Low-Wattage Lifestyle; Giving Up Power

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Here’s a simple truth about electrical power: If you don’t have it, you won’t use it. Most Americans never grapple with this. Queue up “Revolution” on the 60-inch plasma, punch the remote, and cheap, abundant power flows out of the wall.

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“A typical home draws about 30 kilowatt-hours a day,” Mr. Crea said, whereas a typical off-the-grid house may try to get by on 4 to 10 kilowatt-hours. Yet even for people devoted to sustainable living, he added, “the idea is always to find larger or greater amounts of power to sustain the kinds of living that people are accustomed to.”

For Friday at the energy fair, Mr. Crea said, “what I’ve done in my talk is to look at it from the other end”: how much power does a person need (that is, really need) to experience a good quality of life?

Mr. Crea’s four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home sits on 57 acres at the top of a hill. That’s a lot of house for a single guy. “I think it’s pretty,” he said. “Other people say it looks like the Bates Motel.”

Yet the house’s photovoltaic panel is just 2 by 3 feet: about a third the size of the front door. On a sunny day, it produces half a kilowatt-hour, enough to power a well pump, a TV, a microwave and the stereo.

Being a tinkerer, though, Mr. Crea decided to wire the tiny amp inside a set of computer speakers to drive his full-size hi-fi speakers. Now he plays music off four AA rechargeable batteries. (“Home Depot, off the shelf,” he said.)

It’s usually the refrigerator that really guzzles the juice: perhaps a kilowatt-hour a day, he said. But companies like Sun Frost and SunDanzer manufacture tiny, highly insulated boxes that run on perhaps a quarter or an eighth of the usual power.

“The majority of Americans would turn their heads when they see these things,” Mr. Crea said. Still, “you can put your beer and your lunch meat in there.”

Read More at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/garden/solar-power-to-the-people.html?pagewanted=3&_r=0&ref=realestate

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