Skip to content
May 7 2006 / Aaron


Today is a beautiful sunny day. I’ve spent most of the morning out on the patio relaxing and reading (Pierre Burton’s Prisoner’s of the North). All that sunshine is making me so happy I’m just brimming over with giggles today. I must admit, for some reason I just love yard-work (in modest doses of course). I like the excuse to be outdoors and physically active. I don’t care much for having such a huge lawn as we have (for ecological and aesthetic reasons), but I enjoy mowing it for some reason. I’m strangely comfortable with vacuuming too. I guess I like pushing things. I ripped up a bunch of dandelions that had taken over a portion of the yard and fed them into my compost box.

Aaron slowly waking up this morning on patio.

I fixed up a leaky hose valve and got the underground sprinkler system working a little better. I also replaced the old perimeter night lights with wireless solar ones. Now I must patiently wait until dark to see how they look.

Speaking of solar power, I’ve been reading Electronics for Dummies (to brush up on my foundational knowledge of basic electronics) and checking out websites for some ideas for small scale alternative energy production (I want yet another hobby). I want to build a small wind turbine and maybe a few solar panels to play with charging a small battery bank. I cant afford something to go entirely off-grid, but I can start small building things for fun, and see where it goes. It looks like my house currently draws an average of 500 watts (that’s average, so the peak usage is probably as high as 3000 and at night with computers and lights and TVs and such off, it’s much lower). So to go off-grid at the current power consumption (no doubt, I could switch to more power conscious appliances and such), I’d need to be able to generate an average of 500 watts. Solar can only generate when it’s sunny, so to generate an average of 500 watts 24/7, it would need to be a massive array of expensive panels. Better would be a smaller array and a small wind turbine to generate a steady trickle from wind (which is usually quite strong and steady here). Of course, I doubt I could get away with only a small, low turbine here in the middle of suburbia. There are probably stupid bylaws to keep me from putting up a tower, and I hear that they can be a little noisy when they get going.

Solar panels and wind turbines are less expensive than I thought. It turns out a huge chunk of the cost is in the batteries and the inverters (to transform the battery’s DC into household AC, and you need an inverter that can handle your peak wattage. These heavy duty inverters cost several thousand dollars. From shopping around the web, it looks like I could probably get my home mostly off-grid for $10 – $15k (luckily prices are slowly coming down as the more people buy these things). At that cost, If electricity stayed the same price, I would still take 13 years to pay off the initial investment. Still not quite economical. I think I’ll wait a little more for prices to fall before looking at it seriously. I think it would be super cool if I can rig up a fairly cheap system (I found plans for a decent setup costing about $600) to run the computer or house lighting from. Good geeky fun.

Leave a Comment