So, in the process of adapting to our new, off-grid home, we have learned a few things. In no particular order:
1. We need 8 more batteries to bring our battery bank up to a total of 24. For the energy load we have, 16 batteries simply doesn't provide the storage capacity we need.
2. Turning an appliance (computer, stereo, etc.) off does NOT mean that it is no longer drawing electricty. Matter of fact, in most of the cases, it still IS drawing. You can eliminate this electrical waste by either installing on/off "light" switches for the outlets that computers/stereos are plugged into or plug them into a power strip that has been equipped with an on/off switch . . . and then turn the power strip off when you're done using the appliance. Obviously, the wall switch is easier, but it does require planning when designing a house.
3. Researching out (and then purchasing) super energy-efficient appliances really pays. We got an old, free "beer refrig" for out here in the garage this sumer, and yesterday - because the new appliances (refrig, upright freezer, and range) were delivered - I unplugged it. I had the energy usage digital read-out set to amperage so that I could see if it made a difference, and the numbers just PLUMMETED when I unplugged the ol' electricity-sucker.
Another little energy tidbit - our generator is set to run at 120 instead of 240, so our electrician needs to build a transformer for it. Therefore, until the transformer is installed, we can only charge at 1/2 the capacity as we will be able to once everything is 100% as it should be. Because of that and the wait on the extra 8 batteries, we are doing our best to conserve energy. Which, actually, isn't all that hard when you only have one outlet in the house. (So I don't overload the circuit with the new major appliances, I have run a super heavy-duty extension cord from the garage to the house and in a window to the refrig until the outlets in the house are installed and those circuits operable.)
But, back to conserving energy, the point is this: it's more than just turning off the lights in a room when you leave. In the mornings, I work downstairs because the natural light is strongest there then. In the afternoons, I work upstairs when I lose the downstairs light. I try to do all my computer work in one fell swoop - then I shut it down. (Vs. doing a little bit here and there throughout the day with the computer running all the time.) When we're nearing the last cups of coffee in the coffee pot in the morning, we turn the coffee pot off - shutting down the heating element. The coffee will stay hot enough until we're ready to pour our last cups. Last night, when Tom was in bed and I was enjoying my first bit of extravagant "down time" reading on the couch, the (electric) lamp was turned off, and I read by the light of two oil lamps. It was more than plenty to light the latest issue of 'Reader's Digest' and read about the latest conspiracy theories regarding Marilyn Monroe's death (it was Bobby Kennedy).
As a result of "living by the light", we find ourselves in bed MUCH earlier than we'd been when we had "normal" operating electricity. And, considering that it's dark by 7:30 and pitch-black by 8:00 these nights (before Day Light Savings Time kicks in again) . . . . Well, to illustrate: last night I was reading, as I'd said, on the couch by the light of an oil lamp. I got up to . . . use the facilities . . . and knew it must be late - 11:00 PM or so - I was so exhausted. It was 8:45.
Tom's home, and the dogs and I are going to take a walk down to see the progress on the logging site now that evening has cleared (much-needed) rain clouds from the sky, and it promises to be absolutely beautiful tomorrow. Then, back in for dinner. More later.