Sunday, 18 August 2013
Size, Sex and Solar.
What do Solar Photovoltaic systems and sex have in common? its that age old question ' size does not matter it's more important what you actually do with it versus size does matter ?'
Ok well lets suppose you have a nice comfy home and are a complete solar virgin. You read an article on Solar and something stirs deep inside you. You slowly develop a longing for a real relationship with your energy use. Having to pay a cold hearted professional for it every couple of months becomes lifeless and unfulfilling, you want to be in control of your destiny and walk into the future knowing your energy needs will be fulfilled. But like any relationship there has to be some give and take.
Like any virgin it can be difficult to know where to start so the first port of call is often contacting a professional solar installer to get them to audit your energy needs to ascertain size of system you will need.
Like any marriage broker or dating agency the professional solar installer is not there to tell you how you should live your life, they are there to facilitate a balanced relationship between who you are and what you are looking for so that a long lasting satisfaction can be achieved.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well folks it doesn't take me to tell you that there is a whole world of difference between being free and single and in a deep loving relationship, yes that's right I am talking about sacrifice and commitment oh and how big your pocket is!!
We are off grid and solar powered, have been for six years now. Whenever we tell people we are solar powered they shake their heads and mumble something about how expensive it is and how it cannot pay for itself. From this I deduce there is this common held idea solar is expensive. The other common response we get is "how big is it?"
Well I sheepishly have to say that we have a very small one!
But back to our solar virgin. The audit has been done, the post arrives the envelope is eagerly opened, the heart sinks as the virgin counts the amount of zeros on the bottom figure needed to supply their energy needs from a solar panel system.
Do not blame the installer, that bottom figure is the cost of meeting your needs. You may have to ask yourself are you a little too needy, is that why you are still a virgin?
Joking aside here are some tips on reducing the cost of a solar installation.
Heating and cooling anything electrically requires massive amounts of solar equipment and cost. To boil a kettle, run a fridge, run a normal washing machine (with a heater element) and supply hot water for washing electrically could double the cost of a solar photovoltaic system.
One could think of getting a separate Solar hot water system but that will not make your tea. We have a gas fridge/freezer, gas oven, a washing machine that does not make it's own hot water and a home made solar hot water system linked to a gas boiler, all the gas is bottle gas.
Lighting throughout our home is by 12 volt LED bulbs supplied straight from the battery to a separate 12 volt fuse box. Energy from the battery is lost when converting battery power (which in our case is 12 volt) into 220-240 volt. Outside we use individual solar lights which I make http://bottlelights.blogspot.com.es/
So what would you give up to have a decent energy relationship?
Apart from our television which is 12 volt, we can only use 200 watts of 220-240 power at any one time, this powers our satellite tv box, satellite internet and general electrical appliances, all of which were purchased on the basis of their low energy consumption. That is right, apart from lighting and the television everything runs off the energy it would take to power two old fashioned 100 watt light bulbs (with one unfortunate exception, the washing machine only uses 100 watts per wash BUT our inverter at 200 watts is too small to supply the 3-400 watts needed to start the electric motor! A case of being misled by a pretty face!!)
Our back up generator is 2000 watts and runs the washing machine, powers our tools and when there is no sun charges up the 530 watt batteries.
The system cost under 4000 euros including the inverter generator and has been powering our home in southern Spain for over 5 years now.
Does size matter? Well speaking as someone who has a perfectly satisfying energy relationship with a tiny package I am of the view that it is more important how you use it !