Minimizing Electrical Usage
Part of my survival plan is to minimize my electrical usage and to have backup systems. I have a generator but was interested in wind and solar power for long term outages. Living on an island we lose power quite often and sometimes for a week or more. I started by reading a book named; The Renewable Energy Handbook by William H. Kemp. It’s a great book and covers minimizing electrical usage, solar, wind, micro hydro, and even making your own bio fuel.
The first step is to reduce the energy usage you use. We all take for granted that we’ve got unlimited electrical power available to us most of the time. The problem is that we also waste a lot of electrical power needlessly. With a backup system such as the solar/wind turbine system I built; your power is limited to the amount you have stored in your battery pack. My battery pack is small so I have learned to reduce the power consumption I use in order to maximize the time I can run off the batteries.
I started reducing my electrical consumption by doing the easy and inexpensive things first. Here are some tips that I’ve done;
- I replaced all the incandescent light bulbs and fluorescent light fixtures with LED bulbs/fixtures. You can save about 75% of the cost of electricity that lighting consumes by switching to LED lighting. They last a long time, are bright, are generally guaranteed for 5+ years, and use a fraction of the power that the older incandescent bulbs and fluorescent fixtures use. The price continues to come down on these items so it makes sense to change them out.
- I put items like my TV, internet router, printer, computer and other devices on a power strip which is left off when not needed. A TV even when off isn’t totally off and uses some power. Same goes for items that have a clock such as a microwave oven, coffee pot, radio, alarm clock, etc. Phone chargers when left plugged in still use some power. Unplug them when not in use. Granted, it’s a small amount of power being used by these devices but over the course of a year you could save $100+
- Replace an old inefficient water heater, refrigerator, freezer, and furnace with a high efficiency model. The newer appliances are so much more energy efficient these days.
- Good insulation and windows are a good investment and will save a lot over time. Granted, this is an expensive upgrade.
My solar/wind turbine system is fairly small and I plan to expand it over time. For now I have 4 - 100 watt solar panels and a 2000 watt wind turbine feeding power to 4 - 6 volt batteries connected in series/parallel. My system will run about 24 hours on a no sun/no wind day if I minimize my power consumption. Even if you don’t have an alternate energy system like mine; you can still minimize your power consumption. Here’s how I get 24 yours out of my battery pack;
- I don’t run ANYTHING that consumes a lot of power. These items include; Electric water heater, toaster, hair dryer, electric stove, microwave, or anything that has a heating element in it. I don’t run the washer or dryer and I even make my coffee then pour the pot into a Thermos and unplug the coffee maker. I don’t need a clock and the burner that keeps the pot warm uses power too.
- I minimize the use of anything that uses electricity that I can do without such as: TV, internet router, radio, chargers, etc. I don’t need these running 24/7.
- I even minimize how often I use water and how much I use. I have a 240 volt water pump and I can usually get by a whole day by not showering, flushing, and using minimal water before the pressure tank is low.
- I also heat with a wood stove so I don’t need to run a furnace.
- I have an electric stove currently and it uses too much power to run off my battery pack so I cook with a Coleman stove. The Coleman fuel has a long shelf life, pretty much indefinite, so that works good.
- To further conserve battery power I turn off the inverter which is the part of the system that converts the 12 volt battery voltage to the 120/240 house voltage. There is some power being used just to power the inverter so to maximize the battery power I’ll turn off everything and use a flashlight at night.
What I do need is to keep my refrigerator running, some lights on when needed but I also use flashlights a lot versus flipping on lights. I try to not use the generator hardly at all since it’s one of the least efficient ways to have alternate energy.
Here are a few pictures of my system. It was fun to build and I got everything I needed online. I also learned a lot and plan to expand my system over time. Hope this helps you to consider cutting back on your electric bill and the use of fossil fuels.
Be Prepared - Be Grateful
Roof mounted solar panels and wind turbine setup.
Inverter, controller, battery pack, & dump bucket.
The dump bucket I made using a common bucket and two 12v water heater elements.