Thursday, May 17, 2007

My Work: Living on Solar Power - Part 3

November 1996

Of course, the house needed modifications to graduate from supporting one person to containing our family of two adults and two almost teenagers. And, of course, renovations took twice as long and cost twice as much as we planned. After several weekends driving four hours each way to supervise the work and write cheques, we moved in with eight inches of snow on the ground and a six-foot hole in the south wall covered by plastic.

November. The start of the worst three months of the year for solar power. We ordered a radio telephone after seeing one in operation on the other side of Tamworth and a truckload of logs we could cut up for firewood.

We all slept in one room for the first two months. The four 75-watt solar modules and 600-watt inverter proved to be woefully inadequate. We spent all the equity from selling our suburban house, our computer would only work when the generator was on, and our high-tech radio phone system hardly ever worked. Welcome to the country.

Despite running all day to support the renovator’s power tools, the battery charger in the inverter never pumped up the batteries enough to take us through the night. We shared bathwater, went to bed by lantern light, then were up again at 3:00 am to stoke the basement wood furnace again.

That first Christmas, we froze around the tree huddled in blankets under dim lights unable to call anyone and told each other what fun we were having.

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