Day 11.  A few posts ago, I told you I was going to try and setup a 200 watt solar panel system in my office windows.  Well I did, but it hasn’t worked so well.  The sun is currently a summer sun and very high in the sky.  So high, that the eves of my house block the sun from coming in the windows.  I’ll give it another try from September to March when the sun in lower in the southern sky.

Now that the 2-week test is winding down, my big question is what am I going to take away from this little experiment?  I believe the answer is how little it actually takes to live a “normal” life.  There is one big given, and that is a dry place to live and some way to heat it if it is cold outside.  I usually consider myself to be frugal, but this test has made me realize that I over-consume and in many ways waste resources.

Between my wife and I, we have 7 years of living in Europe.  Resources are not as plentiful there and basics like food, water, electricity, and gasoline are very expensive when compared to the US.  What I used to consider as austere living when I lived in Europe, I look at now as normal, sustainable, frugal living.  What I used to consider as normal living in the US, I now look at as excessive over-consumption.

Resources in the US are relatively inexpensive.  Leaving a light on in an empty room costs very little, so we don’t worry much about it.  Food is less expensive in the US than anywhere in the world.  Would it surprise you to know that one-third of the food Americans buy ends up being thrown away?  We also have become one of the fattest nations on earth because of our over-consumption of food, myself included.

I plan to make this test a jump-start in making me a more responsible consumer.  I was surprised about how little electricity we could get by on.  Having to check the power level of the battery banks before we turned something on, helped me question if using the power was really necessary.

One use of electricity that I really think we got a big bang for our buck was in lighting.  Besides flashlights with rechargeable batteries, we used lamps with either 17 watt compact florescent bulbs or 7.5 watt LED bulbs.  The CF bulbs were $.50 each the LED bulbs were $3 each.  Both provided plenty of light for a room.  At 7.5 watts, the LED light hardly caused any drain on our battery bank.  In fact, the power used by a 7.5 watt bulb being on for 1 hour was produced by our solar panels in less than 1 minute on a sunny day.

We bought our lamps for $8 each from IKEA.  They are actually floor lamps that can also be desk lamps by just leaving out 3 of the post sections.  They are really well built.  I honestly can’t believe how they manufacture, ship and sell them for $8.  You can hardly buy the wiring at other stores for $8.

Just a few pennies of light can make you feel quite normal in an emergency.


Day 11 and counting.


Ed Rogers
Copyright “Keep It Simple” 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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