I come by it honestly – for the first winter the Lair had a ridiculously inadequate free sample of a solar power system that couldn’t even run CFLs in the morning without triggering the low voltage alarm. I was proud and pleased that it worked at all, but it only improved incrementally over several years and I’m left with a serious fetish about reducing my electricity usage to the absolute minimum. For most of the past going-on-ten years, the biggest single draw in the whole cabin was the coffee grinder* – and I have a hand-crank grinder for Plan B, which shows you how seriously I take coffee.
Anyway: For most of that time the kitchen stove was a vintage – possibly antique, I don’t know – gas range that never ran well but always ran, and didn’t require the slightest hint of electricity to operate. At the beginning of this winter the oven crapped out. I couldn’t figure out the cause and anyway replacement Gaffers & Sattler parts were not to be found. Big Brother bailed me out with a Brand New Stove – and I’m so behind the times that I didn’t even think to research whether it had a gas pilot in the oven.
It didn’t. Instead, apparently like all modern ovens, it had a huge heating element that pulled serious amperage getting so hot that propane gas burst into flame when exposed to it. And the first time I saw that happen, I about plotzed. I immediately began plotting an emergency Plan B in which I swapped my beautiful brand-new stove with the old one (with gas pilot in the oven) currently residing in Ian’s Cave.
Since then I’ve planned my bread baking for sunny days whenever possible. Baking day is almost the only time I actually use the oven, so even though the new stove’s been here two months I still haven’t acclimated to the change. This morning I finally remembered to go get my Kill-A-Watt out of the powershed and look at how much juice the heating element actually pulls.
I did worry at first that the heating element might overamp the inverter, which is only rated at 600 watts, but…
…even that isn’t a worry. This draw does pull down the charge in my small battery bank quite a lot, given that it has to go on for almost 20 minutes until the oven is hot. I can’t think of any purpose so important it would convince me to run the oven at night. But once the oven is hot, the heating element only comes on periodically and briefly. On a nice sunny mid-day it quite overcomes the charging voltage but only pulls the batteries down to like 12.4 volts.
I’ve baked bread on a cloudy winter day without any danger of damage, and that’s as bad as things could get. Anything more extreme than that, like nighttime, and I just don’t use the oven. So I need to relax and learn to love it.
* Since the old days the grinder has been joined by a clothes iron and a vacuum cleaner, either of which will drain the batteries to the point where the inverter shuts down if you let them run too long. But they’re not everyday appliances.