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Other Appliances

Our stove uses gas and our heat comes from a central

011 burner used to heat the whole complex. We hope to build a solar oven to reduce our gas dependence. Even though we don't pay for hot water, we have installed a water saving shower head. All of our lights are compact fluorescents, except for one 12 Volt DC halogen light. Because of our inverter's limited power range, we can't run a conventional vacuum cleaner. We use a push broom we picked up at a garage sale for a dollar for regular cleaning and when we have surplus power we use a hand held Hoover vacuum. We use utility grid power to provide power when we allow the PV panels to equalize the batteries. Also some "essentials" like toasters and slide projectors use too many watts for our inverter. The grid also serves as a backup when extended cloudy weather or extended VCR, ac stereo or lighting use drains our batteries. Our TV runs on DC electricity and uses only 15 Watts. We aren't big TV watchers.

Utility bills

Our average electric energy bill since we finished installing our current system in July 1992 has been less than a dollar. Our lowest monthly electric bill of 35 cents was in August, with a close second of 38 cents in October. January, February, and March's electric bills have been less than 40 cents. Unfortunately Madison Gas and Electric charges us a $3.50 hook up charge no matter how little energy we use. Overall the winter has been a lot better than we expected. The ARCO QuadLam PV modules seem to provide about twice the maximum current in the winter than the summer. This is mostly due to the lowered temperature which allows them to operate more efficiently.

We have a 300 Watt Thermax generator coupled to a

12 speed bicycle on a homemade frame. This would reduce our need for grid power further, but we have generally been more lazy than we anticipated when the unit was built.

Conclusion

Installing the photovoltaic energy system we have in our apartment has been very rewarding. We have learned a lot about solar technology, electric wiring and electrical code. And of course there is nothing in the world like getting your energy from the sun! We hope our society will soon follow the examples of the people in this magazine and implement a policy of safer, less polluting and more localized energy systems.

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Burke O'Neal & Ben Fiore, 414 S. Brearley, Madison, WI 53703 • 608-251-8971

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