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Tips for being Self-Sufficent
Here are a few basic guidelines, along with some product recommendations that we carry, we hope you find useful in becoming Self-Sufficent in which the benefits include...
Where to start? Well let's look at your monthly bills and find out where all that money is going to pay for what.
Below is a breakdown in categories of common monthly energy consumers and suggestions for ways to reduce or eliminate these expenses.
2 to 3KW solar photovoltaic system if managed correctly can supply your homes electrical needs. With energy trust incentives you can put together an expensive system for a fraction of the cost. If you can't afford much now you can always start with a smaller system of less panels and batteries and add more later, just make sure your charge controller and inverter capacity is high enough to plan for future expansion and use. Not to mention that you can sell back your extra and get a check from the local power company if you produce more than you use.
Example using160 watt panels
12 panels = 1920 watts
18 panels = 2880 watts
A well pump can consume a bit of power. If your well is far from your house you might look into a Grunfos SQFlex system which can operate remotely using a few solar panels or even a wind generator with an option of running on 110VAC as backup. An elevated water storage tank can also reducing pumping power requirements and the gravity is free!. It's also recommended in your pump house to use a large bladder tank rather than a small to reduce the number of startups your pump has to make to reduce power consumption and pump wear.
The refrigerator is one of the biggest energy consumers. Sunfrost refrigerators consume less than 1/5 the amount of power normally used. For example the model RF16 consumes less than 120 watts when running. They come in 110VAC 12 VDC and 24 VDC systems. Note the DC systems take a little less power.
Insulation here is very important so that you keep that heat outside. Air conditioners can drive your electric bill during the summer months through the roof. The nice thing about solar is the sunnier it gets the more power you have. If your area is low enough in humidity such as in Southern Oregon, a SolarChill evaporator cooler such as the 24VDC 2424HP model is around $1000 and does 4000 CFM which is enough for a 1000 square feet space in a home and only consumes 90 to 200 watts max. I recommend getting the speed control option to reduce water usage and adjust for comfort. Other benefits include drawing in fresh air from outside, yet filtering pollutants and pollens.
Insulation again is your best bet to make the most of whatever heating you use isn't lost through your walls. Radiant Floor system is the most comfortable and efficient way to heat a home. Not only can a radiant floor provide heating (and to a smaller degree cooling in the summer) but it will take care of your hot water needs utilizing a wood boiler and supplemented with solar water heating. The second choice for low cost house heating would be with an efficient wood stove with insulation being the first thing to do.
Again utilizing a wood boiler and supplemented with solar water heating can eliminate costly electric or LPG water heating costs. Water heating with a traditional water heater can be very wasteful as it must maintain a useful hot water temperature 24 hours a day, whether or not you need it. With a Tankless Water Heater you only heat the water with expensive LPG fuel only when you need it. If you utilize a storage tank with solar and wood heating options you may never need to fire up the tankless heater at all.
Before you haul to the dump your every appliance that uses electricity for heating. Let's take a look at what your power requirements are. First I recommend investing $30 in one of these handy power meters called Kill-a-Watt.
You can purchase one from smarthome or sometimes Radioshack carries them.
Get out a pad of paper and go room to room in your house and track down everything appliance that you have plugged in and put it on the list. Plug the appliance into the Kill-a-Watt and write down the amount of power in watts it consumes when switched on and also make a note of any power consumption occurring when it is switched off. When an appliance consumes power when switched off, it is called a "Shadow Load". You can eliminate these Shadow Loads by switching the power to the appliance. One convenient way is by using remote X10 or Insteon modules or simply use an inexpensive power strip with a switch. Make sure you don't miss anything on your list that uses power.
Next look a which ones are your biggest energy consumers and how often you use them. For example a hair dryer or microwave oven can use 1500 watts of power. That's a lot but you only use them for a few minutes so they are not a concern. The items that use over 100 watts for 24 hours a day are more of a concern.
Below are some replacement recommendations for some of the common higher power consuming appliances.
Cooking Stove/Oven - Use a gas stove for cooking, even at fuel's high price it's comparatively less than electric to cook food. (Free Energy Alternative for the sunny months is a solar cooker).
Washer/Dryer - Look for the EnergyStar label rating and use a gas dryer. (Free Energy Alternative for the sunny months is an old fashioned clothes line with the added benefit of UV radiation and Negative Ions).
Lighting - Compact fluorescent's take hardly any power and are even available now to use with dimmers. In certain areas you may want to consider Full Spectrum to support the health benefits which research has shown in the effects of the light spectrum (Free Energy Alternative for year round lighting during the day are low-E sky lights).
Television - The new LCD televisions have dropped considerably in price and are gorgeous, they also take a fraction of power and as a side benefit produce no radiation as in the old tube televisions. By far the best choice even if you had free power.
Computer - If you have a notebook computer, they are already optimized to consume very little power, usually under 60 watts. If you use a notebook a lot, use a notebook stand so that you will have the same benefit of a home computer using proper ergonomics. If your power meter measures that you have a power hungry processor in your home computer, the next time you upgrade look into using a new energy efficient processor such as a Pentium M which uses a fraction of the power. And of course replace that CRT screen with and LCD screen to be easier on the eyes at a lot less power consumption. By the way if you've got to have a fast web connection then get broadband and you can use that connection to save also on your phone bill by changing your phone service to a lot less expensive web base VOIP (Voice Over IP).
Music/Entertainment - As you will find out on the power meter, most music entertainment systems are fairly energy efficient, if they are not, it's probably worth the extra power to you so you can listen to your favorite tune full blast anyway.
Occasional Use Appliances - These include hair dryers, microwaves, food mixers, etc. All of these are not a problem since the duration of their use is short.
Transportation - Well if you could by an Electric Car with a solar system you could make trips into town and back with no gas fill ups. Unless you are using bio diesel or other non petroleum based fuel you're not really left with much options other than Hybrids, or riding a bicycle. Let's hope that changes soon.