Thinking of Going Green? Calculate your Energy Usage
With the cost of solar and wind power dropping constantly, what was once unaffordable to the average person has now come within their reach. With China planning to invest $361 Billion in renewable fuel sources by 2020, you should expect the prices to only get cheaper, as these power sources get more efficient in both power generation and manufacturing.
When planning for your green energy setup, there are several steps to consider, including determining how much energy you will need, whether you want to go entirely off-grid, or use a grid tie in system to supplement your power, there are a few options to consider.
Step 1: Whats Your Current Usage?
The first step in any green energy setup is to determine how much wattage/power you will need. You have a few ways you can calculate this to get a general idea of your power needs:
1. From your Power Bill: Majority of power bills are charged in KWh. To convert this in to watts, the formula is W = 1000 x KWh / hr. For example, if you were billed for 460KWh in a month with 30 days, this would equal 1000 x 465KWh / 720h = 646W (or conversely 0.646KW). However, keep in mind that this is the average usage spread across every hour of every day, and would not account for peak usages (less power is generally used late at night, or midday when your not home).
2. Calculated from Home Appliances: A good guide can be found here that outlines some general power requirements for most major appliances. For example, your fridge would run for 24 hours a day, however your dishwasher may only be run once every day or two, with a washing machine only being run once a week. By taking the wattage of the appliances that you'll be using, you can find your max wattage (the maximum amount of power if everything was running at the same time), the average wattage over a day/week/month, as well as the expected max wattage to use at once (say running the dishwasher, with the TV, computer, stereo, and coffee maker on, while the fridge and house lights are running).
Depending on your setup, your budget, and if you plan to go completely off-grid, you would want to take all of this in to account when making a purchase. Note that if you stay on grid and use it as a supplement, then the question more becomes your available budget then actual wattage use.
3. Calculated from Individual Equipment: You may only want to run some specific piece of equipment, say a pump out in a field, lights for a shed, or a charging station for your tools. While the calculations generally remain the same, you will need to take a look at the wattage of each item and base your power needs from there. Keep in mind that for heavy duty equipment, amperage and voltage can also be a factor in the inverter chosen to run your setup.
Next Steps: Ready to Choose A System
Once you have figured out your power needs based on what your looking to power, you'll next want to choose the wattage that, not only providing your power needs, but also fits within your budget. Check out our post here, which goes over not only the power generation options you have, but can help find something within your budget!