Now that I’ve been living in my Tiny House for over a year, it might be interesting to see how I’ve managed with my energy consumption, and if my solar-powered system has enough capacity for me (like we calculated). Sit back and enjoy!
In my blogpost ‘Tiny House techniek: zonne-energie installatie’ I’ve written down the choices we made concerning energy supply, based on which devices I needed to power. And when I say ‘we’, I mean the team of Walden, Dimka Wentzel, Frans Hulsman from De Pittenspecialist and Johannes Boonstra from Victron Energy. As you might have read before, I’m anything but well grounded in technics, so I was so happy with these people!
Of course it’s impossible to predict how things will turn out in practice, but you need to start somewhere. For example, I didn’t foresee I would need a pretty powerful water pump for getting the rainwater from my water tank back into the house. But, all in all, I did pretty OK. My energy consumption was fairly in balance up until October. But, from November on I sometimes experienced an energy shortage. This wasn’t totally unexpected – I had been warned that in the Netherlands there’s not much sunshine in winter and that it wouldn’t be easy with 3 x 300 w solar panels and 2 x 750 wh lithium batteries. And that was indeed the case. They fell short.
Especially in December, the darkest month of the year. Although I’m using less than 1 kwh a day, the solar panels sometimes couldn’t deliver enough energy. With my battery capacity I could only make it through one really dark day. At that point, I decided to buy an emergency generator: a silent machine powered by petrol which needed to run once or twice a week for a couple of hours to charge the batteries. Later on, I would consider buying extra solar panels or batteries. A windmill isn’t an option for me. I’ve read into it, gathered information and I’ve come to the conclusion that a windmill isn’t cost-effective or practical when it comes to extending the solar-powered system. They’re fairly expensive, don’t yield that much energy, need a high pole and lots of open space, make noise…. Of course, someone else is welcome to try it out. I would be very interested in reading about their experiences! But for me this wasn’t an option.
I wish I had kept track of my energy consumption in my old home so I could compare it with my current energy consumption. My old home was a 3-bedroom terrace house. I’ve looked up online how much the energy consumption of an average household is, which of course depends on the type of house. According to energiesite.nl the usage is about 5 kwh for a 1-person household and 8 kwh for a 2-person household. I think I was somewhere in between – say 6.5 kwh. Since I’m using less than 1 kwh a day in my Tiny House, I’ve reduced my carbon footprint a lot!
I have a beautiful system from Victron Energy, which also allows me to keep track of my energy consumption. I can upload data to an online portal through my mobile phone and that way I can see exactly what I’ve used. In the image below you can see what my consumption has been last year. As you can see, December is the only month where the solar energy yield just wasn’t enough. I can live with that! In May this year, my batteries have been switched to two big boys, 2 x 2000 wh lithium batteries from Victron Energy. This allows me to get through 4 dark days! I think this will help me a lot and maybe I won’t even need the emergency generator anymore. Wouldn’t that be great? But let’s just wait and see what happens.
Has my way of living changed when it comes to energy consumption? It has, but it doesn’t bother me. I can still use all the devices and machines I need. I have a fridge-freezer, my laptop is running all day, and in spring and fall I can even use my infrared heating panel. I don’t have a washing machine, and that’s the only thing I miss. But then again I wouldn’t want one in my house. I would love to share one with my future Tiny House neighbors. Why would I need a washing machine just for me? That’s just silly, right?
I need to be careful with what I use in winter, and adjust my energy usage accordingly. That’s ok by me. I think it’s good to be aware of what amount of energy you’re using. For example, I would never have known how much energy an electric kettle uses! Or anything that creates heat, for that matter. From March until October there’s plenty of sunshine available. Maybe one day I’ll buy an E-bike; I think I could charge it easily with my solar system during the summer. But it will have to wait until I’ve found (or created) a place for several Tiny Houses and their owners, including a communal shed to keep that bike safe and dry. There’s still something left to wish for, and that’s fine! :)