Monday, December 26, 2011

16-25 December, 2011 - Oops and "Merry Christmas!"

I didn't realize it had been so long since I made my last post.  I apologize for that.  Our normal routines are a little off due to the house sitting and Christmas.  My computer is at the place I'm house sitting and Susan has hers at home.  I keep forgetting to bring her camera card here to get pictures or download them when she's been here and even though I had my computer with me yesterday I forgot to download pictures from her camera.  So, I don't have near the selection of photos to draw from that I'm used to having.

The biggest problem people have in our experience when they try to live off-grid is understanding that energy conservation is as much an art as a science. You really have to get creative to do it!  There are some harsh realities about living off-grid.  This photo was taken at 10:39 AM and the sun is just now clearing the mountain tops to the South.  It will still be another 30 minutes before it's rays clear the trees and directly hit the first solar panel.

This is sunset at our cabin about a mile away.  It was taken at 5:16 PM.  The solar panels have been in the shade for at least 30 minutes.  That means we have less than six hours of direct sunlight on the solar panels.  During that time the solar panels have to produce all the electricity we'll need for a 24 hour time period.  This includes recharge the batteries that we were running on for the 18 hours we didn't have
  direct sunlight on the panels.  If it's a cloudy or overcast day (meaning there are no shadows) the solar panels will only produce about 10 percent of their maximum rate.  So ... if you can produce 1,000 watts per hour on a sunny day you're down to 100 watts per hour on an overcast day.  With six hours of sunlight you'll have 600 watts of power available in a 24 hour period.  But that's not exactly true either because it takes about 125 watts of generated power to store 100 watts in your battery (About 20-25 percent of the power generated is lost in recharging the batteries.)  So in reality you'll have about 480 watts available for use in a 24 hour period.  That means you could run a 100 watt light bulb almost five hours (remember it's dark from about 5:45 PM until about 9:00 AM - over 15 hours).    If you go to bed at 9:45 PM and get up at 7:00 AM you're going to need lights on for at least 6 hours. 

Anyone want to figure up what you'll be able to use without going over your 480 watts of available power in that 24 hour period of overcast weather?  

By the way, if you pay less that $2.50 per watt for your solar panels you got a good price so in order to generate 1,000 watts of power it will cost $2,500.00 just for the solar panels.  That doesn't include the price of the inverter ($1.00 per watt is a good price), the charge controller(s) - (figure a minimum of $200 for a system of that size) and batteries (another $500 minimum).  By spending this kind of money you'll be able to power a 100 watt light bulb for approximately 5 hours on a cloudy day.  Of course that's the worst case but you'll need to remember that your highest electricity use is during the winter when it's coldest and darkest.

This was taken from the front porch of the cabin where I'm staying.  The sun won't be over the ridge for another 40 minutes so the fog is hanging low in the meadow. The time was 10:00 AM

This was taken at 10:47 AM.  I had to tweak the contrast a little to make the moon show up better.  This is about ten minutes after the "sunrise" photo was taken and the sun still hasn't hit the solar panels yet.

One of the "working cats" on the place.  The cats are more than pets.  They're needed to keep the mice and other rodents in control.

This one is the brother to our cat.

There's a bird feeder on the front porch so I get some feathered entertainment while writing.

A couple of the kids were over and brought some pork chops for dinner.  I went to fire up the gas grill and the propane valve was leaking so I got out the old-standy and the charcoal.  The food tastes better on a charcoal grill anyway.  I've just gotten lazy and impatient since getting my gas grill.

It is possible to break a maul when using it to hammer.  To be fair though, I've seen the same thing happen to sledge hammers.

Odie has been feeling left out and wanted her picture taken and posted even though this wasn't her most flattering pose.

Ahhh .. spaghetti squash.  If you've never cooked these, the easiest way I know of is to cut them in half. lay the halves (open side down) on a cookie sheet and bake them at about 375 degrees for approximately 30 minutes (the time will vary according to the size of the squash).

Before you bake them, remove the innards.

Save the seeds.  They can be eaten raw or toasted and make good snacks.

Once they're cooked, scrape the insides out ...

...and top it with spaghetti sauce or butter and brown sugar.  I put this back in the oven for about ten minutes to heat everything back to the same temperature.

Susan took this while on the lawn swing with Scott and the cat.  The cat's been feeling neglected too.

This little guy loves being outdoors.  Here he's getting his first wheel barrow ride and thoroughly enjoyed it.  He likes the sled and backpack too.  We have to watch him though.  He's pretty good at shedding his shoes and socks.  Susan pins them on now so that when he gets them off we don't lose them!

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