This special guest article was written and submitted by Keith Ahlstrom. A client of Sunfind Solar who is currently enjoying the off grid life
Making the decision to purchase a Solar power system was one of the hardest decision I have had to make. Once the installation was complete, it also quickly became apparent it was one of the best decision I have ever made.
At the time though, it was a hand wringing, mind twisting, gut wrenching endeavour. I needed to figure out if it would even work at all, whether I would need to get used to sitting in the dark and change the way I lived my life. I was even worried the companies I contacted were trying to scam me. This wasn’t as easy as asking my neighbour if he liked his new lawnmower because mine was on it’s last legs. I didn’t know a single person with even a single solar panel never mind enough of them to run a home.
At the time, Solar was such an unknown that the only solar panel I had ever seen up close was on a calculator. While that little calculator solar panel did what it was supposed to do, (Help my math phobic mind function) I had a hard time imagining them running a fridge.
The more I researched my questions, the more questions I had. The more questions I had the more I was unsure. I read the forums and posted my questions, (some thoughtful, but most of them were confused and often near panic) I looked at pictures and watched videos, read blog posts and I called solar installers.
Oh those poor Solar companies! I can only imagine what my name was on their caller ID!
But in the end, I did it and the day I turned on the system and flipped the lights on, the refrigerator buzzed to life and my computer powered up. My primary fear was laid to rest. It worked. My new PV system was powering my world.
The sun went down that evening and the lights stayed on and the refrigerator stayed cold. I awoke the next day and sun came up and the whole cycle started again: Sunrises in the east, solar panels do some Solar Voodoo and make electricity, Charge Controller feeds power to the battery bank until the system is full, the inverter converts the power from the batteries to typical voltages you find in any home and I simply go about my day just like always. Repeat daily.
Did I have to change my life because I was now operating off of solar? Well, yes actually – but For the better. I simply became tuned into the world around me. I didn’t leave lights on for no reason (though in the Spring Summer and most of the Fall, there is simply more power than I could have even thought possible, but it is always a good idea to not have a wasteful mindset. Winter is when your new habit of not having the house lit up like a carnival for no reason pays off. When there are fewer daylight hours to collect from, you quickly learn to pay attention. But in no way have I found myself sitting in the dark and nothing has changed when it comes to modern conveniences. I have a better lifestyle actually. One that I find empowering knowing that I’m more independent and free. (doesn’t hurt to be saving money as well)
Were the companies I contacted trying to scam me? I don’t know, all I can speak to is my experience with Sunfind Solar and how far they went to make sure I was comfortable and how they made sure my system was correct for what I needed it to do. Make sure you are working with a very reputable Solar designer and installer.
So was the hand wringing worth it? No!
Knowing what I know now, I would simply have called up Sunfind Solar and had them do it on the spot! It simply works so, so well. The fact I was stressing the decision is laughable in hindsight.
But I did learn a few things along the way and I hope you can relax and go Solar with more confidence than I had:
Be honest with yourself and your Solar power company. Don’t underestimate your current power use or base it on what you wish it was. You are only going to wish you had more capacity.
Don’t massively over estimate your needs. There is no point in paying for a system you won’t take full advantage of. (It’s a fine balance that an experienced company will be able to asses and make sure you are on the right side of the equation.
Listen when they say: “When at the design stage, it is less expensive to become more efficient than to add more Solar to your system.” Here is the chance to clean up your act a bit and implement the amazing power savings that are available to us now by using more efficient lights like LED and appliances like inverter refrigerators.
If you are installing an off grid system like I did; be kind to your batteries. If you treat them well, they will be there for you when you need them. Treat them poorly and fail to do the recommended maintenance, you will find yourself having to invest in a new set before you should have to. Not that the batteries are demanding of your time or brain power. It’s extremely simple, just do what is recommended. You are not smarter than your batteries! (Well, I know I’m not anyway. They proved it!)
So to the person out there right now struggling to understand amps and watts, inverters and angles. Take a deep breath and take it from someone who did it the hard way. It will be great in the end.
The sun rises in the east – repeat.