Remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer tried to live without refrigeration? He lasted about two days and then started using Jerry's fridge because he couldn't take it anymore. That's pretty much what we felt like out at the homestead this summer. See if you can spot our refrigerator in the next pic...
If you guessed the blue cooler than you're absolutely correct! Actually, we had a red one too but it didn't make the picture. We knew we were going to have to face this situation going into this trip (no fridge, very little electricity and a long trip to town for ice) so we brought a lot of dry goods with us and just plain did without some luxuries. It was especially callenging with baby *E*'s formula. We brought both pre-mixed and powder and it didn't take long for us to realize that the powder was the only way to go. We ended up needing ice about every other day which in itself wasn't all that much of a pain since we were running to the hardware store and hauling water from the town park every day anyway. However, by the end of the summer we were pretty tired of the situation. Yesterday, I took the plunge and ordered a sundanzer 12/24 VDC refrigerator.
It's the 8 cubic foot model, which isn't very big by today's standards but after successfully dealing with about half that volume this summer, I'm pretty confident that it will suffice. We also bought the colder thermostat for an extra few bucks so that we can change it to a freezer down the road if need be. The small size should fit into the mud room nicely. I'm thinking that it'll be pretty well protected in the seperate room from the wood cook stove so it won't be fighting to stay cool.
Right now we have a small 12VDC system running. It consists of an old 85 watt BP solar panel that I pulled off of an old sailboat that I lived aboard a few years back and an Air-X 600 watt wind turbine.
This is my dad and *C* soldering up the splice on the cable running from the turbine to the house. The rest of the system is a mish mash of components that I've collected over the years and the deep cycle batteries are from the aforementioned boat. If there's children present cover their eyes!
This Frankenstein monstrosity is the heart of the operation. Starting at the top and going clockwise you'll see the inverter, solar controller, batteries, and finally the charger. The whole system is pretty feeble but should be able to keep up with the demands of the 12VDC refrigerator and the house water pressure pump we have installed. If not, we always have the backup generator. We have the components for a 2.6 kilowatt 48VDC solar system but its installation is going to have to wait for next summer. It's quite a rush to watch this system come together and I definitely have to thank the Navy for all of my electronics training!
So other than the fact that making your own electricity is an awesome way to work toward self sufficiency, why would a person spend this kind of money to replace that sweet wire from Momma Power Company? I've got two stories that should explain...
During a tour in New Orleans, I owned an old drafty victorian house right across the river from the French Quarter. There was an electric furnace on each floor that barely kept up with the mild Louisiana winters and it was a pig to heat just like all the rest of the homes in the neighborhood! Just before Enron collapsed, they bought the power monopoly for our neighborhood from little Louisiana Power and Light and immediately added a 75% power surcharge fee onto everyone's bill. Did I mention that they had been plastering the airwaves with ads touting the fact that even though the company had changed they weren't going to raise our rates one penny? I guess a surcharge is not a rate increase. Upon receiving an electric bill for $700, and this was small compared to my neighbors, I phoned customer service to voice my disatisfaction. The lady on the other end listened quietly as I vented about the unfairness of it all and then replied "So what are you going to do about it, disconnect?" I was floored and had nothing to say because you know what? She was right! I gritted my teeth and paid my bill, only later taking some solace in the fact that Enron went down the tubes. I certainly hope that nice customer service lady was the first one in the unemployment line.
My second power company horror story happened in 2004. I had just checked into my new squadron in Brunswick, Maine after closing on the homestead that I had purchased from a Pennsylvania land speculator. A snide (and rather effeminate sounding) customer service rep from the farm's local power company co-op contacted me all the way from North Dakota to tell me that I owed them $23 a month for line maintenance fees to the buildings on my land. I inquired if the gentleman that I had bought the farmstead from had been paying this fee, especially considering that he had never stepped foot on the property. The rep let me know that it wasn't company policy to give out that type of information. At this point, I sort of lost my cool and told COMRADE power guy to pedal his butte over to my place and pull the wires down. He followed with some kind of threat that it would be verrrrrry expensive to hook it back up if we went though with it. I told him that it would be a cold day in hell before I ever came crawling back to a bunch of communists like his little co-op. And that was that. To this day, I sure hope he got all of the red references, hee hee. I was pretty proud of them. The next summer, I went out to the homestead on leave and found all of the wires gone and the yard power pole lying in the grass. Thank God!
So that is why I have NO problem shelling out the extra bucks to escape these kind of monopolies! Too many people I know burn their cash on new cars or the next bigger and better I-phone or an endless number of frivolities. I guess that chasing that elusive dream of independence and self sufficiency has sort of become my hobby.