When technologies collide…

I’ve been pleased as can be with the way my solar power system has functioned this past several years. It came to its current state of maturity maybe four years ago after a long period of gradual growth, and was really working fine on a smaller scale for several years before that.

But it turns out it was a damned good thing I grabbed the opportunity to double its capacity when I did, because two years ago my (Vintage? Antique? I’ve never been quite sure) old oven’s thermocouple crapped out and no generic replacement would fit. Big Brother generously financed a new oven. I carefully researched size and ability to convert to propane but did not ask what turned out to be an important question: Does the oven use a pilot light or an electric heater? I did not know that in the (many!) years since I’d last purchased a new major kitchen appliance, oven pilot flames had gone the way of the Bill Cosby album. Instead, new ovens light their burners with big power-hungry heating elements which were emphatically not designed for use with a tiny bank of lead-acid batteries.

Mind you, it’s not all bad. First, over months and years a pilot flame burns a lot of propane – and when you’re hauling it in eight gallons at a time, it really adds up. So an oven of newer design that’s not being used isn’t costing me anything. Second, this new oven bakes a very lovely loaf of bread.


It turned out that the old oven was the source of much of my dissatisfaction with my bread-baking talent.

There’s really only one downside, and I’ve easily been able to live with it. You need to pick your time. Baking at night is right out. Using the oven to take the chill off the cabin, always a sin because of carbon monoxide but a sin I admit I used to occasionally commit, is now not an option because the only time you’d need that is when it’s night or during a winter storm and those are the two times you mustn’t use the oven.

Whenever possible, I bake only during sunny days. I planned today as a baking day specifically because today was forecast to be sunny, and I stretched the old loaf a bit for that reason. But this morning, I got…


Not heavy overcast, but hardly a bright cloudless day. And it showed…


On a sunny day that would read in the 12.4 range, not really stressing the batteries at all. So not a show-stopper, but something I always have to keep in mind.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to When technologies collide…

  1. m says:

    I would sure as heck find an old grill with a pushbutton igniter and re-engineer it into the oven.

  2. Ritchie says:

    How about one of those sparky torch lighter things?

  3. Robert says:

    IIRC, the engineers decided you, the end-user, will not be permitted to simply turn on the burner’s gas valve and LIGHT A FRIGGIN’ KITCHEN MATCH! Am I recollecting that travesty correctly?

  4. Robert says:

    Joel: my comment of 30 seconds ago was “deprecated” and vanished. Um?
    I didn’t swear or use big words or nuthin’ like that, honest!

  5. Kentucky says:

    In my experience, it’s the legal department and the beancounters and the marketing department and the focus groups who decide upon such changes, and it’s the engineers who get stuck with satisfying all the mixed signals from those groups and then bear the wrath of the ultimate users. 🙁

  6. Joel says:

    IIRC, the engineers decided you, the end-user, will not be permitted to simply turn on the burner’s gas valve and LIGHT A FRIGGIN’ KITCHEN MATCH! Am I recollecting that travesty correctly?

    When I was young we had an old oven that you lit with a kitchen match. Worked fine, though it was kind of a pain in the ass. But since then every oven I ever used had a thermocouple that wouldn’t allow the gas valve to open unless a thermocouple was kept hot with a pilot light. My old Gaffers & Sattler had valves that allowed me to shut off the stovetop pilots, and from then on I lit the burners with a match. But I was never able to find any way to shut off the oven pilot.

To the stake with the heretic!