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I paid $3.20/gal back in Nov — and that would be their cheapest domestic price, because I own my tank; most people around here lease theirs and so their base rate is higher.
Over the summer it was $2.60. Last Feb $3.09; the previous Oct $2.52.
No idea what the price is now, but I'm due for a refill pretty soon.
I use propane just for cooking and the backup hot water (to solar).
I am extreeeeeeeemely glad we are not using oil heat anymore (well, it's connected as a backup, but not something we use except under extreme circumstances).
I'm sorry I don't have any thoughts on financing, but in the area where I live, it is certainly possible to do upgrades in stages, though you might need to break it down and get a separate permit each time. Check with your town office about the specifics.
I think if you're able to make your home flexible — so you can shut off unused parts of the house when the occupancy is small, and open them up when it increases — it could work very well.
I've thought often about the possibilities in my own house. The main improvement I'll want to make in my house to make this work is to put an elderly-accessible tub or shower on the first floor. The whole upstairs (both floors) can be shut off when not in use, but that space can be expanded into if we need to accommodate extended family.
Right now my kids are preteens/teens, but I'm well aware that many of their generation "come back home" as adults. I love the idea of someday having a quiet home all to myself, but that may not be the reality, and I'll be glad to have been thoughtful about keeping the option open.
I've also talked with my parents about how they're welcome to share my house later in life if needed. I think we all agree that it would be sub-ideal in many ways, but we're keeping the option open.
Good to be thinking about this.
Would you be willing to share what the price tag was on your system? It sounds like the basic sort of thing I'll be interested in, when the time comes, and cost-effectiveness will be very high on my list.
What has your experience been with the SunnyBoy inverter? I have heard about this (and it seemed like the perfect solution to not wanting a battery bank but still wanting power in an outage). Am I understanding correctly that when the grid is up, yours is just a regular, sell-it-back-to-the-power-company system, and when the grid is down, it supplies your home (via that one outlet) directly with power (but only when the sun shines)? Is that right?
How long have you had it, and is there anything you'd do differently were you to get a second chance at installing it from scratch?
So can you run fridge, freezer, washing machine, and…can you also run one electric light? What about a laptop? Or would you switch something off to run the washer? I'm not clear on what 1500 watts can handle…
[quote=Craig Severance]We installed a grid-tied 4.4 Kw solar array with net metering and did not incur the costs of a battery bank. For Off-Grid capability our system has a SunnyBoy inverter which has a dedicated circuit that provides up to 1500 watts of daylight time power whenever the grid would go down. We had this circuit brought through the wall from outside where the inverter sits, to an interior wall plug that is right next to our critical loads. We don't really need electricity for very much should the grid go down as we heat the house entirely with passive solar and a wood stove. So for us our critical loads are the refrigerator, freezer, and washing machine. Our refrigerator has 3" of insulation and will keep food cold for three days of being shut off, so I'm sure we can get by running it and the freezer and washer only in daylight hours should the grid go down even for an extended period. We could also easily keep our cell phones charged. We would need to cook over the wood stove if winter, or grill, campstove and solar oven if summer, but again no big hardship. I don't yet have a system other than windup flashlights and kerosene lamps for nighttime lights but again I'm not too concerned with grid failures lasting very long. There are lights available that run from battery charging of a lantern that could upgrade our capability. My point here is that although if I wanted to burn a lot of money I could have purchased a battery bank, charge controller, backup generator etc. However I felt it better to keep our electricity needs very modest in the first place with super efficient appliances and house, so that the SunnyBoy daytime Off-Grid 1500 watts is a very comfortable amount of Off-Grid capability for no additional cost whatsoever. Incidentally I'm not pushing the SunnyBoy brand particularly. Others have mentioned other brands but I'm simply saying this was the most cost effective solution for our family.[/quote]
I always think about what will be useful and durable and practical, in addition to being "fun" and appreciated by the kids.
Over the years I've given my kids nice headlamps, flashlights, backpacks, new pillows, flannel sheets, jacknives, reading lamps. They often get consumables in their stockings (writing implements, blank books, desk supplies, edibles). As a family we've "received" (okay, at my whim) cast-iron waffle irons, a heavy-duty nutcracker, a "Galileo thermometer" for indoors, woodstove tools, an outdoor thermometer, stainless-steel water bottles. Every year, we get a wall calendar and a puzzle that can be enjoyed by the family for days or weeks.
I wish I could give them all very nice bikes, and hope to do that for one special birthday once they are at adult height.
More ideas: musical instruments, books of tunes, sleds, skates, art supplies, good books that will be cherished…cast-iron dutch ovens and griddles and other items, sturdy household supplies like new towels…warm wool sweaters and socks, or knitting supplies and the promise of teaching…battery chargers and batteries…craft kits for making useful things…how-to books…family games and/or books of games or old-fashioned pastimes…juggling implements…anything that can be used to make homemade fun without electricity or electronics…
For babies and little kids, I like wooden rattles, wooden blocks, cloth dolls (like a "knotty" doll made of a washcloth, for teething), knit or felted booties.
Beautiful handmade things to inspire.
A craft kit for making "recycled" candles (= mold, wick, and instructions), or a soap-making kit that makes use of common ingredients. What about an indoor tree, like a fig or citrus tree, depending on your location and their home's available sunlight? Gardening tools, a seed catalog gift certificate for later in the winter?
I also like Lehman's catalog for inspiration; a gift card there could be a great gift.
i put up with a cool house while i wait for the sun to do it's job .so i guess toss the idea that i have to be comfortable every single minute.
with a woodstove i can come up close to it if i get cold, and once warm can tolerate a cooler room.
You make a very good point here. The idea that one should be thoroughly comfortable in every corner of the house and that the house should always be at an even temperature all through is not very sustainable.
Once I adjusted my expectations, I was surprised to find that I prefer having warmer and cooler areas of the house to go back and forth between as my body requests.
I put up with a cool house while I wait for the woodstove to heat up and the warmth to spread through the house. With good insulation (which I am very thankful for), the house is comfortable (for me) even in early morning when the fire's been dead for awhile.
Another helpful thing is to keep moving around…when I've been moderately active outside, it's like it heats up my internal furnace and then I feel warmer all day.
Maybe not exactly what you're thinking of, but in our new house, there are two places where furniture obscures the heating vents. One is under a small chest of drawers and one is under a long bookshelf. For the chest of drawers, we just built a small platform the size of the base, which happens to also be the size of the heating vent. For the bookshelf, we built a platform about 3" off the ground with an "opening" for the heating vent (only open above the heating vent — the rest of the platform is closed). This allows the heat to quickly exit the open area and not get caught under the "dead" end of the platform (because we've closed off that option).
Sorry, hard to describe, and I wasn't the carpenter, so I can't rattle off specifics.
That said, at this point, we're using the oil furnace less than 1% of the winter, if at all, so it's not really necessary this year, but when the heat is on, these platforms are helpful and makes a difference. Depending on your furniture/vent situation, I'd try to figure out a design for some kind of easily-constructed channel to direct the hot air to the open part of the room.
Let's see…turkey, green beans, carrots, corn-off-the-cob — all local — with white beans and seasoned salt. We also had millet (not local). It wasn't fabulous but my kids did not complain; three of them ate multiple bowls of it. The "picky" had meatballs (local beef), carrot sticks, and millet.
I love my crock pot. I often make carcass broth and turn it into soup. Bonus: It helps to warm the kitchen!
Last night we had "turkey rice" – brown rice, snipped chives, turkey meat, turkey fat, and a bit of tamari. Simple, cheap, delicious, and relatively healthy.
Those are pretty standard and boring as far as our dinners go here. I would love to be inspired. Thrivalista, thanks for the ideas — it's been awhile since I made red lentil curry.
My philosophy is heat the person not the room.
This is great. I am going to use it — hope you don't mind!
Thanks also for the feed corn vs. rice tip. Is there a particular size/shape you make for "taking to bed"? I may make these for my kids for Xmas (they would actually think it was neat, I'm betting — or at least useful).
I'm impressed — lots of great ideas in this discussion!
It's 10am and the outside temp is just now rising above freezing. General temps dropped about 10°F since yesterday and are expected to stay there. For me, this puts us squarely in "fire up the woodstove" territory. When the in-house temp hits 59°F, that's my cue. Though I admit, I jumped the gun by about a day, just to make sure everything was in working order.
I have a c.1985 Vermont Castings (Resolute) woodstove in my living room that we installed last year shortly after moving into our house. Over the summer, the house was completely weatherized, so I'm expecting a more effective wood-heating experience this winter than last.
This is the third year we've heated with wood, and the second in our current home, and the first year that it's possible we won't use any oil at all.
I had my chimney swept and stove inspected this year, but the guy who did it (seasoned and well-respected) said I can go two years next time. I must be doing something right.
However, I have a probe thermometer in the stovepipe (new this year) and it's not working right, so I'm not exactly sure what the temp in the pipe is doing, but based on past experience, it will be fine until I get the thermometer fixed/figured out/replaced. Seems like a simple thing to troubleshoot, but I can't get it to work. (Any thoughts on that?)
We also have a hot-air solar panel installed at the top of our stairs so that it blows air into the upstairs landing where the bedrooms are. Takes the chill off in that area. Last Spring I had a large tree removed to increase solar exposure on the panel, and I'm hoping that will make this resource more effective this year as well.
The living room is a balmy 70°F right now.
I expect to use up to three cords of wood this year. We have about 3.5 cords — some bought from a local guy, some left from last year, and some from yard projects.
Typically the stove and house get cold overnight, and I use the leftover glowing coals to start the morning's fire.
If I go away overnight, I'll set the oil furnace to kick in if the house temp drops to 45°F, but hopefully I won't need that.
I wish my stove had a larger top surface that would accommodate a stovetop oven and be more useful as a cooktop. There is enough of a surface for one pot/pan, but I have to move the thermal fan to use it.
A few days ago (before we fired it up), I refinished the exterior of the stove with black high-heat paint. Looks really spiffy. Impossible to tell by looking that it was a Freecycle stove.
I am very happy with my setup.
What about you?