As the weeks went by after I first moved in, I would wonder how I was making it without electricity. One month went by and no electricity. How is that possible? I went over my list: water from a well, heat from a wood stove, propane camping stove to cook, Waka Waka lights and candles for lighting, a cooler for my food, outhouse for waste, cabin for shelter . . . all good. What do I need electricity for? Life is fine without my toaster, blender, coffeemaker, blow dryer, TV, or computer. I either substituted or did without.
TV? I haven’t watched TV for over 10 years. I was accustomed to watching a DVD occasionally, but hey, I didn’t miss them yet. Music comes from my mp3 and some small speakers that can be recharged. A few solar lights have a USB port to charge my cellphone and mp3. Life is still good.
Well, there was a minor downside with the Waka Waka lights. They have a solar panel on the back side and two LED lights on the front side. They are approximately 4” x 6”. I set them out each day to be recharged. Even on cloudy days, they will gain some charge. The charge may last a day, but if there is a cloudy day, they aren’t as bright.
One night it was particularly dim due to some cloudy days. I hit a breaking point. Could I just have some normal light so I can at least cook, eat, and do my dishes? This is not asking for much. Right? Think about it. Of all the conveniences I wanted, lights were it! Forget a TV, stereo, toaster, etc. Give me lights.
There had to be a solution without having to install a massive amount of solar panels that would be very expensive. So I searched online and found a solar system with 3 hanging dome lights by Solar King with a small solar panel approximately 8” x 12”. It was $150. Backwoods Solar also had some small systems that would have run about $500-$600 with a 12 volt battery and a solar panel that would run lights on AC with an inverter. Running on DC would be a little cheaper.
I went with the Solar King dome lights. It was a perfect solution. We have had a good mixture of sunny and cloudy days, and the lights are always running and charged. Eventually, I will get a small 12 volt battery and one solar panel system for lights in the living room. But now, I can cook, eat, and do my dishes and see what I am doing.
I also caved a bit and bought a small generator, just in case we got the cloudy days we had last January. They lasted all month. The generator would ensure I had light. There are a few downsides to the generator, like exhaust and a little noise, but I would be able to have light, charge my phone, watch a movie, use a drill, etc. No items with heat would be used on this generator like a blow dryer, toaster, coffeemaker, etc. because it is not big enough. Generators tend to bring you a bit closer to the reality of what fossil fuels are all about and what they emit. It isn’t the whole story by a stretch but it gives you a clue.
Granted, the normal house is all hooked into all the electrical appliances and gadgets you want. And, we are very used to having all of these conveniences. There are also things that we use electricity for like fans for dispersing heat throughout our homes or starting our furnaces and air conditioners or keeping our refrigerators running that we don’t think about at all until a storm shuts all power off and the food goes bad in the freezer. But, when there is no electricity, it is somewhat easier, I found, to see exactly what electricity is used for.
I have to admit that, besides light, having a charged cellphone is critical. A friend of mine, upon hearing that I would not have electricity, exclaimed in minor panic, “How will you charge your cellphone?” I get that now because I am constantly charging my phone, and my generator has come in handy for that when we get a bunch of cloudy days and all my solar chargers are spent.
This lifestyle is doable without electricity. There is life without a toaster.