Technology has come into my little off grid cabin. I cannot say I do not have electricity any longer. It is created by renewable energy though . . . and, it is a little scary. You know how some of these things go. I get a taste of convenience and pretty soon I will have 20 more solar panels and a big screen TV. OMG! That is a frightening thought!
So, after four years of ice and a cooler, I now have a chest freezer that has been converted into a refrigerator. Friends of mine introduced me to this magic about a year ago. My friend said one solar panel would run it. I was sold on that, and I bought two 360 watt solar panels so I could add some lights . . . and possibly watch a movie on my laptop. Now that is living large.
I like starting with no power and building up. That way I know what the solar panels and batteries are powering. Mind you, I don’t have a very good understanding of load to number of solar panels to the number of batteries. There are eight 6-volt golf cart batteries that the solar panels charge, which was installed back at the beginning of October. Along the way, I will get a better understanding of how the ratio of panels to batteries work with load.
Along this journey, I have found out this chest freezer to fridge conversion is nothing new. Countless people I have talked to have done the same thing and most live off grid. I didn’t want to get a fridge and power it with propane, and some of the very energy efficient refrigerators on solar are expensive. This chest freezer was about $200. My friend gave me their old gadget that the freezer plugs into that enables it to be changed to a temperature of a fridge. Nice.
I purchased it from Backwoods Solar. The guys there have been great. One of them said I could have done it with only four batteries but I like the extra cushion of eight. In addition to the solar system, I did buy a battery charger for the cloudy days in the winter when the solar panels don’t get enough sun.
It is definitely a learning thing. Actually, the installation was the biggest challenge. After a few roadblocks with a few local installers, I realized that this installation was on me. I asked a friend of mine who cleans out my stove pipe and has done some solar installations to help me. I didn’t really do much of the installation except find out how it all goes together. That was enough. It may be a piece of cake for the guys where I purchased it but it was Greek to me.
I dug a trench for the PVC with the wiring from the solar panels to the batteries, along with building a wooden enclosure for the batteries. The fact that the batteries are explosive made me nervous. But, it is all installed and working fine. Eventually I will need to check the batteries to add water to them, which I am not looking forward to because they are lead acid batteries. For now, I will just enjoy this moment of calm.
My new fridge is so nice. I can’t believe I went four years on a cooler. Some new kitchen lights and two in the living room have been added. The lights are LED and each one is about 4 watts each to run. I am going to admit that I bought some LED Christmas lights, too. I do feel like a stepped over a line though . . . back into the familiar world of light switches and total convenience.
Have no fear . . . no way am I caving and getting some big screen TV.