Life and Nature are constantly evolving, and so we at Skalitude also follow this forward-moving trend. This year we’ve had several very exciting improvements, the most dramatic of which is the addition of another 1.2 kilowatts of panels for the Lodge solar system, doubling our input!
The batteries over there are approaching their life limit. We have noticed that in winter they really can’t hold a charge for more than a couple of days with guests here, although in summer they seem to do just fine.
Except, however, for during the heat wave this past summer.
It turns out that solar panels are much less efficient in higher temperatures, so while in winter we may get 40 amps out of our existing panels, in June of this year we found the most we got was 25. With everyone running fans 24 hours a day to try to mitigate the heat, we just didn’t have enough power. We know that someday (or year!) soon we will have to buy new batteries for both the Lodge and the cabin, we hope that by adding more input we can keep the batteries at a higher state of charge allowing us to squeeze another year or two out of them. By waiting another year or two we hope the technology will have improved and the price dropped so that buying new batteries won’t be as huge of an investment as it is now!
The next biggest improvement is the new hot water heater in the Lodge. Our last one broke last winter, it took a while to find a new one and re-engineer the system. We are very happy with the Navien heater we ended up with, it is SO quiet it makes me think it must also be very efficient!!
We also re-engineered the system so that it also seems to be more efficient. In the old system, the propane heater provided back-up heat to the hot water tank by circulating hot water thru a copper coil in the middle of the tank (the solar loop circulates thru a copper coil in the bottom of the tank). Now, the Navien provides back up heat by taking water from the top of the tank, heating it up and putting it back into the bottom of the tank by means of a copper pipe descending down thru the tank, so it also transfers some heat on its way in. We noticed today it took about 5 minutes to heat the water from 112 degrees to 118 degrees. Pretty good for a 100 gallon tank!!
The most exciting aspect is that our propane bill for 2015 was less than $1000!! That is fuel for the generator, hot water for two buildings with a total of four showers, and cooking. Our main source of heat is two wood stoves, if we add in three cords of wood at $150 each (we buy in spring when it’s often cheaper), our total energy bill is less than $1500. We’re impressed!!! (it does help that propane is only $1.50/gallon these days….)
Finally, the smallest but still noteworthy improvement is that we replaced all of our flush toilets with duel-flush toilets. Our last toilets weren’t that old, they were standard 1.6 gallon flushers, but with the drought we decided to go ahead and be pro-active in regards to water conservation. Our new toilets use just 1 gallon for a small flush, and still 1.6 gallons for the large flush. If we have 20 people here all peeing three times a day, that’s 60 flushes, so if we save 0.5 gallons per flush that’s a savings of 30 gallons per day. Since it takes power to pump the water, it also saves on our power usage.
Life is good, and continues to get better!!