Saturday, August 13, 2011
Heating Water With Sunshine
I was going to write that I'm not at all sure how we did it, but our last PGE bill (Portland General Electric, that is) was only two thirds of what it was the prior month. I thought it was because I wasn't home on my computer for many hours of the day, but Steve says that the laptop doesn't take enough power to account for the difference. We haven't had the Solatubes long enough for it to be that, so the only other thing I thought I could attribute to it was good old fashioned diligence. You know- turning lights off when you're not using them, and all that. But then I remembered we're not using the dryer- we're line drying again because it's summer. Now that I know what not using the dryer can do to the Garner bottom line, I've determined that we need a drying rack to go with the English clothes airer in the kitchen for winter drying, because it's too small to handle a full load by itself. But a rack should make all the difference. It will be really interesting to see what the solar PV system will do for us, and we should find out in ten short days if PGE is going to qualify us for that. I didn't realize it, but there's a whole application process we have to go through before we can even put one in, and they have the final say so. I will be severely disappointed if that doesn't go through, but I think it will.
Steve crunched the numbers, and since there are only two of us, we'll probably never get a pay back on this system, but that's not why we did it. We did it as a hedge against the rising price of natural gas, and the very real possibility of hyperinflation in the future. Or just not being able to get the gas, at any price. If that happens, then the system will need to be re-plumbed to bypass the gas heater.
We'll use the wood stove for cooking winter suppers a lot, so we'll use a lot less gas this winter. An outdoor pizza and bread oven is planned for the future, and I also want to build us a solar cooker for summer cooking. But that's for next year; I already have a few projects started that need finishing.
But back to the solar water heater. Wouldn't you know that the day after it was installed, the morning dawned overcast and the sun never came out. In fact, it never got higher than sixty-nine today. (This August will probably go down as one of the coolest we've ever had- we're finally getting our spring, temperature-wise.) At seven and eight this morning, the thermometer in the glycol read seventy, and the thermometer in the outgoing water line also read seventy. But at the end of a long, cloudy day, they read ninety. So even on an overcast day, the new system is going to help.
We're still working on the old-fashioned diligence- the first step to energy conservation is remembering not to use so much, and that means staying on top of turning lights off, and making sure that the laptop and phones get charges and then immediately unplugged. The new Solatubes are great…it used to be I'd have to remember to go all the way into the master bath during the day, so I could use the natural light from the window. Now I can use whichever is closest. I can't tell you how many times I've used the hall bath and reached for the light switch on the way out, only to remember that the light is coming without electricity.
It makes me laugh.