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.
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…