Tag Archives: led lights

December 2016

Time keeps moving on and it has been a while since my last post. There is a variety of things to cover, so stay tuned.

First, I’ll give you a solar update.

Solar power during winter has its challenges. Optimally, it would be nice to have the batteries in a semi-heated/temperature stable location, but alas, we don’t have such a place so where they are is what we have. That being said, the solar system has been behaving very well. Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been all that sunny. After that snow we had on my birthday, it warmed up a bit, rained enough to get rid of all of the snow and then it snowed again.

… and again… and again… In fact, there haven’t been too many days in December where it hasn’t snowed at least a few flakes. This means I need to get out and clean off the solar panels each time. I have a system where I don’t need to get on the roof, but it still has its own risks being up on a ladder. I fell from it once and I don’t recommend the experience. Nothing major was broken, fortunately.

The other thing I discovered is it is not sufficient to simply clean off the solar panels. The more you do that, the more the snow builds up at the bottom and then starts covering the bottom panel. Once that happens, your incoming voltage will drop so much that you can’t get enough power out of it to recharge the batteries. So I spent an extended amount of time cleaning off the roof below the panels yesterday.

If the panels are clear of the thick snow, any ice or minor coverage will quickly melt even on a cloudy day. Last Thursday (Dec 15th) was one of the first days where we had any sunshine at all, but it was bitterly cold. I think the windchill that night was down to -32C (-27F). Fortunately, we went back to getting snow and it wasn’t quite so chilly. Today, was a brilliantly awesome sunny day and we were able to get some good power out of it. If it is constantly cloudy, we can go three days or so from 100% battery down to 80% at which point I run the generator to top them up.

I’m sure you’re all wondering where the pictures are so here are some nice scenery shots of the snowy landscape that we now live in.




In that last picture, on the far right you can see a black barrel beside the smurf house. The snow cap on it is probably 40-50cm (16-20″). As I said above, it’s been snowing a lot. We’ve certainly enjoyed having our driveway ploughing done by someone else, that is for sure.

Kat also managed to sneak a picture of me as I was cleaning snow off the roof yesterday.


In case you’re wondering, I have a squeegee attached to the end of one of those telescoping poles you usually use for painting. It works great for the panels, but is less efficient at clearing the roof itself.

While I was outside taking pictures, our bird feeder has been quite the area of activity. Chickadees, bluejays, wood peckers and nuthatches all like to feast on what we have to offer. I managed to snag a picture at just the right time to get a shot of a nuthatch. They are pretty flighty and don’t stay for very long, even less so than a chickadee.

You can see this one on the side of the feeder on the right.


Next, we’ll move inside.

As you may know from previous posts, we have a new bed frame that is working very well. Soon after that was put in, I hooked up this.


That’s an LED light strip on a dimmer switch. It’s very snazzy and makes reading in bed very enjoyable.

Once that was in it was time to work on paneling the walls.

This is the area around the closet, before any paint was applied.


This is the first section on the opposite side of the closet, by the window, after the primer was applied.


Here you can see both sides after the primer.


Progressing along, all of the window side is now paneled. Some has been painted, some are waiting to be painted.


That last picture is a little out of date, as those unpainted panels now are.

Recently, we were back at my parents for our annual cookie day event. Friends of ours from the Ottawa area, Ian and his wife, Heather, who were attending said event, kindly donated a small set of cupboards to us that they no longer needed. As it turns out, the cupboards fit nicely over the counter where the sink will be going (yes, another project yet to be completed).

Unfortunately, this did mean some adjustments needed to be made to the spice rack we had made to go over the stove, but nothing that we couldn’t handle. But before we could install it, Kat wanted to paint the wall to match the rest of the area. So, she did.


Isn’t that a lovely blue? Anyway, I did need to make a few modifications to the cupboards before I could install them. We don’t have standard wood studs behind our walls, so you can’t just hang it any which way you like. Here is a picture of me on the floor praying to the cupboards.


It wasn’t a whole lot of work, and we now have a nice new storage location for more things. Actually, all of the spices ended up in the cupboards until I finish making the modifications to the previously mentioned spice rack.


This was right before it got really cold last week, so we haven’t done much since then. I still need to go outside into the truck shelter to do things like make cuts in the pieces of wood we want to use. If it’s -20C (-4F), I’m not really inclined to go out and do that.

Things are winding down now and we’re getting ready for the holidays. We won’t be doing any major traveling this year, just visiting our family and friends within easy driving distance.

Make your holidays great 🙂


Little gadgets that help a lot

It’s been difficult trying to keep up with the blog. We don’t have the solar hooked up yet, so all of our electricity comes from running the generator. Usually we save that for the end of the day. Unfortunately, if you only have a few hours after dinner for computer usage, it usually ends up being used for work, as I am a software developer by profession, so I do need to put in my time for earning my pay. This doesn’t leave much time for blogging or other types of computer leisure activities, but I managed to snag a bit of time this evening to inform you of some fun things we have acquired.

As you may be aware, we are living off the grid, so our power consumption is measured carefully as we don’t have much of it right now. We have, however found a few very useful things that help us out.

This is the first thing: a water hand pump.


We don’t have any running water in our trailer, as to do so we would have to fill the tanks of the trailer and it is likely they would freeze during the winter. So we’re avoiding that whole problem by just using water in those 20L (5gallon) jugs you can buy at the grocery store. You see them often in offices attached to a cooler. Well, we don’t have the space or power to run a cooler, so this little hand pump that attaches makes it really nice as it uses no power and hardly takes up any space. We are buying our drinking water, but we are just saving the bottles and refilling them to get washing water. It may seem primitive, but once you get it set up and your routine set, it works pretty well. Let’s just say, we don’t waste our water 😉

Next on our list are these fun little guys: LED lights.



We are using two different kinds, due to the fact that we have fixtures with two different types of sockets. I got generic versions from amazon.ca, so I didn’t really shop around too much. These ones have very cool light, they need some more yellow in it. As you can get LEDs in just about any colour, I would imagine you can get some that give warmer light if you shopped around, but you also may pay quite a bit more.

These lights are nice, cause when you aren’t running the generator, they run off battery and we’re not talking an off-the-grid battery array. It’s just a simple 12v battery setup that is part and parcel with the trailer. It drains pretty quick. So having the least amount of strain on them is great. Switching to the LED lights means we are using about 10x less power when we run our lights. This is a good thing.

The last thing I’m going to show you is this little doodad: thermal cooker.


Doesn’t look very interesting, except for all the foreign languages written all over it. However this little guy is a great saver on propane for cooking. Think of this as a replacement for a slow cooker. It comes with a stainless steel pot. It looks like this:


You fill this pot with your soup or stew or chilli or whatever your fancy is, and bring it to a boil on the stove. Simmer it for a little while, the amount of time depending on what you are cooking and how long you want it to sit. We cooked an entire chicken as our first experiment and we simmered it for about 25 minutes. Then you take it off the stove and put it in its container.


You then close the lid and lock it down. There are no power cords or fuel cells, it just seals in all that heat you just added by boiling the contents, making it extremely difficult for it to escape in the vacuum sealed container. Now, you just let it sit… for a few hours. As long as you like, really, though if you are planning extended cooking sessions (like overnight) it is a good idea to take the inner pot out and bring it up to boil again just before going to bed.

When you’re ready, you open it up, and everything is cooked just as if you had let it sit in a slow cooker for the same amount of time, only it doesn’t use any power.


Imagine how much propane we would go through if we had to simmer a stock or stew or chilli for several hours. Using this, we can get the same results and only use a small fraction of the fuel needed. Even if you live in a conventional home, this is a good investment as it will save you power, especially if you like to use your slow cooker a lot. We use ours quite a bit during the winter as having warm soups and such is great during the colder months. I measured the electricity usage of the large crock pot we used to have and it pulls about 180 Watts on low. Now imagine running that for six to eight hours. In case you don’t math, that’s 1080 to 1440 Watts, or 1 to 1.4 kiloWatts, just for your slow cooker. The thermal cooker we have does the same thing, but only uses the power/fuel to get it started then it cooks on its own. Brilliant!

I have to say, the thermal cooker wasn’t cheap, around $200 at amazon.ca for the 4.5L (4.7quart), but it was TOTALLY worth it. The one we got (by Shuttle Chef or Thermos brand) had a lot of good reviews so we figured it was a good investment. It certainly has been. We’ve cooked a whole chicken, stew, chilli, coconut curried beef and a salmon stew in it so far. I’m sure we’ll have many other things to try in it as the winter progresses.

That’s it for fancy gadgets. I hope I’ll get some more time soon to post about some of the other things going on around here (like building projects) but as I mentioned earlier, power is a precious commodity right now. That is scheduled to change soon though, as the solar array has been ordered and is on its way. YAY!