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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

frugal living 20


FRUGAL LIVING 20

UTILITIES

ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES

CONTINUED

I know that the ongoing doctrinal brainwashing these days is that you should never ever, EVER watch television but instead go down to Bobby-Lee’s Super Ninja Training School and learn some rockem sockem martial arts to balance your center ( wash on, wash off ) or learn some old timey skills to save money or garden to be healthier or whatever.  And none of that is necessarily a bad thing ( although some believe American martial arts are close to worthless and not much more than guys ballet, or at least in the beginning years ), but I can learn that crap AND watch an hour of TV at night.  Not because there is a whole lot of good stuff on-it is usually a fight to avoid a reality show or singing-but because after four to seven hours of reading and an hour of writing, my damn brain needs to relax.  I rarely read fiction, so while I’m being entertained because I only read what interests me, it is still learning.  I need to turn my brain to mush to counter that.  Moderation in all things, from work to play.  So, from the start I wanted a travel or camping TV.  But the decently priced $30 black and white five inch TV I had in storage was the old analog signal.  The only good it ever did me was to use as a base I strapped my new digital flat screen TV to ( I did find a trash picked WatchMan with a two inch screen but it got one channel, poorly, and this was about the time the switchover to digital became mandatory and the analog signals were retired so that didn’t last long and was no big loss ). 

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And of course, I would never dream of paying $30 a month for a satellite dish.  For one thing, it’s a two year contract and ever since the Internet got started up and I got roped into one of those ( at the time, the only way to get an unlimited minutes package ) I refuse to ever do so again ( don’t even get me started on cell phone contracts, were you keep picking and choosing between companies for the privilege of getting screwed a tiny bit less ).  And more importantly, it uses friggin 50 watts an hour pulling down the signal.  Then, after I’ve humped myself with a contract, had to buy more solar panels, then I still have to watch just as many commercials as I do on broadcast stations?  Who the hell ever thought cable or satellite was a good idea?  A nation of morons, I’d imagine ( who love those sports packages- sports who you subsidize through taxes ).  I’ll take my $50 rooftop antenna  any old day of the week.  I still get 20 channels, no sports but one Latin and one country music so almost as bad ( the one great part about digital signal is the extra channels, but you have got to love 70’s shows or there won’t be a lot to pick from ).  And the antenna doesn’t draw any juice.  The TV, 12 watts. 

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Like we saw with the 12v refrigerator, just because something says travel, 12v or the like doesn’t mean you can indiscriminately use them.  Some draw a lot of power.  You still need to know the watts you draw compared to the watts your panels produce.  Never ever take the stated watts from a panel seriously.  Subtract 10% for Real World Application.  AND a few percent for the cost of charging the battery.  If you have a AC power appliance, like a DVD player or a pair of hair clippers or even your computer, when you turn on that inverter, expect it to use up 10% extra of what you are drawing.  So a 30 watt panel is delivering 22 watts while your 30 watt appliance is using 33.  That’s what the battery is for, right?  To draw more juice than what the panels produce, which you replace later ( how else do you get light at night? ).  Just beware the true electrical cost.  And in the winter, the sun delivers even less to the panel- my best guess is about half that in summer.  So your 30 watt panel is really only a 12 or so in winter, less any battery performance degradation and inverter use.  But even with all that, remember that you are getting free electricity from the sun.  Okay, $3 a year per 30 watt panel and about $3 a month per battery.  The bigger price is you must relearn how to use the stuff, from just thoughtlessly flipping a switch to always calculating how much you are going to get the next day.  My feelings are that I’m not bound to a corrupt utility company, nor am I bound to a greedy municipality which basically thrives by enslaving all those who “need” to be hooked up to utilities, so the price of using less appliances is easily the correct decision.  I look at city living like it was living in a trailer park.

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Before I moved to my own land, $125 a month for four years ( plus a lot of my tax returns ), I lived five years in a trailer park which was about $325 a month.  Fifteen grand for five years, over twice the price of my land ( true, a five minute walk commute from the park, but that was still a stiff price ).  Why?  Because I was on city utilities.  There was almost no ground devoted to our parking space-you could actually hit your neighbor if you spit out the window.  Fifteen grand to have a hookup to AC electric, city water and a sewer connection.  So now, I have 12v electricity with limited appliances, a composting toilet and I haul water in jugs on my bike.  And I save $3k a year.  Half of my pay, saved, by foregoing extra appliances.  True, an hour and a half commute daily, but that is exercise to keep me healthy.  I’m fifty, I need to stay fit or I’ll decline faster than Rome after 400 AD.  So the commute is just a side benefit, not a cost. 

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Get plenty of extra panels to stay in lighting regardless of what the weather does, first and foremost.  Bright overhead lighting is one of the best things you can do to feel you are living rather than camping.  After that, any electrical appliance is just gravy, a luxury.  Trust me, going from camping/squatting when you first go off grid where you live primitive until you recover from a traditional debt serf existence, any extra appliance will be a treat and appreciated. 

You won’t feel you are depriving yourself, but pampering yourself.  I know, now, you are thinking of giving up your wall size TV to move to the boonies, your big fridge, your Fry Daddy, your thumping stereo, all will be too sorely missed.  Go camping for a month, and the most pathetic comparable appliances will be manna from heaven afterwards.

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15 comments:

  1. Scrounge some mirrors, any shape, and place them behind and around your lamps, to amplify what you already have.

    Get some 8.5x11 vinyl fresnel lenses at the dollar store and put them on your solar panels. You can also angle some mirrors around the panels too. Double what you're getting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aren't the frensel lenses going to start a fire?

      Delete
  2. I am not much for fiction either, but check out the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Childs. It even has an army MP theme you may enjoy.

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  3. Lord James, what make/model TV do you have drawing 12 watts. I have a 26" LED that is labeled 110 watts. Inquiring minions want to know. If this is a duplicate please delete. Had log in issues.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just look under "12v TV" at Amazon. My make/model isn't selling anymore. If that doesn't work "travel TV" or "portable TV". It is tough to find out the watt draw, so be careful if you order. What you can do is go online to a trucker equipment place, get the stats on a TV.

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    2. OK, what size is yours? I'm guessing some type of LED flat screen? Color? Where I am at in the boonies if we get another Katrina we are looking at up to 2 months without power. I don't plan on running a genny much if any. I may eventually go fully off grid or have too. Thanks.

      Delete
    3. A 7", flat screen, color, digital reception with coax cable hook up. I had a heck of a time finding the biggest screen for the lowest wattage. $150 at the time, an inexcusable luxury, now they are half that price.

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  4. The mirrors on panels has been tried....and Drastically lowers the life of the panels. I had 624 watts of them I bought about 15 years ago, didn't work very well, and was glad to get rid of them.
    http://forum.solar-electric.com/forum is a very good forum to learn about solar. Most questions asked here have been answered many many times there.

    I am working on about $100 per month of battery cost and it keeps getting cheaper as the months roll by. I bought used and for just over scrap value. I can store about $6.50 worth of electricity. It saves propane. I have 12 VDC, 48 VDC, 110 VAC, and 220 VAC. Not roughing it too bad for being off-grid! Still have 30 more months of mortgage, but you pick your battles.

    I do lots of things you are not supposed to do while off-grid. I use auto batteries that I got for $2.00 over scrap to run LED lighting. When it goes I'm out an extra $2.00, no big deal. Lots of creative ways to go about this. The batteries are an issue and I have a deal with a battery company that is the last stop before they go to the smelter. I brought them cookies for 12 weeks and then IT happened. Stationary batteries showed up. WoW! 1040 Amp Hours and in 2 volt cells. These monsters weigh 146 pounds each. I ought to write up a little post for you about my off-grid electrical experience if you are interested.

    MOFreedom

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I think all the minions would appreciate a tutorial on your "like on-grid" solar. I'll always be a bare bones, so they can use your experience to placate the hair dryer wife

      Delete
  5. Many solar panels will be killed by Fresnel lens focused on them in bright sunlight. The temps possible exceed melting asphalt. Fire is a real risk with sun concentrators. You can get away with a single reflector behind the panels (4x8 sheet painted white, or metal), esp. in the dark winter PNW. The reflector might be hinged to be able to protect the panel from hail, if you get some warning.

    pdxr13

    ReplyDelete
  6. So, I bought a 12V renogy panel from Amazon (linked through you and your fabulous hair).

    The panel in full sun runs at 22Volts. Which I think is bumped up so that they can make their 25-year warranty of achieving 85% of rated capacity after that time.

    But, the problem is that 22Volts actually exceeds the ratings on the charge controller that comes with it, so I actually had to install a voltage regulator upstream of the charge controller to keep the 12V batter charging at only 15Volts. Uggh..

    Stupid Chinese crap. And the first voltage regulator didn't work (chinese knockoff that *looks* like something that would work, just without all those complex integrated circuits and potentiometers that actually do something other than spin....

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I don't use any cheapo looking controller that comes with the panel. I get the $20 one sold seperate. Both are going strong years later. As are my Chinese panels. Luck of the draw? I do appreciate your Amazon purchase, believe me. MANY books I still must buy.

      Delete
  7. So I started out with nothing, absolutely nothing at my camp in the woods, just a makeshift canvas tent made with an old tent frame and some cotton dropcloths that winter. I only had a flashlight. No amenities whatsoever. Pedaled in and out on a ballon tired bike. Snowshoed in 2 miles with a sled and my belongings in winter. I graduated to wind-up radios and lanterns. I must have killed over 3 windup radios, but my arms got stronger. Then I put out those lawn solar lights. They worked well till winter hit and sun hours were down. Seven years later I feel like a privileged person with a small battery bank scavenged from the landfill and cheap harbor freight panels 90 watts total that can power computer, cellphone, a bunch of tiny chargers for AAA,s and D,s, my portable drill,a small radio and any other gadget I need. I do feel like total withdrawal from the grid is awesome and a challenge as you piece small things together to continue upgrading. You can really live with no power except your own if you have the will to want to change your life. Most people are too spoiled and have no inner fortitude. The exercise of going gridless for a day in those yuppie survivalists bootcamps is a crock. Books are the best entertainment going and I felt bereft of any pleasure when I left the camp for a spell and only had tv or computer at other crashpads.. Being alone with yourself is truly cathartic. Writing in a journal can piece together your transition to a nontechnical lifestyle. Its only after you have chosen to "lose" those distractions that you can start seeing what truly is a life worth living, the very heart of life.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Bravo. Now I feel all Yuppiefied I started out in RV luxury. :)

      Delete

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