is not contained in our walls. We don’t have good insulation, so that it doesn’t stay cool in there, whenever we do get the temperature down.
What appliances can solar panels power?
A lot of people might have a really difficult time transitioning to a lifestyle where you’re used to maybe 65 to 70 degree temperatures in your house and here we are living with about 85 to 87 and that’s just in the living room.
Back in the bedrooms we’re talking 90 degrees at least, because even though we have the fan on, the air just doesn’t get back there to cool things off.
The last thing that we run part of the time would be power tools. Now power tools are something that we can run off of our solar system but again only when that’s the only thing that is running and it really depends on the amps. Really, the main problem when it comes to living with a solar system is it has to do with with your amps or your initial surges.
1st column: Appliance
2nd column: Running
3rd column: Surge
|Air Fryer||1,500 W||0 W|
|Coffee Maker||1,000 W||0 W|
|Cooker Hood||20 W||10 W|
|Deep Freezer||500 W||1,500 W|
|Dishwasher||1,500 W||1,500 W|
|Electric Can Opener||170 W||0 W|
|Electric Kettle||1,200 W||3,000 W|
|Electric Oven||2,150 W||0 W|
|Electric Stove (8″ Element)||2,100 W||0 W|
|Espresso Coffee Machine||1,300 W||200 W|
|Food Dehydrator||800 W||0 W|
|Food Processor/Blender||400 W||0 W|
|Fryer||1,000 W||0 W|
|Hot Water Dispenser||1,200 W||100 W|
|Induction Hob (Per Hob)||1,400 W||400 W|
|Microwave||1,000 W||0 W|
|Modern Fridge (2001-2020)||400 W||600 W|
|Percolator||800 W||300 W|
|Pressure Cooker||700 W||0 W|
|Refrigerator / Freezer||700 W||2,200 W|
|Rice Cooker||200 W||500 W|
|Sandwich Maker||700 W||300 W|
|Side-by-Side Fridge||800 W||1,200 W|
|Slow Cooker||160 W||20 W|
|Smart Fridge||500 W||750 W|
|Steriliser||650 W||0 W|
|Toaster||850 W||0 W|
|Water Dispenser||100 W||0 W|
|Water Filter & Cooler||70 W||30 W|
|Wine Cooler (18 Bottles)||83 W||0 W|
Too much amperage or too much initial surge from something that’s drawing a lot of energy is going to shut down this inverter completely. It’s something that we need to be very, very careful of to make sure that we don’t overpower this system.
What is like an everyday scenario look like? Well, right now in mid-summer, wake up might turn the fan on and get some air circulating in the house. Nothing has been on overnight.
Might make some breakfast and do some dishes with the water pump. Make sure all the toilets are flushed and then everything goes off before we turn on the air conditioner.
I might do a load of laundry and then hang that outside. When the laundry is done I might run the vacuum cleaner and that’s the only thing that’s running at that time.
When that’s done running, might be around 11 o’clock, that’s when we might turn on our a/c to try and get our house down to a reasonable temperature and that will run until about 5 o’clock.
If we need to run anything else, like say flush the toilets or if anybody needs to take a shower or anything like that, we need to turn off that air conditioning unit so that it’s not overloading the system.
Can you run AC on solar power?
Then about 5 o’clock the AC goes off. Our fan is still running at that time. We usually let the fan run until probably about 10 o’clock at night and then we turn that fan off and then there’s nothing on for the rest of the night.
We don’t run a whole lot of things off of our solar power. We are babying the system but there is only so much that we can use at any one given time on our system. There are ways that we can offset the usage of our system, different things that we can apply to help reduce the system load.
One of those things might be a cistern at the top of a hill that has a slope up to the cistern and we can gravity feed to our house.
This is something that we’re going to try when we build our new house and that will help reduce the load of the amps that the pump draws, just drawing directly from the spring and there are a few other things that we can implement to help reduce the system.
For the most part we live very, very frugally when it comes to power. Now of course there are people out there who have invested tons of money in these monstrous systems and they can use unlimited power and they live like most people do on grid, where you just turn on things whenever you need it.
Hoe much energy used with off grid solar?
Before we were living on the grid we estimated we were using 60 kilowatt hours per day we have reduced that down to somewhere between 4 & 6.
With the air conditioning running in the summer, we’ve bumped that up. That is a huge huge difference from living on the grid and these are the sacrifices that were making to enable us to live with a system like that.
There are a lot of people that aren’t willing to sacrifice those kinds of things but if you are, then maybe solar is right for you. I just wanted to explain some of these things and kind of really what the lifestyle means and it’s really hard to explain it – you really kind of have to live it.