Friday, August 8, 2008

Solar Powered Living and Crafting

I came across a blog a long time ago written by a woman who lives in Maine and makes jewelry and recycled paper crafts, which she sells on Etsy. But what made this artisan stand out in my mind was that she lives completely off-grid in a solar powered home.
Here is her story:

All of my handcrafted jewelry is made in my solar powered home in the Maine woods. My husband, step-daughter, and I have been living with solar power for 9 years now. There are no utility poles on our road whatsoever, and as we are a half-mile back, it wasn't a hard decision for us to "go green" and utilize the sun's rays to power our home.

Twelve photovoltaic (solar) panels, a 3600 watt power-inverter, and twelve 6-volt batteries now make up our system, along with various meters and controllers and lightening arrestors and circuit breakers. The value of which is somewhere around $15,000. If we were to have put in enough utility poles to reach our home, we would have been looking at over $20,000, not to mention the monthly electric bill. Almost all of the components of our solar system are guaranteed to produce their rated amount of power for 15-20 years! And of course most of it is still going to work after that.
So, even if we didn't have to pay to put in utility poles, we still would be saving money on our electricity by using solar power. If you take the cost of our system and divide it by even the low end of the rated spectrum-15 years-we're only paying $83.00 a month for our electric. And if you think about it, 15 years from now $83.00 is going to be less than it is today.

Plus, it's reliable! My mom still calls me when her power goes out to see if mine did too, "No Ma, my power doesn't go out, we make our own, remember?"

And it's good for the earth! We all live here, we've got no where else to go, so we better be good to the earth.

If you are thinking about solar power, but are scared by the thought of dishing out $15K, you don't have to do it all at once. Our homesteading adventure began with us living in a tent and we slowly built our house, and are still building it in fact! Just as we have built up our home, we built up our solar system. We started out with just a 12 volt light and a car battery we would swap with the one in our vehicle and use the alternator to recharge it as we drove to work. Quickly we progressed to a $40. power inverter and two second-hand solar panels. A lot of the things we have used to build our home and our solar system are second hand. As I said earlier, the equipment is guaranteed for 15-20 years and most of the stuff you can get used is only a few years old with plenty of life left.
We are pretty comfortable with the amount of electricity we make now. We haven't had to use the generator to charge the batteries in a couple of years, the solar panels we have are now adequate for that. And we never come near using the 3,600 watts we make with our inverter. But as we didn't always have this amount of power available to us, we have become used to living a little differently than most folks. For instance, we don't leave lights on unnecessarily, we make toast on the stove top in a dry pan, not in a toaster, etc. At this point we could use a hairdryer, a toaster, whatever, but we have just come so accustomed to not using these things and we actually prefer this simpler way of living.
I encourage anyone who's interested in becoming more green and reducing their carbon-footprint, or become more self-sufficient to power their home with solar. You won't be sorry you did.

I hope to one day live with off-grid power as well. It is good to hear it from someone who has been down this road already. If she can do it, maybe I can too!

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