The first wintery days are already behind us, the snow is melting away already, but what a lovely snowy world we’ve had! Life in my Tiny House now is completely different from life during the summer months, but I enjoy living with the seasons. Today I will share some insights on how my basic needs are met: electricity, water and heat.
In spring and summer I have electricity in abundance, but from sometime in November, it starts getting tight. In the Netherlands, the yield from solar panels is just not that great during the winter months. On a sunny day there’s no problem, but the days here are often misty and gray. Sometimes, a December day only has two hours of sunlight, which isn’t nearly enough for charging my batteries. But I have had an impressive upgrade last year: my battery capacity went from 2 x 750 wh to 2 x 2000 wh. My batteries are from Victron Energy, you can read more about them in this blog. I can really notice the difference now! This last weekend, with all the snow, my solar panels didn’t yield any power, but Tuesday morning I still had power. Brilliant! Of course, I adjust my usage according to the circumstances. I shut down the water pump and turn it on only when I need water. And I cancel PC game night, because a graphics card uses a lot of energy. I’m better off reading a book. Luckily, I love to read.
But still, I need a back-up every now and then. Since November I’ve had to use my back-up generator because the battery voltage got too low and the power went out. Now that my batteries are bigger, my generator runs for a longer time, about 7 or 8 hours. But even so, it uses less than 5 liters of petrol and it’s pretty quiet. During the darkest months the generator is on once a week max; for me that’s acceptable. It’s also important to remove snow and dirt from the solar panels on a regular basis. Snow stops every ray of sun, but dirt, like soot from the chimney, also diminishes the yield. So, I have to go up the ladder and clean off the panels with a mop (stick). All part of the package when living off-grid in a Tiny House.
The image below shows my Victron Energy VRM Dashboard and shows how my solar installation did last week. Not that bad, right? Yesterday was a good day :)
My water supply is more than enough; there’s ample rain during these months. But during the winter there’s a higher risk of a frozen water pipe. Despite my good intentions written down in this blog, unfortunately I didn’t get around to insulating my water line outside. But luckily, we haven’t had very low temperatures yet and besides, I suspect that my water pipe doesn’t freeze up as fast or thaws more quickly now that there’s no straw and canvas covering it. They may have caused the water pipe to freeze more slowly, but in the end it froze up anyway and kept the cold in longer. So up until now I’ve had fresh water in the house every day, although I shut down the water pump last Sunday to save electricity. But hey, who needs rainwater when you have snow? I simply went outside to fill my kettle with snow and put it on the stove to defrost. It made me feel like a pioneer living in the Alaskan wilderness, haha!
My heater is working just fine, no worries about that. I had the chimney cleaned out at the start of the season and I haven’t had any problems at all. The other day I fell a little short of good, dry firewood, so I bought a few packets of wood briquettes. It’s great stuff; it’s completely dried out and burns clean. It’s made of compressed sawdust. For the nights, I have night briquettes; basically, the same idea but made of compressed bark. They smolder for about 6 to 8 hours, which leaves my house comfortable enough when I get out of bed in the morning. It’s about 14 degrees Celsius at that time. After an hour of heating up the stove my house is at room temperature pretty quickly.
Now I have another small batch of firewood from Actief Talent from Alkmaar, including some kindling. Dry wood and kindling are a must have! And I need small logs of wood, because my Hobbit woodstove is petty tiny too ;)
I can imagine that this kind of living is too much for most people. Living in a Tiny House doesn’t have to be like this. But for me it’s fine, and it makes me grateful for what I have. Having water, electricity and heat isn’t that self-evident. And even though I understand the concept of living energy-neutral, ‘all-electric’ and giving back to the grid, and knowing that the production of batteries creates pollution: I think that it is only when your supply of resources is finite that you gain real awareness of your consumption. With that I mean: knowing you might run out of water in the dry season if you continue to shower every day. Knowing from experience that you need to be frugal with your electricity in the winter or you’ll have to use your generator. I really believe they if we don’t cut back on our consumption, even completely transferring to renewable energy isn’t going to save us.
One thing is for sure: living in a Tiny House, even with full on-grid facilities, is a giant step in the right direction because you’re using much less energy and water than in a regular house. So, if going off-grid isn’t your thing, don’t do it. On the other hand, how great would it be to tell your power company when you call them to cancel their services: by the way, I don’t need a new connection either. Or when the whole neighborhood is sitting in the dark during a power outage, and your lights are on as if nothing’s happened. Just saying… ;)