Monday: 17 October 2005
First, I think Don has once again placed the appropriate financial damper with a calculation of cost and return, and has convinced me that we can expect no recoup on system cost (in fact, we can expect periodic maintenance costs). That leaves us with the issue of whether or not to spend the money and take on the maintenance solely for the purpose of being independent of external electricity for obtaining water. (Remember that we don’t have publically supplied water here; it comes out of a very deep drilled well.)
Had the estimates of cost remained the same, I’d be tempted to go for it anyway, but DPR made some relevant comments that I have been looking at for the last couple of days. Glenn found pump and controller specs for the current AC well pump: 1 HP (746 watts), 230v is the pertinant info. This requires a somewhat larger battery than I’d chosen, and probably a larger panel. Maybe more important is the power surge that DPR mentioned: for this pump the power surge could be more than 100 amps for a few seconds on startup. All this together means a MUCH higher power inverter, 2500 watts, than I’d chosen, at MUCH higher cost - at least $1000 higher. Replacing the perfectly good AC pump with the necessary DC pump, would cut out the inverter requirement, but itself runs about the same cost.
Interestingly in all this, the cost of the solar panel is not so much at issue as the 5-10x additional costs of all the supporting components. In any event, the cost considerations seem to outweigh benefit obtainable by other means (e.g., a fossil fuel powered generator for short term emergencies - shudder).
Looks like margaritas and nachos on the back deck instead, Don, with plenty of aspirin for those headaches!
Ontario Wanderer - email - url
Given that the cost of pulling water up from underground is so high, perhaps it’s time to think of grabbing it before it gets below the ground. What we have here, and what is now being done in several places in Africa, are working cisterns. Water that falls on our barn and on one side of our house is directed into a cistern or holding tank just under the ground. Every time it rains the water supply is replenished. Even though we went for almost two months without rain early this summer, we had water for plants and our animals that came from the cisterns. I understand, from a recent CBC radio show, that farmers from Prince Edward Island donated money for plastic cisterns in Kenya that, having been installed have totally changed one very dry area into an oasis of gardens. We just have a bucket on a rope to get our water out of the cistern so we are not electricity dependent. We do also have a pump that is attached to a hose for times when electricity is available.
Monday: 17 October 2005 @ 05:32:22
Karen - email - url
We went on a solar homes tour recently, and I must admit to being a little dismayed. In my mind I had thought solar could do so much more. Dagnabit. The people we saw living totally off grid had no air conditioning. Propane fridges, dim lighting, etc. I must be shallow. But I really like air conditioning.
My dream house would need a whole field of solar panels. And that would cost more than the house I guess.
Monday: 17 October 2005 @ 08:20:06
dread pirate roberts - email - url
surely it would take only a small solar pv setup to power a blender. maybe some sort of stationary bike arrangement for blender power. i remember long, long ago in a distant galaxy putting ice in a towel and smashing it with a hammer to make crushed ice for margaritas. see ya on the deck. no aspirin for me, thanks.
Monday: 17 October 2005 @ 12:32:59
Wayne - email - url
OW, it’s a good point collecting roof runoff. We actually do have all our gutters connected to an outlet into a 2000 gallon pond (it started out as a cistern but then I thought, well, why not?). The water isn’t drinkable without treatment, but coming off the roof it wouldn’t be either. I am looking at the idea of a parabolic trough reflector to heat the water for “gray water” use. And we do use it for watering of plants.
TF, that Babylonian umbilical seems to be tied in a bunch of Gordian Knots.
Karen, I myself love a hot shower and ceiling fans and refrigerator and freezer and washing machine and all those umbilical things. I do think it’s possible to minimize use, but I don’t want to live in a house such as you describe either.
DPR, one crushed-ice margarita coming up.
Tuesday: 18 October 2005 @ 05:22:10
Karen - email - url
I put a few pics of the solar homes tour on my blog so check it out. It’s an intentional community, and they do have a group freezer that is powered from the grid. I guess you just can’t do AirCon and freezers with solar.
Tuesday: 18 October 2005 @ 08:16:54
Walter Jeffries - email - url
Keep thinking about how to do it. If we do get a pandemic as is being predicted then being able to generate a little electricity might be very nice. Not for big things like air conditioning.
Tuesday: 18 October 2005 @ 22:19:14
Wayne - email - url
True, Walter. I am taking that very seriously - I was blogging about it over a year ago. I’m also concerned about the implication of the increase in oil prices, quite apart from Katrina. I’ve no intention of being dependent on external help during a pandemic - look where that got a lot of good people down south a few weeks ago. My basic mantra is buy nothing that can’t be used when we all get a good laugh at how wrong we were. So I’m holding off on the propane stove, but making sure we have required medicines, first aid kits, food and household items for 90 days, batteries, water source, plenty of wood. I’ve been bending over backward to try to rationalize an active solar system but the cost hasn’t quite made it up into the other priorities (a bicycle is also on my list).
AC - I went without it all summer and it’s not such a big deal. All it does is inhibit you from going outside. Of course, I was using ceiling fans a lot!
So my main rationale has not been so much to save money as to buy peace of mind.
Tuesday: 18 October 2005 @ 22:50:41