'Secrets' To Becoming More Independent

Independent Power - How Big a Power System?

This is an area where you need to set goals that fit your circumstances. It's easy to waste money and time either trying to do too much, or get by with too little. If you're like most people you just want to know what to do, and what it will cost. However in order to answer that we need simple answers to a few questions.

The first question is:

How much power do you need?

This is one of those questions that most of us have no clue how to answer. I can get an idea on maximum power consumption by adding up the power requirements of all my appliances, but how often are they on all at the same time. Almost never.

To use our own circumstances as a place to start we have a small home, and we use Empire propane heaters for heat. We also have a wood stove which we use once in a while, but a we use a full size propane stove for cooking, and a propane hot water heater. I am a work-at-home programmer so I have a lot of computer gear running all day. My wife uses a vacuum many times, we have a 4 place toaster, an electric refrigerator and freezer. We also have a 3/4 electric pump for our well, and an electric washer.

Our entire home runs nicely on a single 3600 watt Xantrex inverter!

In your case you may need more power than we do, but the point is that these appliances all run at different times, and that the 24 hour average power consumption is not as large as you might think.

Conservation is Always a Great Idea

We use energy saving light bulbs, and we try to conserve. Our electric appliances are energy efficient. I would advise everyone who wants to be independent to conserve. Independence is much easier to achieve when you minimize your needs. But don't take that too far. We need a good quality of life or life isn't too much fun! Usually you can conserve and still have what you want.

Want a big screen TV? I do. But you can bet that mine will consume as little power as possible while delivering me that high quality picture and sound!

Most homes that use gas for heating use about 15KWhrs per day. That is higher than you should need, but at least this will give a clear starting point. That works out to be an average of about 600 watts/hr average over a 24 hour period. At times you might need much higher power, so you need to figure higher than this, but I'm preparing you for some other ideas to be presented later...

A pair of 3600 watt inverters like what I have, would run nearly any home. They can be stacked to provide 240v single phase power, and are unbelievably reliable. My only failure in 11 years was due to a lightning strike to my solar panels! (I've added lightning protection since then..)

There's a really nice device called a "Kill-A-Watt" that retails for about $35 that you can plug your appliances into, that will track power consumption over time. This can be a real eye-opener. Many appliances have a rating on them that is nearly twice that of their real consumption. When averaged over a day many appliances use much less power than you might think. When planning an independent power system, you can use this information to decide how much power you