Here’s a really cool idea

6 09 2009

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. I’ve been meaning to do this for years…. It’s either been too poor, too busy, too many other things to do. Last year we switched to another power supplier, Integral Energy. To cut to the chase, because absolutely nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody, in the electricity industry is trained to take calls from people who sell solar power to the grid, we were basically conned into switching under the premise that we would be better off under Integral’s tariff regimes. The people who made these promises had possibly never even seen a solar array tied to the grid…

After six months we got a bill…. and zero credit for the substantial amount of energy we exported to the grid. After hours on the phone and emails back and forth we eventually did get a whole nine months rebated, but the next three was, again, not credited.

So I thought, right, they want to play silly buggers, so can I. And I disconnected from the grid, running the house from the batteries we have as backups for the occasional blackouts. At the same time all this happened, our old fridge, which I knew was on the blink, finally gave up the ghost, consuming vast amounts of energy which at night was thrashing the batteries. I woke up one morning to find them flat, which was OK (sort of – it’s a sure way of shortening battery life) because as soon as the sun was strong enough they were quickly recharged. The problem of course is that we could not continue using this fridge as long as we were relying on the batteries, and it had to be replaced.

This is not my idea, I lifted it straight off the internet. If you run a freezer, especially a chest freezer, as a refrigerator, then you will use considerably less energy than otherwise would be the case. Why? Well when you open the top, all the cold air stays inside the fridge for starters, and because they are designed to run far colder, their innards are better made. Plus the insulation used in freezers is often three times as thick as that in fridges. All you need to do is use a replacement thermostat to over-ride the freezer’s internal device.

I was lucky to have found such an item the week before here and now on eBay (in the US) here. thermostatIt is cheaper than any other alternative I’ve yet found, and it looked well made. Fifty bucks later, one arrived in the mail pronto.. now all I needed was a freezer to go with it.

Years ago, I’d spotted this unusual chest freezer in a shop. It had a drawer in the bottom. It’s the only one like it, as far as I know. The beauty of this design is that the top is very shallow, you don’t have to bend in half to reach the bottom for the beer! I wanted one….

As luck would have it of course, its price had gone up substantially. The cheapest I could find over the internet was $703, plus delivery. That was way more than we wanted to spend, and so we looked around to see what else was available.

The good thing about the GFC is that cash talks loudly these days. haierfreezerI found one of these beauties in a shop I didn’t even know existed, totally by chance. It was the last one they had. The asking price was $699. Less for cash. So I accosted this rather large salesman and asked him what was his best cash price (ostentatiously pulling out a wad of $50 notes from my shirt pocket!). $570 said he after typing a few strokes into his computer…. I nearly keeled over! SOLD said I. Would you believe that amount was exactly all the cash we had? Some things are just meant to happen….

I’ve got it all going now, in spite of the atrociously written instructions on how to program the controller, and when I finally get the energy consumption figures over the next week or so, I’ll update the post. Can’t wait.

UPDATE:

img_4686After 10 days usage, I’m pleased to announce that our new fridge is still working well, and that best of all it’s only used 2.5 kWhrs, or 0.25 kWhrs/day. You may be interested to know how I measure the fridge’s energy consumption…. years ago when I was doing energy audits for money, I bought myself my own kWhr meter which I rigged up with a hard wired lead to plug into a powerpoint, and which has its own powerpoint (at the back) into which you plug the appliance you wish to monitor. I broke the seals and zero the meter before using it. The temperature controller BTW clearly shows the temperature in the fridge is 3 degrees. It’s kind of neat to have a constant temperature readout…. you know instantly if something’s gone haywire!

UPDATE:

As usual, technology improves, and prices come down…..  I would now recommend this unit, which you can buy for $14.98 from China here…

This one reads to 0.1ºC, and whilst it has somewhat clearer instructions than the truly appalling ones that came with the other unit….  you’ll still have to work your way through the Chinglish wording!

Have fun….





Abundance at last

1 09 2009

img_4650

img_4683Boy it’s busy around here…. my excuse for the rare posts. Since getting zone 1 under control, our goats finally kidded. We were starting to think this pregnancy thing was all for attention getting… and it was working! Pushka, our bigger goat and dominant bully, gave birth to a singleton at the beginning of August, and Shovelinka, twins five days later. To say kid goats are cute is an understatement, and unlike puppy dogs they don’t bark and they don’t chew your shoes!

Milking the nannies is proving to be a bit harder than I had anticipated though… I guess you could say we’re less than totally ready for this, like lack of an adequate milking station. First thing in the morning, I take the goats’ favorite meal of copra mixed with kelp and other added minerals. I tie them one at a time to the fence with their breakfast at a handy height and hobble their hind leg to stop them kicking, putting their hooves in my bucket, and largely making total ass****s of themselves! We all need training here, and after three days, I have the grand total of 250 mL of milk to show for my efforts….. I’m told perseverance is the name of the game, so I will persevere. At least, the milk is utterly delicious!

Soon we’ll also have ducks coming out our ears. Two clutches hatched about a month ago, and there are currently another three ducks sitting on eggs…. I can already taste a great Christmas!

This is all in the face of a mini drought too. In May, we were flooded out twice in ten days, and then the taps were turned off. Literally no rain since, the excuse for “rain” that arrived yesterday didn’t even touch the sides of the rain gauge. More coming tomorrow they tell us. We’ll see. They’re also predicting a wet start to Spring, and I won’t complain, watering everything by hand because you have to gets a little tiresome after a while….. And we’ve just gone through a heat wave too. Anyone who believes that climate change is a hoax and the planet’s cooling should have been here for the last couple of weeks. Winter is only officially over today, but the past two weeks have seen temperatures as high as 15 degrees above average (that’s around 30 degrees Farenheit for you yanks reading this!). The weather changed so dramatically with yesterday’s attempt at rain, that it was warmer at midnight than midday. Go figure. Summer’s got me really concerned now…. I hate the heat.

Any semblance of routine has gone straight out the window lately. Glenda’s 85 year old Mum fainted with a dicky heart two and a half months ago, cracking a neck vertebrae and breaking her hip. Nine weeks later, and a hip replacement followed by a pace maker, she’s back home, but Glenda’s busy looking after her constantly, and it’s getting lonely here on the farm all alone! Ah well, shit happens. At least I don’t have time to get bored, been making beer and marmalade, and twice a week I kill a chook. On my own, I’d have no difficulty living here for months without ever having to buy food.

UPDATE:

The next day…… I had to add this, at last some success…! Managed to squeeze 600 mL of milk out my goats at one sitting this morning! I know it’s still pathetic, but at least I’m proving to myself that perseverance works. I’ll be making cheese before I know it!!