Remote Controlled appliances--TVs,
VCRs, stereos and such that turn on when you push a button on the remote.
We've measured some TVs that use 6 watts (half an amp out of a 12-volt
battery) just sitting there waiting for you to push "ON" on the remote!
Refrigerators--normal, mass-market refrigerators waste huge amounts of power with both inefficient compressor motors and lack of insulation. A frost-free cycle adds a huge electric heating element every couple days to waste even more power.
Plug these appliances into switched power strips
and turn them on only when needed. Yes, this means you must get off
your butt to turn the TV on and off, and your VCR will never show the correct
time. But you'll save lots of power.
Use either a propane refrigerator or a
special energy-efficient refrigerator designed for remote power
systems, such as the SunFrost or VestFrost.
|Wall Warts--Those ubiquitous black
cubes that plug into your sockets. These force you to make 12 volt
DC power to charge your batteries, convert it to 110 volt AC with an inverter
(and with power loss), then they convert it back down to around 12 volts
DC (again at a loss). Plus they use power when your printer, charger,
laptop computer, etc. is not even on!
Incandescent Light Bulbs--These dinosaurs produce 90% heat and only 10% light. Halogen lights are only slightly better, but last much longer.
Electric heat in general--Despite
what the power company says in their advertisements, electricity is a very
poor, inefficient way to make heat if your home is not on the grid. This
goes for electric stoves, heaters, coffee makers, air conditioners, water
heaters, crock pots, deep fryers, etc. None of these should be included
in an alternatively-powered home. It does -not- apply to microwave
ovens, since they only operate for a few minutes per day, though
at high power draw.
| If possible, buy or make 12 volt DC converters for these
items (try Radio Shack's multi-voltage universal cigarette lighter adaptor)--then
you'll be converting 12 volt DC directly into whatever DC voltage you need
with very little loss. Also, you can at least plug all these warts
into a power strip so you don't use power when your item is turned
Use LED, flourescent and compact flourescent bulbs in most of
your lights, AC and DC. 120 volt AC versions are available at any
hardware store. Use 12 volt DC halogen bulbs instead of 12 VDC incandescants.
Flourescent and compact flourescent bulbs are available in12 volt DC versions
for a higher cost, since they are not common items at the local hardware
store. Try the new LED bulbs. Click
here to check out our efficient lighting page. See our
products page to order do it yourself kits for LED lights--they use
far less power and last 10 times as long as even compact flourescents!
(click here for home built LED lamp information)
Click here to see a solar-powered outhouse way up in the mountains!
|Phantom Loads--Any appliance that
draws power even when turned off. Includes the TVs and VCRs with
remotes mentioned above, anything that has a clock (microwave, clock radio),
and anything where you touch a button to turn on the power instead of just
flipping an old-fashioned switch, even such innoccous items as washing
City Slicker Habits-- We're not
joking here either. People who move to a remote area and expect to run
their solar-powered house the same way they did in town are in for a rude
surprise (ruined batteries). Those of you who have spent a year or
more reading by kerosene lamp or candle, hauling water in 5-gallon buckets,
and using a stereo powered by AA batteries will marvel at how wonderful
even a single solar panel and battery are--and will conserve power to keep
the system working for as long as possible!
|Again, use a power strip or wire a switch to the outlet where
such things are plugged in. Phantom loads also wreak havoc on inverters.
If the inverter is designed to shut down at night to save power, they will
keep it on. Buy a clock that runs on AA batteries instead of AC power.
Be aware of your power use at all times. Turn off the
light every time you leave the room. Early to bed, early to
rise for the whole family, at least in winter. In the bathroom,
if it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown flush it down.
Do all your power-intensive chores (vacuuming, washing machine, power tools,
water pumping) when the generator is running. Make your spouse and
kids pay attention too, even to the point that they call you "the Power
Ogre." Make your family generate their own power on a treadmill
or bicycle generator to watch TV or movies...at least until divorce
|Regular electric grid customers in our area can voluntarily pay more for their electricity in order to subsidize wind power plants in Northern Colorado. The concept has caught on quickly.|
©2000 by OTHERPOWER