johnny August 1st, 2007
Now, common wisdom on solar panels is that they take 10-15 years to pay for themselves. I did some back of the envelope calculations based on our home bill and assumed no price increases. Fifteen years looks reasonable for our usage; probably a fair bit less once you factor inflation in.
On an RV, things are a bit different. Why? Because campgrounds average around $30 a night. Alternately we could run an annoyingly loud generator and pay high fuel prices. For simplicity’s sake, lets assume we could average $20 a night one way or the other. If we can avoid paying that $20, the system will easily pay for itself in under a year.
Currently I’m thinking about a 700W solar panel installation. I haven’t started shopping around for batteries and accessories just yet, but I have been able to find solar panels as low as $4.25 per watt. I believe that price may come down a bit more before we’re ready to start bolting on panels. This is the new price of course. There is an electronic salvage shop in town that may be able to bring that price down if we can find some relatively new 12 volt panels.
One of the challenges will be lowering our overall electrical usage. We’ll be generating roughly 10% of our current usage in an apartment on a good day!
- We’ll be cooling roughly 10% of the current volume.
- We’ll be using laptops instead of overpowered gaming rigs.
- We’ll move from 4 servers running at all times to a single file server running when we are actively using it.
- We’ll be actively trying to prepare food with a minimum of energy usage.
- We’ll only need to run the water heater 10-15 minutes a day.
- We’ll be traveling to avoid too much in the way of extreme heat or cold (except when it’s time to go skiing!).
- We may look into using a swamp cooler some out west. It’s not terribly practical where we are currently.
- We’ll be using a catalytic heater instead of electrical.
- Jenn already works for the light bulb police.
I’m sure we’ll come up with many more tricks along the way, but as a start I think we’ll be some of the most energy efficient folks in the country without losing too much in the way of comfort.