Keeping the lights on…

Jan 22nd, 2024

Keeping the lights on…

The village was out of power for about 15 hours – the longest outage since we have lived here.

Normally we use a lot of electricity (21KWH plus), due to the facts that we have a lot of computers, heat our offices with electric heat pumps, and cook with electricity. On the day of the outage we went into “power saving level one” – i.e we turned out all unnecessary lighting, switched to a butane stove in my office (R is hardier than me and doesn’t put his heating on much), used the induction hob rather than the electric oven, didn’t run the big appliances (dishwasher, dryer, washing machine) switched off non-essential computer equipment and the main chest freezer (it keeps frozen for over 48 hours). With these measures in place, our usage fell to 0.4 kilowatts = considering we were at our “storm” threshold of 85% battery – this gave us about 21 hours run time off the grid.

Having said this, if we had ever run down to 25% battery, we could have gone to “power saving level two” which would involve me switching to my Surface and turning off my dual monitor PC, and R working just on his laptop. We could also switch off another fridge freezer and consolidate its contents into the one remaining one. This reduces the power consumption for the house to around 0.2KW which is enough to run the two laptops, essential lighting, one fridge, the networking gear, recharging for phones/laptops as needed and (most importantly) the very low level of power needed to keep the LPG boiler lit (I was not able to buy an old fashioned boiler with a manual ignition that would be electricity independent) and therefore the central heating on. So worst case scenario, this would keep the central heating on, and with R and I sitting in the lounge working on our laptops with the light on, the gas fire lit etc, our remaining 25% would last another 11 hours.

One thing that R and I hadn’t factored in, however, and which was greatly in favour of the solar system, is that even in a dreich day in Jan, the solar panels don’t generate absolutely nothing. They don’t make a lot, but in January they will make 1KWH on a really bad day, up to 5KWH on a good one. So the day in question was actually moderately bright, and during daylight hours we actually made enough to start the battery recharging. When the grid came back up, our battery was at 55%.

So in general we can keep a minimal lifestyle going without the grid for at least a few days, and this is at the worst time of year for solar.