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8 Simple Ways To Live Off Grid On Less Watts

8 Simple Ways To Live Off Grid On Less Watts

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How often do you take electricity for granted? If you are like I once was, it happens quite frequently.

Often, I would shut off lights and unplug things when not in use, but I still never really took the time to think about what it would be like to go without power — that is, until I spent more than two weeks after a hurricane in just that situation.

I didn’t like it at first, but after a while, it was kind of nice to read with a lantern by my bed or work hard while the sun was up and relax once it retired. I figured it must have been kind of like how life had been for my great-grandparents at one time. I eventually did get into a routine, and it was at this time that I realized just how much the availability of electricity set the tone of my life.

Just last year I had the amazing opportunity to spend several months off the grid in a very remote location. Although the home I rented had a well-appointed solar system and a back-up generator, there were still some things that I had to “get used to.” It took some time to develop a good working relationship with the solar system, and I prided myself on using the generator as infrequently as possible.

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Of course, the amazing thing about going solar is that you can make your system as large as you desire. For me, though, there was some adventure to working with the system that was in place and having to adjust to the solar power rather than taking power for granted.

8 Simple Ways To Live Off Grid On Less Watts

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For example, vacuuming was something that was reserved for days when there was ample sun and backup power. We did quite a few things differently while we learned to live on fewer watts, and our off-grid experience was richer for the thought we had to put into preserving the free power from the sun.

Here are just a few of the changes that we made to our off-grid lives that helped us use less watts:

  1. We never took a shower before the sun was up.
  2. We never took a shower when the sun was down.
  3. We only did laundry between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and only one load per day.
  4. We went to bed early and got up early (this proved to be most productive).
  5. We used battery-operated lanterns and book lights for evening reading.
  6. We unplugged everything — the coffee pot, the toaster, etc. – when not in use.
  7. We rarely used the microwave.
  8. We never left the TV on, and we used it sparingly.

I think the nicest thing about living on fewer watts is just the lifestyle that it dictates. You become much closer to nature and the rising and setting of the sun and much more aware of your surroundings. The changes that we made did not come naturally, and it did take time to grow accustomed to them. But after a month or so, we were in a pretty good routine and had more than enough power for our day

I am convinced that the time living fully off-grid made me a more resourceful person, and I am anxiously awaiting another opportunity to leave the grid behind again!

How do you use less watts on your solar system? Share your tips in the section below:

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  1. I wish OTG News would do an article on 12vdc vs 24 vs 48vdc panels and the advantages or disadvantages. If one is going to use solar to live off the grid then this type of information would be good to know…

    • I can give you a few hints right now. Higher volts means lower amps for the same number of watts so you can use smaller wires (less copper = less $$). The downside is anything over 25V or so is considered “high voltage” in our litigious society and wouldn’t be considered safe for you to work on. For you I’d say forget the 12V systems. Go with 24 or 48 depending upon how safe you feel. Keep in mind that back in the 40s and early 50s portable radios used tubes which required 67-1/2V batteries in them and I don’t know of anyone killing themselves putting in a fresh one. Just keep your hands dry.

      If it were me I’d series two 48s and a 24 for 120V, but then I know how to handle such voltages. At minimum I’d have a 48V.

      • Scott,
        Thanks for the info… was thinking of 12vdc panels cuz it is easy to find deep cycle batteries for them.. Not quite sure what the advantage of 120vdc (panels in series) would provide… Please advise…. Thanks Rebel

        • In my case my panels are 37.5 open voltage. I connect them in series of 4 which gives me about 150V with no load. I have 20 panels and they are about 160 ft from my charger and batteries. This allows me to run #4 wire instead of #1 if everything was wired in 12V. A big savings.

          My batteries are 6V L16 420 AH. I have 16 of these wired into 2 banks of 48V. My charger takes the panel voltage and converts to 48V.

          • A general rule of thumb for choosing solar battery voltage. If you plan to use up to a 1000 watt inverter a 12v battery bank is fine. Up to a 2000 watt inverter with a 24v battery bank. For loads over 2000 watts a 48v battery bank is the way to go.

            Yes, You can pull 3000 watts off a 12v battery bank but it is hard on the batteries and requires massive cables between the battery and the inverter.

  2. I love living off the grid. The solar panels provide what we need for 9 months out of the year. We have a backup generator just in case the clouds block the sun for more than a week. We also discovered during the winter months to shut the inverter down while sleeping. The solar panels provide so much power in the summer; we utilize an electric log splitter.

    We have a 24 volt system, however, I am debating if a 48 volt system will be an affordable way to increase my battery bank size. Plus, I could deliver power to a shop easier once I build one.

  3. We charge automobile booster batter packs during the day and use them to run a few DC lights at night. We also use them to run a laptop and small TV as our “large screen” for movies at night. We don’t have any large electric appliances, but do use our solar system to recharge many small devices during the day such as phones, computers, battery powered lights, Kindles, iPads, etc. I also use a AA battery recharger during the day to reduce our use of batteries in devices. – Margy

  4. Been off the grid for 3 years now. We designed and build a strawbale home around a 4.5KW PV array with a 48V Rolls battery bank and a Sunbank Solar H2O heater. The biggest changes we made were:

    – Ditched the clothes drier for clothes line.
    – No Microwave or Dishwasher
    – all LED lighting
    – no toaster, hair dryer , or clothes ironing unless the sun is out
    – We mostly shower in the evening when we have the most hot H2O, but from May-October we shower whenever as we have more hot H2O than we can use.
    – No A/C – we use lots of ceiling fans a a nifty down draft system I created using a radon fan.
    – No HVAC what so ever. We heat with a Sedore multi fuel furnace.
    – Propane cook stove
    – We cook outdoors in the warmer months to preserve the coolness in the house.

    on the flip side we watch tv or go online whenever we want. We use flatscreen LCD models that use very little power. We also have a big side by side fridge/freezer with ice maker This is our biggest consumer of electricity, but it is great having such a comfort when cutting out so many other “luxuries”.

  5. Good info, but, grammar, please. The title should say “fewer watts”. Or “less wattage”, if you like. Yeah, I know. Grammar Nazi. Drilled into us way back when.

    • Are you kidding me, “grammar please”? Really? Did you understand him? Dont sweat the grammar, if you understand him then it is good enough, if not ask questions, if you can’t stand the way he spells or arranges his words…..go away.

    • I agree. Please use correct English. Easier for foreigners to understand and less ambiguity. If you are a writer there’s absolutely no excuse to get it wrong, other than laziness. Tip:
      Fewer is for countables – fewer balls, sacks, people, Watts.
      Less is for uncountables – less flour, salt, sand, electricity.

      • Everyone doesn’t have the education you do. Please be kind. If you understand it…..I think it’s fine. I know very knowledge people who can’t spell or use correct English. I’d love to learn what some of them know.

        • OffGrid FL Prepper

          Watts dats proper languages all abouts? lol Been off the Grid 100% here for nearly 3 years. Running 4 x 310 Watt Panels, 8 6V duracel batteries, hooked up in paired series for 12 V’s, then paralleled, using an Outback 80 controller and an Inverter 3000 / 6000 peak… to convert the 12V power to my building 110 fuse box , and the rest of the cottage is normal wired switched with LED lighting, able to run a small fridge freezer 24/7, satellite internet connection and power tools, Wall A/C unit for a few hours here and there in the summertime, and rarely need to run my generator to charge up the battery bank unless it is cloudy for 3 days in a row. Get a charger designed to charge up battery banks. I use a Samlex SEC 1230UL 30 Amp charger… Works just fine. I will upgrade in the future with a large roof system on a garage, but my current system is ground mounted and keep the Batteries as close or under the panels, as you loose a lot of efficiency the longer the 12V run is from the panels and control charger to the battery bank. AC power is not that affected for longer runs, say to your building. Hope this info helps those getting started and off their undependable “Greed Grid.” During Hurricane Irma here in FL, I was the only one with Power and all my neighbors had no grid power for 6 days, unless they ran noisy generators. I had ground mounted tie down 30 inch screw in ground anchors on each corner of my system, to keep my solar panels from blowing over an it worked just fine. Probably 80 to 100 mph gusts of wind.

  6. is there any way to figure out the power required to run a refrigerator and a freezer and the only other thing would be LED lighting maybe a tv or computer ?

    • Get a Dr Watts meter (about $35) and plug it in between your refrigerator and the wall outlet. It will tell you how much electricity each appliance uses per day and a lot more.

      My home is 90% solar powered and I have the power requirements for most major appliances written on them. My 21 cu/ft new refrigerator pulls 1.5 kwh’s a day and my 10.3 cu/ft energy star rated chest freezer pulls .7 kwh’s a day. The 50′ TV and Satellite dish together pull 115 watts when running and 50 watts when off.

      My old 5 cu/ft chest freezer puller .8 kwh’s a day so the newer larger freezer is twice as efficient.

    • OffGrid FL Prepper

      Just plug your appliance into a “Kill-A-Watt” meter from harbor freight or HD for only about $15 will tell you, then go to an online calculator like PVWatts dot com or Renogy dot com or FreeCleanSolar dot com for all the calculators of your electric usage etc. Lots of good info here to get started. I will tell you this, don’t believe what the appliance label says the wattage usage is. I bought a small chest freezer and it said 75 watts, but when it was running it pulled in double nearly 147 watts.. I guess they calculate it to be only running half the time and the other half idle. That’s why you need a Kill-A Watt Meter to get a better true meter reading. I need to add more panels or batteries now to run that freezer properly. It just sucks too much energy. Everything I am doing seems to be an experiment, so you are here to learn from my testing and mistakes and successes and its good to share info. Good Luck.

  7. David
    I only run my place on 1000 watts.
    Last year I started the genarator only two times.
    I use a small chest freezer with a remote thermostat to make the freezer a refrigerator.
    Also by having a top lid you never lose the cold air when you open the door. This saves energy.
    Been three years now doing it this way the only draw back is the food is stacked in containers and it is not easy to find what you want at times.

    Good luck,Matt

  8. Bilge Pump McCoy

    My electric bill plummeted after my son moved to his own place. No more 24 hours/day of video games, television, lights left on, stereo blasting away, refrigerator being opened 657 times per day, etc. My biggest advice is get rid of your kids and watch your electric bill drop like a rock.

  9. Hi,

    I really admire your post!
    It is a great thing to be discussed.
    Saving energy in your home requires some effort on your part, but can lead to cost savings, and help the environment.
    When you are cooking food, it is more economical to cook full size meals and split it into multiple meals which can be frozen for reheating at later dates. This saves you going through the full energy consumption of cooking another full meal from scratch again and can save you a lot in the long term.These changes suggested are small, but help with your bills, and it means that you have more money to spend on things that you need or want rather than giving it to your electric/gas supplier.

    Thanks for being sharing this informative post!

    Audrey G. Crabb

  10. OffGrid FL Prepper

    I would also add when using any appliance to heat something like for cooking or heating your living space use a much much cheaper fuel like Propane. Trying to heat something using solar PV Powers is a real drain on your system. PV solar is good for lighting, fridge, radios, fans, AC, power tools, all pretty much OK. Just your electric coffee pot will suck like 800 Watts totally inefficient for solar. Better to just heat up boiling water on a small gas propane stove for a few pennies and pour the tea kettle water over your coffee in a filter and into your cup. Been off the grid here for nearly 3 years so I tested many methods and uses for solar and accomplishing tasks.

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