Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Gradual Decline of the Solar System

(Okay, it's really only the batteries which are in decline, but I couldn't resist the epic sound of that title!)

For those who haven't read the earlier post about this, the batteries in our solar power system are dying. From an original sixteen batteries, we are now down to twelve. This has been a major surprise to us, since our research indicated that we could expect 2-3 years of usage from these batteries, and we are losing them in less than one year.

We won't be able to get our replacement battery system (of a different type) until our container from Maryland arrives here in (hopefully) December, so we've had to just get used to a time of limited power usage.

What does this mean in our daily lives?

1. We don't have enough stored power to start running electrical items until the sun is up, and the mist is cleared off the mountain in the morning. The timing on this can be between 6am and 8am depending on the weather. With the first real amount of power coming in, we turn on the refrigerator. When we've reached a second higher level of input, we turn on the computer.

Just so you know, Allen and I are normally up much earlier than 6am. With such limited power, we go to bed pretty early these days, so the first glimmer of sun (around 4am) has us feeling like it's time to get up.

2. When the power is coming in at a high level we hurry and do everything that requires large amounts of electrical power. This is mostly running the dishwasher and the washing machine. Usually we have enough power to do at least some of this work between 9am and 2pm. Some days we don't have enough power to run either machine. Fortunately, we have lots of clothing, and I haven't yet forgotten how to wash dishes by hand.

3. At around 3 in the afternoon we start to conserve power. We turn off everything except the refrigerator, unless we still have lots of sunshine. But we watch the sun and the power input levels carefully, as the power level will drop quickly at some point around 3pm - this has to do with the angle of the solar panels and the afternoon location of the sun.

4. Around 4 or 5pm we turn off the refrigerator, and we run nothing using power until after supper. Supper is usually served between 5 and 6pm.

5. Soon after supper some members of the family generally watch a movie or a few episodes of a TV show on DVD, using the power which was conserved from earlier, and we also run the fridge again for as long as we can. If it has been an especially overcast afternoon, or if we misjudged our power usage in the afternoon, we have to run the generator for a short time in the evening, to have enough power for the evening usage. By around 8 or 8:30pm, we're usually heading for bed. Sometimes on the weekends we stay up later - even until 9:30 or 10pm, but that involves splurging on additional generator use!

And that about sums up our low-energy days.

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