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 Jill Florio BellaOnline's Frugal Living Editor

Converting to Solar - Small Scale Case Study

To continue on my path to moving to solar energy, I am exploring how much energy I use in my studio home each month. I want to get under 400 kWh a month, as my first goal. Right now I am at 550 kWh or so (that means kilowatt hours).

I also have been looking at the wattage draw of my appliances, lights and electronics. There are many tables listing common wattages for everything on the Internet (just Google "appliances watts"). You can also calculate watts by looking at the bottom of your appliance and finding the listing for the amps. take the amps number and multiply by 120. This will give you the watts drawn by that device.

Including a table fan, five CF bulb lights, a dorm fridge, my laptop and TV, I am personally using around 400 watts at any one time. I also use small spurts of 1000-1500 watts when running a microwave, hot plate, crockpot or coffeepot, space heater, etc.

I don't have a water heater or house furnace, which saves a lot of energy and money. I have a lot of work-around for heating water and the space, and my studio home is well insulated and tiny (under 200 square feet). I realize this situation is not applicable to everyone, but will still document my personal experiences for the record. :)

I am looking at getting three things to give me up to 1500 watts of power for free from the sun:

1. Solar panel to charge a deep cycle battery. Maybe one that can handle 15 watts to start with. These are around a \$85 dollars. I'd eventually move up to a second panel that can handle 60 watts and link them together (another \$160).

2. Deep cycle 'smart' battery that cannot be overcharged, holds a deep charge for a week at a time, and is sealed (no need to add water) - the most expensive item at around \$185. But getting a smart battery will save me from having to get a charge controller, so that is a good savings.

3. 1500-watt inverter at \$110, to convert the DC charge to AC. The one I have in mind has two AC outlets and one USB plug.

I also need a few cables to connect the battery to the panel, and the battery to the inverter.

Anyway, that is a feasible plan for me. For around \$400, that gives me free electricity for as long as the parts hold up.

I would have to be careful what things I run at one time, but that is not a problem. I am used to that from living in an RV, and also from renting out older homes where I tripped the circuits if I ran too many things at once.

For example, I would not be able to run the microwave and the coffeepot at once. That's really not a problem with proper planning. I could make the coffee and then pour it into a thermos to keep it hot, and then move over to use the microwave, hot plate or crockpot. Once I am done cooking, I could use a space heater or table fan to keep the air comfortable during the day or night.

It just takes a bit of brains to plan what you are doing, and it really does make you appreciate that energy is a commodity we are fortunate to have so readily.

Solar Setup Ideas from Amazon:

1500 Watt Power Inverter

Sealed Maintenance Free Deep Cycle Battery

Sunforce 15-Watt Solar Charging Kit

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