Squeezing those photons, that’s what I call it when we don’t have much power. Our solar system is small, and most of the time, it holds us pretty well, we usually have an abundance of sunshine, and as typical in Texas, even on those overcast days, the sun often shines for a while during the day.

Much of this winter, we have had an abundance of overcast, rainy days, the moisture, it’s absolutely something we need, I’m not complaining about that, but when we have days and weeks that feel more like the Pacific Northwest, well it’s hard on my solar system, and on me.

I have seen more days with single and double blinks on my charge controller, it goes to 5 blinks then a solid green when the batteries are full. Having days and days of low charging is very hard on the batteries. So when this happens, we have to fall back to low power consumption. One of the things we did that made a huge difference was pushing the freezer-fridge conversion outside to the front porch.

Being out there, in the freezing and sub-freezing temps made it so that it rarely kicks on, therefore not draining the batteries, that is our biggest energy hog, but it works so efficiently, it doesn’t use up much power.

One of the things I do, frequently is I check the weather to see if we are going to get sunshine or not, and how cold the temps are going to be, my ideal is clear skies and cold temps, that is my perfect day.

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Fortunately my solar panels do generate some power in overcast days, not as much as it would if the sun were shining through, and the fact that we can manually tilt the solar panels from the east to the west, that also helps catch a few extra rays.

Today, after another week of cloudy days, we had some sun, it was enough to get us to 2 blinks, we are supposed to have more sun tomorrow, hopefully we will charge up even more, though the day will be a little warmer, so the fridge will kick on a little more. PB told me that the fridge only ran 2X yesterday and it was a fairly warm day.

I like the fridge on the porch, it’s not too far out of reach, it’s not in the way, it has cleared some floor space inside the Sky Castle, it isn’t contributing to or competing with the temps inside the house, I think we will leave it out there.

Another way I have used less power is to use my tablet instead of my laptop, even though the laptop doesn’t use much power, the tablet uses even less. I’ve also been doing things on the tablet that doesn’t require the internet, like reading books (I LOVE the free ebooks on Amazon), I downloaded all the Kindle books on to my tablet so I could read off line.

Tonight, the Superbowl was on, we don’t have TV but have been able to watch the Superbowl game most every year we have been here, I was able to get the game streaming on my tablet, so we watched the game all the way through without using much power. I wouldn’t have done that but we had a day and a half of mostly sunny skies so we had more of a charge than we had before.

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Of course there are the obligatory power saving methods that every off gridder should use, using low wattage lights (CFL and LED), using power strips that can be shut off, that keeps down the phantom loads, our chest freezer to fridge (that one is HUGE for power savings!)…

I am planning on replacing our current solar panels with bigger, more efficient panels, that will make a big difference with the charging ability of our system.

We are looking forward to warmer days (with cool nights) and longer days-more hours of sunshine, I’m looking forward to seeing 4-5 blinks then solid green most of the time. With the winter being so wet, I wonder how our summer rainy season will be…

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