Never got above freezing yesterday. Heavy clouds, occasional flurries, no accumulation. Probably won’t get above freezing today – hell, might not get near it – though we are currently getting some on-and-off sun. Yesterday I left the inverter off all day just because the only thing I’d have needed it for was the computer, and why run the batteries down when I don’t know when I’ll see the sun again? So this morning we’re in very good shape, electrically.
Yesterday for the first time all winter I ran the woodstove all day and right till bedtime, and had no trouble at all keeping the interior temperature in the high sixties and seventies with zero resort to propane. Which is darned nice, and it’s likely to continue because the forecast calls for one of those weeks where it just never gets above freezing at all. Since I have no way of running a heated waterer, I go out to the Fortress of Attitude every few hours with a bowl of liquid water and bring in their old bowl of ice. Until it warms up a bit I won’t even bother with their waterer. It’s at times like this I’m happy I sweat over all those old pallets in August and September, because the firewood supply causes me no anxiety. Most winters I’ve been more just-in-time with my wood cutting, but screw that: It’s cold outside.
Speaking of electrical issues, way back in August when that lightning strike fried my old RV-surplus 4000w Xantrex inverter, we had a discussion about whether I wasn’t better off with a smaller inverter after all, in terms of parasitic drain. Apparently there’s a rule of thumb that the size of the drain caused by the inverter is proportional to the potential output of the inverter. I’d never heard of that rule, but it makes an instinctive sort of sense.
This being the season of the solstice, when every unnecessary voltage loss becomes significant and pretty easy to identify, I’ve been putting that to the test. I never kept records about the evening voltage, but I have routinely recorded the morning voltage every day for the past 2 1/2 years so while this isn’t scientific, I do have some basis for my view that that rule above isn’t universally true. In fact, my new Magnum Energy 600w inverter…
…causes at least as much overnight voltage drop as the old Xantrex ever did. Possibly a little more. For the past three frigid afternoons I’ve been shuffling out to the powershed to turn it right off at sunset (and oh HOW I wish I knew how to put a remote on/off switch on that thing) and the voltage drop is significantly less when I do that – on the order of .3 volt. That’s even with the voltage drop you can normally expect when the batteries’ ambient temperature is in the low teens. That’s pretty much right in line with what the Xantrex used to do to me, though the Magnum is a much smaller inverter. So there’s that, make of it what you will*.
So I’m just hunkering down through this projected cold snap and hoping that damned pipe manifold at the base of the cistern doesn’t freeze up again. Whether this will be a slow blogging week depends mostly on sun and mood – right now I’ve been enjoying a Larry Correia reading festival because I never get sick of him and reading dead-tree books requires no electricity. Thanks for all the comments. Hope you all are staying warm.
*And those of you who said for years I should have installed 12V lighting in the Secret Lair can pour yourselves a nice big steaming cup of I Told You So, because I can testify that a 12V LED run for five hours in the evening won’t even take the surface charge off my batteries. Man, I’m glad for that retrofit lighting kit my brother sent me a year ago November. I’ve got one by the reading chair and one in the sleeping loft, and now I’m thinking maybe I want to run a third over into the kitchen corner because the past few nights I’ve been brewing tea by flashlight.