It’s been four months today since our stand alone off grid solar system was installed by a pair a absolute legends so I thought it was time to reflect on what we’ve discovered so far.

What We Expected

We didn’t really expect much from our system as we didn’t know anyone else living this way to chat to other than my Dad who runs off his own DIY “Micro System” as he’s dubbed it.

We figured we would have enough power capacity to run some of the essentials but figured big power tools would be totally off the cards and that we would have to really choose when we run things like a washing machine and vacuum.

We pictured our winters or wet season as times spent conserving as much energy as we could to still run our essentials like the fridge and minimal lighting.

What We Got

The reality?  We don’t actually own enough electronics to use our battery bank capacity before it recharges and we sometimes joke about installing an air conditioner (well, Chris thinks I’m joking).

We’re battling through our first summer at the moment so on an average day where we’re both at home we run:

  • fridge with a freezer
  • 3 x ceiling fans
  • 6 x standard lights
  • 1 x pedestal fan
  • laptop
  • computer monitor
  • computer speakers
  • water pump
  • hot water system pilot light (barely worth mentioning)

Occasionally, we’ll power up any of the below in addition to what runs almost constantly from above:

  • phone chargers
  • vacuum cleaner
  • washing machine
  • power tools if we’re building, including:
    • circular saw
    • grinder
    • hammer drill
    • impact driver
    • drop saw
  • battery charger for our outdoor lights in their little battery is running low

We recently had my Mum and her partner park their caravan for a week holiday with us which then saw them running:

  • pedestal fan
  • small fridge
  • ancient air conditioner
  • electric kettle
  • laptop
  • phone chargers
  • lights

What We’ve Learnt

In December we had a huge hail storm rip through with hail stones the size of cricket balls.  Sadly, we lost a few panels that were smashed as if bowling balls were dropped on them.  Surprisingly – we really didn’t notice a difference in our power generation or battery charge and we still haven’t gotten around to having them replaced.

There was a mildly scary moment when Mum was camping out where they got a little carried away and had the old air conditioner running on the caravan, then plugged in the electric kettle.  The heating element in the kettle tipped us over the edge and our battery bank charge dropped to the red zone.  They of course shit themselves, turned everything off and pulled out the stove top kettle.  Within about 5 minutes, we were back on 100% charge which we hadn’t dropped below up until that point (despite periods of rain and clouds where our batteries wouldn’t be receiving their full charge).

We’ve learnt that we don’t have to be as carefully conscious as we thought with our power usage and it’s a hard mentality to get into.  In a standard house that’s connected to the grid, you watch your power usage as you pay for what you use.  

With our system, we use as much as we want, when we want, and as long as the sun continues to shine, we don’t really have to think about it too much.

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