Summer living on solar power is easy peasy! Day after day of brilliant sunshine for 14 hours a day. The batteries are usually fully charged and the system floating by 9am. Piece of cake!
Winter requires a little more … management! The odd cloudy day is fine, but it’s when we get a run of days without sun that it starts to get a little harder!
Yesterday was cloudy, rainy, cold. We left the inverter off for most of the day to let the batteries boost so that we would have some power for the evening. We got about an hour in the evening before the batteries started to struggle!
Today is really cloudy again, and the forecast doesn’t look great for the next 3-4 days. Thankfully, over the past 12 months we have made sure we have different options for when the weather turns.
We have two solar lights in the main room, each with their own little solar panel up on the roof. These don’t need too much sunlight to charge, so at least we have light in the evening! And then there’s the backup candles if need be! We also found some fantastic rechargeable lights in Bricodepot recently, which we bought for mum to have over the bed while she was here – they are simply charged on a usb and we get about 10 hours out of one charge. We try to keep them fully charged as a back up option.
We have two battery lights in the bathroom, which last ages, and a rechargeable light in our bedroom. We can easily get a week out of the bedroom room light, so rarely get caught out with that.
So really, the only thing we need power for in the evening is the wifi – and it’s no great problem if we have to turn that off – a good book, a game of chess, bit of crochet – it’s easy to find other things to do. Keeping our phones charged can be tricky – we both have battery packs that we charge up on sunny days, but they’re a bit old now and don’t last too long, so more than two cloudy days and they’re empty. I do FaceTime Mum and Dad every evening, so it means trying to keep enough charge to make that call – sometimes it has to be a quick check in call only!
Our only heating is the wood burner, so no power required for that!
We do have a back up petrol generator for emergencies, but the only time we had to use that was when I was teaching, as it was critical to be able to run the computer and wifi for the whole day – again, no problem in the summer but the winter was a problem!
There’s always the option of bumping up the solar system – more panels, bigger batteries etc, but it’s an expensive option, and personally, we’d rather manage with what we’ve got! We have talked about raising the panels up on a frame with a turntable so that the panels will track the sun, and get the sun for longer in the winter. During the winter at the moment we lose the sun off the panels by about 3pm, which is not ideal. Making what we have work more efficiently would be a good thing I think.
So in the winter we just have to be a bit organised – when we know there’s some bad weather coming, we make sure stuff is charged up so we’re ready for it!
But now that we’ve been here for a while, it’s amazing how easy we find it to just not have power! It sometimes feels a bit like camping, but that’s fine, we always liked camping 😂