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5 Ways to Begin Switching to Solar Today
One of our goals here on our little modern homestead is to switch to solar/wind power….eventually.
Have you seen the price of a solar power system? Just one decent panel is not really within my budget and to be able to switch over our house as it is now to solar? It would never happen! $$$$ 🙁
We’ve done a fair amount of research over the years about making the switch. Even though it’s in our future and it’s pretty easy to see that it’s a step by step process and not something that you can do all at once. But as each piece of the puzzle fits together we can begin to see how solar or wind power can be a reality in our future as it can be for yours.
It’s all about taking one LITTLE step at a time and today I’m going to share some of those steps with you. Things that you can start working on today!
If you are looking to take small steps towards simple living, I would highly recommend my workbook, 31 Days to Simpler Living to get you started. It contains steps that anyone can take (no matter where you live) to get on the path to a simpler life.
1. Start with becoming aware of what you are actually using for power. You can’t know what to switch over to alternative power sources if you don’t know what all needs electricity to run in your home.
You can’t know what to switch over to alternative power sources if you don’t know what all needs electricity to run in your home.
Now, by this I don’t mean that you need to know simply what appliances you have in your home…you need to become aware of all of the little things that take up all of the electricity, not just the big things. For this research I recommend using a Kill A Watt. The Kill A Watt is a simple device that you plug into an outlet and then you plug your appliances (or anything with a plug) into the Kill A Watt. By pushing a button it will tell you how many watts the device is using. By learning that information you can then estimate how many kilowatt hours the appliances is using per month and how much the device draws as a total. (These are the night lights I’ve pictured above. They are really nice to keep in the bathrooms at night and take almost no wattage to run.)
If you want to, take it a step further by multiplying that kilowatt number by what your electric company charges per kWh and you will then know exactly how much that device is costing you per month. Sometimes this number is a little scary!
Do this research on every item in your house that you have plugged in, even items that are constantly plugged in, like a laptop or tablet. You might be surprised at the items that are drawing power without even being turned on. You may realize that you have more things that are drawing electricity than you really need to have on or plugged in and you may find items that are drawing an exorbitant amount of power that you could do without or replace with a lower power item. Having this knowledge is a big step on switching over to solar or wind power.
2. Start with small things that can take batteries.
Maybe you have a few things within your home that you currently have plugged in but they could run off battery power instead. But battery prices can add up so you’ve decided to plug them in rather than use the battery option. It’s time to change the way you think about running those items!
You can pick up a simple solar battery charger on Amazon. This one is nice because it can charge all sizes of rechargeable batteries. We’ve started with this one that only does AA and AAA batteries because that’s mostly what we use at the moment. Amazon also carries quite the array of rechargeable batteries so you should be able to find several sets that are affordable. Right now we have 20 AA rechargeable batteries. That has been enough to supply us for what we are currently using as well as enough to have a few extras on hand without having to wait to charge those that we are currently using.
We use our rechargeable batteries with our weather radio (We have this Sangean Weather Radio) and with our white noise machine (We have this one from Homedics and it does take batteries.), and our walkie-talkies. Any additional small appliances that I will purchase I will be checking that it can take batteries first since now that basically costs me nothing to run.
This is a really easy and inexpensive way to start removing many of your items from the grid and as a bonus, you won’t have to pay for electricity to run them anymore!
Keep the Lights On
3. Start with some simple solar lanterns.
Of course, lighting is more important in the winter when the days are shorter so it’s hard to think about this much right now. We’ve had solar lanterns for quite some time now as I purchased them several years ago for some basic emergency preparedness. Learning to get used to using solar lanterns can be helpful now. Even if you have some overhead lights in your home powered by alternative power eventually, the lanterns can really help cut down on your overall energy consumption.
Of course, I haven’t tried out all of the solar lanterns on the market, but our favorites are the lights from d.light. We’ve used them for many years now and feel that they are well worth the low price for the quality that you get. We have a few of the lanterns, one of the task lights, and the large light and cell phone battery charger. If I had to pick a favorite I would go with the large light/battery charger. We like the amount of light that it puts off and I love that it has the dual purpose of charging your cell phone.
4. Make things really inconvenient.
Yes, I still have a microwave. No, I don’t like that we still have it but it makes warming up a quick lunch really convenient. As part of our steps towards solar power, I want to make these things that we are using but don’t really need, very inconvenient and defeat their own purpose of being a convenience item. Once they’ve become something that I’m rather annoyed to use, I’m more likely to stop using it or find an alternative to use in its place.
So for the microwave I’ve simply gone ahead and unplugged it. I still use it now and then, but plugging it in is inconvient and rather annoying so I definately have slowed my usage to about once a day. Plus I’m saving a bit of money because since my microwave has a clock on it, it’s not constantly drawing “phantom electricity” Bonus 🙂
What are some things that you have in your life to simply make it convenient?
One of my real struggles is the slow cooker. I just love that thing. It makes cooking a meal so easy and convient! But leaving an appliance on all day isn’t the best use of my wattage. So I’ve started using my dutch oven (on my propane powered stovetop) instead, except for the days that we are gone to town for most of the day. I also use it when I’m making broth.
Convenience items are hard to cut out. As you already know, the simple life isn’t really “simple”, and convience items can make life a little easier. Like everything else, it’s something that takes baby steps. You will have to continue to keep your ultimate goal in mind.
The Big Stuff
5. Start considering what you might do with your larger appliances.
You need to think about what you might do with those appliances that are your major power draws such as your fridge, freezers, oven, washer/dryer, etc. Don’t think you can live without any of these items? You may not have to…well, not exactly. Like I mentioned with the other items in this article, it just may be more about how you think of them. I will give you some examples of how we are working through these issues in our own home.
I love my clothes washer, I really do. I have no desire to wash my clothing by hand. I did that when we lived in an RV and it just did not work very well. Washing clothing was ok, washing towels and sheets was nearly impossible. So for the time being I’m not getting rid of my washer but I have changed the way we’ve used it.
We are now down to only 3 loads of laundry per week, with each load only lasting 15 minutes and we are only using the dryer once per week and we do not hang out laundry outside (because of allergy issues). It’s crazy what is possible when you really put your mind to it! I hope to have a full blog post up soon of how exactly we are doing this new laundry routine because it’s too detailed to add to this article for now. 🙂
I’m also having my hubby build me a solar oven. I’m also *hoping* to replace my fridge soon with a converted freezer. Once we complete those projects I will have more blog posts that I will link to here as well. I’ve got some goals for next year to work on building a solar greenhouse and a solar livestock tank heater. I think once you start working on the solar DIY projects it’s very hard to stop!
Which large appliances can you change your habits within your home? Which do you think you could live without and how do you go about making that change?
By the numbers…
I’m a numbers person. Are you? If so, you might be looking at the items I’ve outlined above and want how much it would cost you to do all of these changes today.
So for the small battery charger, rechargeable batteries, the Kill A Watt, and a solar lantern (currently) is:
I don’t think that’s bad at all considering how many items are on this list that you can begin changing. Plus, you will start shaving money off your electricity bill when you are using things less. You will probably make that money back in no time flat!
Why is it important to switch to an alternative power by taking baby steps? Because big changes are hard to stick with. I’m not ready to not have a refrigerator at all, and I probably never will be. But by changing the way I use things, the way I do things, and the way I think about things, I can slowly adjust myself and my family to these changes as we move towards our ultimate goal of getting off the grid.
It’s not going to happen overnight. And I really don’t want it to. It would be too much all at once and we would have a hard time sticking to the new lifestyle. It’s exactly the same method that we used when we were beginning to live a simpler life. We followed several baby steps that moved us closer and closer to that goal without really thinking much of it.
Do you feel like these steps are doable for you? Are you working towards alternative energy sources?