Thursday, November 5, 2015

power up

One of the Instagram challenges I’m participating in prompted participants to letter a modern convenience that we are grateful for. I’ve seen a few of the results and I wasn’t surprised to see smartphones and such, and I agree with those choices. My selection, however, is not quite as recent, and I know it’s one that we have taken for granted.

For nearly four years we have used solar panels to power our home. It’s been fantastic not having to pay a monthly bill for electricity, and it’s been particularly wonderful knowing we didn’t have to pay the $60,000 that was quoted to add company-provided power to our property. The obstacle we’ve had to face, however, has been a system that is too small.

We have nine 120-watt panels and eight batteries, together allowing 1kW of power per day. With care, that’s enough for a day of power, but it doesn’t allow for any reserves. That means that when it’s not sunny, we’re in trouble.

Our first winter was one without sun. We ran the generator daily to compensate. Last year was extraordinary because we used the generator just once. This year, however, is looking just like winter Number 1.

When it’s cloudy as often as it has been we have to turn off the refrigerator at night, we unplug computers and clock radios and anything else that might draw even teensy bits of power. We can’t use a microwave or even a toaster. Happily, our stove and oven are propane-based; otherwise I’d still be using the camp stove we got from Canadian Tire in the summer of 2011.

We don’t plan to live here beyond next July or we would have built on our system this fall. With a move in the works, however, we’re going to suck it up and live with what we have.

This kind of balancing act has taught me to appreciate flicking a switch without having to first calculate the impact it might have on the rest of my day.

In honor of electricity, here is the lettering piece I submitted to the challenge:

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