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Moving towards self sufficiency

 This page is all about the eco stuff and low impact living. We have a vision in mind where we will be totally self sufficient, spending next to no money on anything. Impossible I hear you say... well its not...we just have to change our way of thinking about everything. 

We want to produce all our own energy using renewable resources, all our own food and even all or own cleaning products (house and body products). It will take a lot of research and hopefully with our blog and links on here, if you are thinking about doing the same thing some of the hard work will have been done for you!

Solar panel

 Solar panels or not solar panels, this is the question? Living here in Spain this was  a no brainer!  The problem for us was that we didn´t know anything about solar systems and how they worked, or the problems they could have.

First off, we bought a second hand solar system, 3 panels = 600watts, six 2v batteries, an inverter - to change the voltage fro 12v to 240v and a charge control unit - regulates the power coming in and has a display which tells you how much power you have coming in and what the voltage of the batteries is at that moment.. To us this meant nothing we just thought that we would have electricity all of the time at the flick of a switch so to speak.

Now, you need to understand something and that is, the power produced i.e. 600w, is only at the peak time of the day, here about 1pm to 3pm. So every other hour of the day you are generating less than optimum power and obviously once the sun goes down nothing is being produced. Considering that possibly you get 10 hours of sunlight, multiply this by 600w and that is the energy you are possibly producing. So for us, 6000w a day or less baring in mind not every hour is optimum production.

 

So now we have to look at usage within the house. An iron uses about 1,500w and the automatic washing machine is about 1,000w.  We  have to run the generator to cover these appliances to be able to live a "normal" life.  On the link below are typical usage for your everyday appliances.

How much energy appliances use

I went out and bought a very cheap (cheapest in the shop) automatic washing machine. It was fantastic for about 2 months and then things started to go wrong. By the time it was 4 months old, the only thing it would do was spin the clothes. We later found out that automatic washers do not like running with generators and / or solar, they always go wrong.

Our vision is that one day in the near future (hopefully!) we will be able to run everything on the power we are producing.  This will entail producing about 3000w or 3Kw every hour.

Compost toilet

 The little things that count

Obviously we do much more that the above to keep the energy use to a minimum and some of the following you can do in any house.

1. Use energy saving lightbulbs in all lights.

2. All outdoor lights are solar powered with their own little solar panels. This is quite expensive to start with but they pay for themselves.

3. Unplugging anything that is not in use...even if an appliance is switched off it still has a current running through it if it is plugged in. Not a mammoth saving but for us it is a must.

4. Buying AA, or better, graded electrical appliances...this can save you a lot of money on your electricity bill and for us it enables us to run them.

5. Rechargeable batteries...we can charge them during the hours of sunlight and use them at night. Again this is quite expensive to begin with but with over 100 charges per battery they pay for themselves.

 January 2014 update.

Out of the 2 things we wanted to purchase at the beginning of last year, we managed only one...the hoover. It has a 15 minute charge that is easily enough to hoover through the whole house! It is put on charge during the day and takes about 3 hours to charge fully, but the best thing is that we have cut down on using the generator. 
Up on the roof we now have the capacity to generate about 2500w an hour. Although this is optimum and very rarely happens. We now know our system really well and can spot problems before they become massive and we end up with no electricity. 
We only run the generator now, when the sky is cloudy for a few days and this is just to keep the batteries topped up. I run all my kitchen appliances as and when I want now. Obviously it is better to use things during the hours of daylight and changing our old habits has been hard, although worth it.
We have developed a new habit of checking things regularly to keep up with the maintenance of things.  The batteries are checked weekly, the toilet when it is emptied (although we have never had a problem with this). The roof runnels are checked as and when rain is predicted and the water pump given a cleaning about every 3 months. This means they tend to break down less often so taking lots of the stress away.

Wind turbine

Wind generated power is not for everyone.  According to the information you can find, you need to know your average wind speed before buying a turbine.

We tried to do this for our area but the data just was not available... or we were just looking in the wrong place.

We spent almost a year researching turbines on the internet as we were worried that we may be wasting our money if the wind was not strong enough here to start the blades turning. 

The following link shows companies that produce wind generators...top ten and more.

top ten and more

We had our wind turbine connected in July 2012. It works brilliantly starting and stopping as it said it would. The problem is we have no way of knowing how much energy it is producing as it is wired straight to the batteries. We need to put an amp meter in the system to be able to record this information. What this space!

Solar oven 

Researching this on the internet led to us thinking we could easily build our own for a fraction of the cost that a commercial one costs to buy. I couldn´t believe how much they cost!

So we looked at building our own . But then Kev found something on one of his walks around. We followed the principle of using foil to reflect the heat into the space and a dark pan inside. We don´t know what it used to be, but as a solar oven it works just fine. Also we are reusing something that was waste - low impact living at its finest!

 Compost toilet

There were 2 reasons for buying a compost toilet, one, to save water, as toilet water is the only water we waste and two to produce compost to put on the garden to help improve the soil.

Finding this toilet was not as easy as you may think. It took months of research, trying to sort out all the specialized gobble de gook on pages and pages of the internet.

We chose this one because it has the pipe at the back. This goes up the wall and outside taking all smells with it. (And it really works!) About every 3 months the tray at the bottom is emptied and we were amazed, no smell and real compost for the garden!

The toilet itself has a heating element in it that keeps the contents at a constant temperature to break down. It has turning blades that mix the waste with the starter every time you use the toilet. On an average day this toilet uses no more than 65w an hour and at the end we have a brilliant product to put on the garden.

This is one of the best things we have bought to date, and it does exactly what it promised to do.

Compost toilet

 

2013
This new year sees us wanting a few creature comforts that all of you reading this (or most of you) take for granted. We want a flat screen TV...32 inch minimum. We have been researching this an were amazed to find a 42 inch that uses just 40 watts an hour!!!!!! That is less than my laptop so hopefully in the coming year this will be purchased and placed on the wall. Mind I don´t know if we will be able to spare the time to watch it, haha.
Check out this link  I hope you are impressed...we were!!!!
Next is a hoover that we can use without running the generator. This is a must have really. It is very dusty here and cleaning is a mammoth task that needs doing everyday to keep the dust at bay.  I have been researching rechargeable ones and seems like the best one is also the most expensive one. Here is the link 
to the which page comparing the  competition.
I will post updates and pictures as we develop these ideas into reality!
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