Yeah, it’s cold. Winter is definitely here. There’s frost in the morning and the stove is going full-tilt most of the day. There’s something about winter that makes living off the grid a smidge more primitive, a bit harsher, a little more survival oriented. We definitely feel more responsible and act in more deliberate ways (Thoreau-speak) nowadays.
Yesterday we worked again on the water system. NOT hiking the forest route this time but rather just ensuring that the parts of the system that are exposed to the weather will not freeze. Mostly that means making sure those parts are NOT exposed to the weather.
But there are parts that are somewhat in the open and there is not much that can be done about that save for a new shed project, so I have wrapped those parts, pumps, valves and lengths of pipe in insulation and, in some cases, wrapped heat tape in as well.
Modern heat tape is amazing. It uses way less electricity than old heat tape and I can wrap 100 feet and all the equipment up with less than 300 watts of juice-requiring tape. I have actually added it up and it comes closer to 200 watts but, because I have a few trickle charges going on in the house as well, the dials read 300. I am sure the whole of the heat tape system is around 200 watts.
Last night was so cold so early I didn’t use the timer and simply plugged in the system and went to bed. Battery power at bedtime was reading 50.0 volts on the system. The reading on waking and after starting the fire, 49.2v. We didn’t even drop one volt. The heat tape had been on maybe nine or so hours. That’s pretty good.
If I want to be more frugal, I use the timer. The timer kicks the system on after midnight and off at around 6:00. That reduces the consumption of power to almost half.
Electricity is not as easily obtained these winter days. From May til late October, we didn’t require the genset one bit. Solar did the job. Even when we did use the genset, we did not have to, the sun would have filled us back up within a few sunny days. But, when you know you are going to drain the batteries down, it is easier on the soul to fire up the genset for the welding or big-drain uses. Don’t have to. But I do.
I like to keep the batteries above 48.8 at all times.
By Hallowe’en, the sun has dropped in the sky and the batteries carry us but barely and so a big draw requires a genset boost. And by December one, we are kicking on the genset every day. It provides an interesting but different metric for gauging juice-use. Mind you, juice-use goes way up in the winter. More lights, more indoor activities, even more (if you can believe it) quilting and sewing machines and irons and such. Still, I run the small genset every day for a couple or three hours. That’s two liters of gasoline in the Eu2000. I have the battery charger dialed in at about 11 amps charge. Two liters is approximately $3.00. Ninety to $100 a month is my power bill in the winter. Maybe lasting 5 months. It would be easy to budget $500 – 600 a year for power and be pretty accurate on the cost. And that would include welding and some other big-draw uses.
I do not think too many more panels would help, actually. The sun just isn’t there in winter. What some people do is use a stream-powered generator as well and they get lots of water in the winter. A good system out here for me would be an 8 + 4 system. Eight months on solar, four on hydropower. I may get there someday. Honda works in the meantime.
No. Wind doesn’t do squat.
“Isn’t it a bit too harsh out there?”
No. Not really. The lack of sunshine gets a smidge depressing and so we escape every winter for a bit but it is not the cold or the environment so much as simply the amount of daylight. As Sal and I get older, ‘light’ seems more important. But there are many compensations for that. The single resident of a nearby separate island wrote to tell us about the local wolf pack that surrounded her house last night. Full moon. Howlin’ wolves. Deep cold. Fire in the stove. She lives alone but wasn’t afraid at all. She loved it. Beautiful. Raw. Natural. Just enough threat in the air to feel alive.
“I shone the flashlight all along the garden fence and pairs of bright yellow eyes shone back.”
And the wood floats off the beach. Easier to harvest. That’s good. And there is no boat traffic to speak of. It’s all very quiet. Peaceful.
The storms are rough sometimes but, as stated, it all makes you feel alive and, if tucked at home all cozy-like, that can make you feel content, too. Secure. Except that working in the cold is limiting and no fun at all, I basically like winter. It’s austere, severe and simple. Back to basics. In a weird kind of way, it is self-containing, securing and full of contentment. Kinda makes you happy with what you have….I dunno…hard to explain.