Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Bit by Bit
I have a confession. Sometimes we forget that we are off-grid. We leave a light on here and a printer on there. We stand with the fridge door open and leave the tumbler (for cleaning brass) on all night. And then the days shorten and the skies become cloudy, hampering our ability to produce electricity and charge batteries. At first, we don't notice but go on living the electrical high life. Then, suddenly, seemingly without warning, we are thrust into utter darkness. Our batteries are exhausted and we are rudely awakened to the fact that we are, indeed, an off-grid family.
Over the years, our electrical usage has increased bit by bit. When we first wired our "shouse" to generator power we were thrilled with one fluorescent light fixture. Of course a second light followed the first and soon our home was flooded with light. What a wonder!
After adding a few solar panels, we thought we had it made. We bought a computer and hooked up a printer. We would turn it on for special occasions but were careful never to leave it on for long. A television, dvd player and electric tea kettle followed. Soon, a microwave found a home in our kitchen, as did a Bosch mixer, a grain grinder and a blender.
Eventually, we put in a large solar array and were quite positive that we would never be able to use as much power as we generated. We started behaving like normal people, having every room in the house lit, leaving the computer on all day and watching movies whenever we wanted to.
But alas, it was not to last. We found, that although we do make a lot power (at least in the summertime), we have become complacent with our conservation. We now use more power than we make. To make matters worse, our battery bank is aging and no longer has the capacity to store the power that we do make. Rolling blackouts have now become our new reality.
There is a silver lining in our situation. We are being reminded that we off the grid. We are reevaluating our priorities and bringing our electrical usage back into line with the amount of electricity we can realistically produce and store. We are turning off lights, shutting down the computer and not watching movies.
It is amazing how things creep up on you. We have found that we really have to be disciplined in all areas of our lives. If we make more power, we will use more power. If we make more money, we will spend more money. Bad habits begin in little, easily excused ways, but little by little, they take over our lives and eventually thrust us into darkness.
And so, we will once again use only the power that we can make. We will tighten our belts and remember that we are "off-the-grid".