Maintaining A Healthy Energy Efficiency In An Off-Grid Home
Posted on September 29 2016
Its all about renewable energy and the power to harness and use it efficiently.
In an off-grid home, the question of efficiency becomes a more pressing matter than those of ordinary homes that are using power from a energy provider.
Using or wasting too much energy in a regular house hold will 'only' results in an higher electrical bill. But for an off grid home, the same exact situation could result in a blackout until more power is available. Which is no fun at all.
First and foremost, the first thing you must do is to calculate and plan your energy needs carefully, thus designing a proper off grid system to supply your power requirements. Check out our previous guide for designing and planning an off-grid system here.
However, maintaining energy efficiency will also be highly beneficial, Reducing your initial investments and long-term costs are just 2 benefits. After all, being off-grid and power independent most often is based on one goal: to reduce dependency on others and be self-sufficient.
We have talked to some experts and technicians, and here are some great tips to save more energy in your off-grid solar panel households:
1. Turn Those Lights Off When It Is Not Needed
Although this one is seemingly obvious, many of us still make the same mistake of using unnecessary energy every day. Lighting can consist of up to 10% of our total energy usage, so saving energy on lighting can be significant in the long run.
Here are some of what you can do to improve your lighting efficiency:
Control and Automation.
A smart control system (aff.) can help with automation and scheduling to turn-off the lighting you don't need, and turning it back on at a specified time when you need it.
If a smart control system is too expensive, you can simply use timers for all your bulbs. For your outdoor lighting, using motion detector sensor can dramatically increase its efficiency and convenience.
When In Doubt, Use LEDs.
Although your initial investment for LED bulbs will be higher than using CFL or incandescent, your energy efficiency improvements will be worth it.
Even more, use bulbs with Energy Star ratings whenever possible, especially with 5 of your most used bulbs.
Strategic Placement of lightings can eliminate the needs to install more bulbs, reducing the necessary investment as well as your energy usage in the long run.
For example, placing a light bulb in the corner can illuminate both walls, creating reflection from both walls for a more pleasant light with only one bulb.
2. Embrace The Sun and Use It Efficiently
We have discussed how maximizing sunlight can be beneficial for your house in our previous article. Here are a few things you can do to maximize daylight in your off-grid house:
Windows placement is the key to a proper day lighting where glares are minimized and views and lights are maximized.
Windows are better placed near side walls to generate less contrast and glare than placing it in the center of the room.
Both exterior and interior shading have their uses. Exterior shadings like shades and shutters can block sunlight when it is too bright, and interior shadings like blinds can reflect some excessive sunlight to the ceiling.
Low-E Glass, although will demand a bit more investment, can allow light into the room and filter unwanted heat at the same time.
Heating and cooling systems can take up a lot of your energy. Thus, careful heating/cooling management, as well as some tricks, can save up to 40% of the energy used by your heating/cooling needs.
Here are a few things you can do:
Use Nature For Your Advantage
Opening windows to cool of your house can save a lot of energy used by an air conditioning system. Thus, window placements will play a significant part. Consider wind movements of your area before deciding where to place your windows.
Using wood fire to heat can also save a lot of heating energy. Check out some tips from DIY Network regarding chimney and fireplace installation and maintenance.
Proper insulation can make your house cooler in summer and warmer in winter, reducing the needs for heating and cooling systems in your house. A careful planning and installation of insulation can save 40 to 50% of the energy used by your heating and cooling systems.
Not only benefitting your house temperatures, but proper insulations can also help reduce condensation, thus reducing dampness and mold that may be dangerous for your health.
Thermostat Must Be Right
Setting your thermostat at the 18 -20 degrees Celcius in winters can save a lot of energy. Every degree above 20 can add 10% or more to your energy usage. In summer, set your thermostat above 26 degrees.
Appliances can use more energy than your lighting usage, and here are some of the things you can do to reduce appliances energy:
Unplug When Not In Use
Typical American leaves about 40 household appliances plugged in all the time. Some of these use up electricity even in standby mode and simply unplugging it can save a lot of energy.
Some of the appliances you should unplug are computers (laptop and desktop), televisions, and even table lamps. You can find the full list from AOL here.
Use More DC Powered Devices and Appliances
With your off-grid electricity system being of a DC-voltage, using DC appliances can eliminate the needs to use inverters.
Inverters reduce energy efficiency, saving a further 10% in energy goes of long way for an off grid home and anyone familiar with off grid power generation would agree to that.
Although this list from Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is a bit old (published in 2011), it is still highly relevant to provide the list of DC appliances available.
Maximize Your Fridge's Efficiency
The refrigerator deemed a special mention since it can use the majority of your appliances energy.
The ideal fridge temperature is 4 to 5 degrees Celsius, and freezer minus 15 to minus 18 degrees.
Turn off (and unplug) your fridge when not in use whenever possible.
We have discussed some of the notable ways to save more energy for your off-grid household. Although intended for an off-grid usage, readers with regular households can generally apply the same principles to save more energy.
For those who went off-grid with economical reasons, more efficiency equals more profit both short-term and long term. For those with environmental reasons, less energy usage will also mean a cleaner environment.
For those of you that are in a off grid home, we would recommend using this DC power energy meter (aff.) to monitor your energy consumption and power generation.