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Whether you live off the grid, or connected to the grid, there are a variety of solutions to help you deal with rising energy costs and reduce your bills including solar hot water, solar power and LED lighting .

Choosing a solar power system for your home or community group is a big decision.  You first need to conduct a full audit of all electricity use and work out how to shift your usage around so that you can both reduce your overall usage, and  level it out so that any peaks are easy to handle.

Hot water represents about 37% of household energy costs so it is amongst the highest individual constituents of your energy bill..

By installing a solar water system you will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also save up to 75% of your water heating costs.

A solar hot water system is designed to take the cold water from the bottom of the storage tank and pump it up to the insulated manifold of the solar collector, which passes through the heat exchanger.

It absorbs the heat and is returned back to the storage tank.

Most solar hot water systems use evacuated tubes which are round, unlike the flat panel systems, and are designed to track the sun for longer periods of the day, and at all times of year.

The system is easy to maintain and all parts work independently of each other. They tend to carry at least a 15-year warranty.

A solar power system is another great way to help you save money on your bill by generating electricity from the sun and can help reduce your carbon footprint.

A solar power system contains three major elements: solar panels, batteries,  and an inverter.

Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity and the inverter turns that electricity into a format usable in your home.

If you are connected any electricity you don’t use is sent to the grid (or your neighbours) to be used elsewhere.

At night when your panels can’t produce electricity, you draw your electricity from the electricity network if you are connectedy.

Solar power is safe, reliable and effective, requiring no moving parts.

It doesn’t emit any carbon dioxide, fumes or pollution, and the panels will typically produce power for at least 25-30 years.

In order to size any  system you are first going to have to calculate your electrical needs. Then you can have an intelligent conversation about what type of system or what size system you are going to need or how much it is going to cost.

All the experts agree on the top requirement –  simple and practical — a chart which lists all of your typical electrical appliances with their associated wattage and how much time you used each appliance each day.

Some appliances only listed amps not watts and there is a simple conversion formula for that. Watts = Volts X Amps. If your stereo is rated at 3 amps and you plug it into an 110v wall outlet then just multiply 3 x 110 = 330 watts! You will find most watts or amp ratings somewhere on the appliance tag. If not, look up the appliance online and pull up the specification sheet or just use something similar. Remember this is an estimate and not an exact accounting.

One typical user who went off-grid two years ago said: “We knew we needed something that produced at least 6 kWh per day in order to meet our needs/..If we were going to go with solar power this information would tell us how large an inverter, how many solar panels, and how large a battery bank would be needed. If we went with wind turbines it would tell us how large a turbine and also the inverter and batteries for that system. The same would apply to hydro.

Notice that what appliances you decide to go with affect this chart. You can see right away you had better switch from an electrical stove and oven to propane or gas or wood. By creating this chart, this is where you start making lifestyle decisions about how you are going to live, where you are going to live,

It’s a very exciting exercise because you get to choose. You get to choose where to draw the line in every category of living – food, water, and shelter.”

 

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site

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