Solutions for Self-Reliance

Here’s The Best Ways to Use Solar Electricity and How


Much to my dismay, and likely yours, solar electricity is still expensive. Fortunately, solar technology is getting less expensive very quickly.

Unfortunately, the combination of these factors means that it’s tough to justify making a major investment right now.

So, what should you do?  One solution is to only use solar electricity in high value situations.

Here are three resilient situations that can justify the use of solar photovoltaics:

  • Remote.
  • Emergency.
  • Mobile.

Fortunately, these are also situations when do-it-yourself installations make a lot of sense.

Here’s a great example from Greg Seaman. Greg needed some power to run a refrigerator and a laptop computer at his off-grid home (e.g. a remote application).

To do that, he bought and installed:

  • A single 120 watt solar panel on his roof (it was in shade during only a short period of the day).   ~$400
  • A charge controller.  Basically, this device automatically adjusts the amount of power going to the home’s batteries.  Many models also have an LED light that tells you if you are low on power and need to back off on your use of it.  ~$90
  • Three six volt golf cart batteries wired in series for 12-volts (with one as backup).  ~$400   These batteries were installed in a well vented wooden box.

Greg used the DC power for a DC powered refrigerator and he used a simple DC to AC inverter (~$30) for his laptop and other devices.  Here are some pictures of the install (you can find more detail, as well as some interesting products, at his site).

All told, the installation took a day of work and $1000 to accomplish.

If you have a similar DiY energy story that you would like to share, send it in (with pictures) and I’ll get it posted.

Last but not least,  here some feedback on last week’s RC letter on how garden allotments can transform an apartment building or a community.

Rob writes:

I own an apartment building in xxx, right next to downtown, and this year I did a little tiny quick and dirty garden to see if the tenants liked it. They have liked it very much! Just tomatoes, zucch and bell peppers. A wife of one of the households doesn’t work so she goes out to it several times a day, and wants more to do…

I am already seeing increased morale among my tenants because of the garden. I am doing the garden because I think it’s the right thing to do, however, tenant turnover is expensive. [As I add some square foot gardens this year,] I think I will be able to cement tenant loyalty and motivation to pay their rent by providing what amounts to free food. So I think I found that a garden is a fringe benefit that will increase profits and decrease vacancies. They see that I care, that there is a community here; they aren’t just profit centers to me, but real people about whom I care.

On that excellent note, I’ll leave you for today.

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