Today's post brought to you by real sun-power...
The sun came out today! Very exciting: celebration included treats for the chickens (they are NOT pets- ahem) and enthusiastic use of the electric sewing machine. Yeah!
We DO live off the grid here, but we don’t depend solely on our solar panels for electricity. That would be nearly impossible this time of year in MN. November is one of the worst months, ironically, even worse than later winter. So, we have a small generator hooked up to our big propane tank to make more power when the batteries need help. (We also use propane for heat and cooking in the winter).
We’re in the lap of luxury if we choose to run the generator. (Wash clothes AND vacuum at the same time: Crazy!) It’s just a bit stinky and loud. The whole point of solar panels is to reduce our contribution to air pollution and greenhouse gas emission, etc. So, we scrimp (and pester each other to turn off lights, ahem) until the batteries absolutely need a recharge.
So, no feeling sorry for us: it was a conscious decision to take this “standard suburban/rural” house of the grid a while back. WF chose not to reconnect the house to the grid a few years ago when some neighbor projects necessitated taking down the power poles, and so we’re in a sort of “artificial” off-grid world. Our house is definitely not a typical off-grid house, and needs quite a bit of electricity to run “normally”- ie well pump and septic. We end up scrimping more than most people would with a solar array of this size, but live very comfortably with a small, efficient fridge (w/ tiny freezer), efficient washer but no dryer, etc. We use the septic system as little as possible (WF is a humanure convert). All lights are compact flourescent; an incandescent bulb would be a ridiculous waste.
The solar decision was made before my time here, and I actually don’t think about it that much. Some of my co-workers are convinced I’m living in a cave without “real” electricity, but really, is it THAT weird to live without toasters or waffle irons or microwaves? Or electric sewing machines? I am coveting my grandmother’s old treadle machine these days. If you’re set up for it and give it a bit of thought, it really IS easy to live without much electricity.