We also realized that it would not be practical for us at this point to get enough panels to come up with the 8 KWH per day, so we started looking at our loads again, and at how to reduce the consumption. The fridge was the big hog, at 2 KWH per day. The heating system was the other big one, even though I already had it operating on a timer so the pumps would not run as much.
We decided to replace our side-by-side Maytag refrigerator with a Sun Frost RF12, since it uses less than one-sixth of the energy of the Maytag. We also decided to heat with wood and solar thermal collectors. The top-loading clothes washer was replaced with a horizontal-axis, front loader, which uses less than a third of the energy. We have no dryer, just drying racks.
Since we were already using efficient T8 electronic-ballasted fluorescent fixtures and compact fluorescents in most of the house, and 18-watt, low-pressure sodium lights outside, there was not much to be done in that department. We then made sure that nothing was plugged in that did not need to be. By doing these things, we reduced our daily appliance load to an average of 5 KWH.
In late December 2001, we called our electricity supplier to have our utility service disconnected. This, of course, was something that did not make a lot of sense to the lady at the call center, but she did it anyway. On December 28, Gary, one of our local linemen, came out and disconnected the lines to our house and removed the meter. We were on our own! In February, we called the gas company and had them disconnect the gas line from our house as well. We had a similar response at the call center—the local gas company fellow (another Gary) said he knew I was up to something, but did not know what. He had no trouble disconnecting us.
One factor that influenced our decision to go off grid is that in Alberta, net metering is not legal yet. You can sell your surplus, but the costs and regulations basically mean that you will pay to send electricity into the grid. Going off grid requires that you design the system carefully, and become much more aware of your energy status and consumption. As we looked at the functioning of the grid and the direction that this society is going, we felt that we wanted to be independent of the grid, since the future does not look good to us.
We continued to keep close tabs on our energy consumption and production. I installed a meter to see how much input we were getting from the solar-electric panels and one to record the wind generator input. We charted this on a spreadsheet and found that we averaged just above our minimum of 5 KWH per day. I started to think about expanding the system and doing a bit more with it.