Welcome to the latest news from Le Shack on November 6th 2020. We’ve been here for seven weeks now and our off-grid power system is largely finished. I thought you might be interested in a potted version of how it works and what it actually gives us. Also this week, something completely different. As everybody is saying, this will be a long winter, with Covid dominating our lives more than we ever wanted it to. I thought it might break up the monotony if I could post a short, weekly video where you come out for a walk with me – armchair travel which will allow you to see a different country and that might give us all some comfort as it shows what a beautiful world we live in. I’m not the most technically gifted girl out there, so I hope it will work. It worked on the preview mode, but if it doesn’t come through live I may have to re-jig and re-publish so please bear with me.
But first of all, lets talk about off-grid systems. In a conventional house you are constantly using power. It is a circular system – you take power out and it is automatically replenished by the national grid. It happens behind the scenes and you don’t need to think about it. Our off-grid system works on the same principle of power in and power out, but we are now acting as the national grid. We create our own power and we do this through two sources – solar panels and a generator.
We used solar panels on the boat and, rather than buy another set, we have brought them down with us. They are mounted on a wooden frame and are easily moved. We have a morning position and an afternoon position for them so that they can catch the most of the sun and even in autumn they have been performing very well. On a sunny day they can easily put in more than we are using. I like solar power. It is relatively straightforward and there is something wonderfully satisfying in getting free power from a natural source.
We had a small generator on the boat but we decided we needed something more meaty for the cabin and invested in a Hyundai 3000 watt inverter generator for the princely sum of approx £600. We have been extremely pleased with this so far but the best thing about it is the remote control. Who knew generators had remote controls? It looks exactly like a modern day car fob. When it is raining cats and dogs outside all we do is press the button from the comfort of our chair by the fire and in seconds we can hear the thrum of the generator outside.
So now we have the power but we need to store it and we do this in two batteries, two little blue boxes that are crucial to maintaining a comfortable standard of living. I knew a little about batteries before we embarked upon a complete off-grid system, but now I know more than I ever wanted to. Their sworn goal in life is to leave you in the dark, literally, whenever possible. To avoid this happening we monitor the power going out and balance it against the power going in on a daily basis. If the solar panels are not producing much because of a cloudy day, then we may need to turn the generator on for an hour or two. This might sound complicated, but actually it’s made simple due to our control panel, which has various, easy-to-understand monitors that tell us exactly what is happening.
The generator is dual purpose. Not only does it charge the batteries, but it also powers our table-top oven and hot water heater for the shower. We don’t yet have the shower or sink part of the system in place but we’re not far off it. At this point I could launch into an explanation of 12 volt, 24 volt and 240 volt systems, of the pros and cons of inverters and converters but it would take forever and we’d all lose the will to live, so I will move swiftly on.
At the moment our combined system of solar, generator and battery power gives us the following; an electric oven for cooking; lights; a dvd player for films, an mp3 player for music and charging points for phone and kindle. We use gas for our two-ring hob and the woodburner for warmth. You already know how we do our clothes washing and we will very soon have a shower and a working sink. So you can see we have pretty much everything we need. The one thing I might miss is my electric blanket in the depths of winter, but the woodburner is only eight feet away from the bed and packs a punch so hopefully that will keep me warm enough.
And now on to our walk. In the short time that we have been here this has already become one of our favourite walks, taking us down the lane, on to a track through fields of maize, along the river at the bottom of the valley and then back up through the woods. The following video is very short, no more than two minutes of me prattling on, and shows you a little bit of the river section of the walk. This is an experiment and will no doubt develop as we progress through the winter. For the next four weeks we are tied closely to the house because of Covid, but I hope we can share the Pyrenées and the Atlantic coast with you in the next couple of months. And of course next year it means you can come cruising with us – oh, what a joyous thought.
Take care all and see you next week.