Watts, amps and volts…

This week was a big step forward in grasping the basics of both electronics and off-grid living.

I took ownership of the first in a series of devices that will accompany my journey into the technical world of electronic experimentation, with a view to understand what (or should I say watt?) works, what doesn’t, what our basic needs are and what luxury items one can still use whilst being isolated from the grid.

Dokio 100w Portable Solar Panel
Beaudens Portable Power Station

So the sustainable energy basics are already acquired, this week saw two exciting deliveries; the first a 100w portable solar panel, the second an entry-level 240wh power station.

I intend to review both items in time, but what it has already allowed me to do is to think in a different way. Us on-gridders invariably don’t think about how devices work, how much electricity they consume and how much it costs to run them, one typically plugs, plays, enjoys and pays the hefty energy bills at the end of the month.

With the start of the build of my “Cabin In The Yard” (the prototype for the build of over a dozen ecolodges at our retreat in Wales), only weeks away, I wanted to fully explore and understand the art of what’s possible without drawing any resources from the house.

Thankfully, my son is an electrical engineer and he gave me an electricity 101 to explain what watts, amps and volts are, how to find out the inputs and outputs of devices, and by doing the maths, I could work out the drain from each appliance on the limited power reserves I have.

What’s a watt?

I’ll admit the 101 didn’t make much sense until I started to do some research on which devices and appliances are powered by 12v batteries, USB or AA / AAA rechargeable batteries.

Once I found out the watts for each device, the penny dropped. By documenting the watts of each device, I knew exactly how much each one would drain from the 240 watt hours I had to play with on my power station.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer volume of devices out there that could continue (somewhat) a life of luxury, totally cost free (besides the initial investment of course), as long as the sun was shining (the fundamental flaw in my plan of living in the monochromatic grey realm of North West England).

Here is the list of devices I found, not exhaustive by any means and somewhat primordial when compared to those in the house for the likes of heating, cooking and lighting, but still an impressive list nonetheless (those marked green I already possess):

12v Appliances

🟢 Portable Showers (15w)

🟢 Cooler Boxes/Fridges (58w)

🔴 Heating Stoves (40w)

🔴 Travel Kettles (120w)

🔴 Hair Straighteners (20w)

🔴 Hair Dryers (150w)

🔴 Toastie Makers (120w)

🔴 Heater Fans (120w)

🔴 Travel Hoovers (12.5w)

🔴 Electric Blankets (55w)

🔴 TVs (40w)

🔴 Air Pumps (120w)

🔴 Water Pumps (60w)

USB Appliances

🟢 Desk Fans (1w)

🟢 Desk Lamps (5w)

🟢 Bluetooth Speakers (5w)

🟢 iPhones (5w)

🟢 iPads (10w)

🟢 Surface Pro (60w)

🟢 Nintendo Switch (25w)

🟢 Logitech Web Cams (5w)

🟢 USB C Computer Monitors (25w)

🟢 Mavic Mini Drones (15w)

🟢 Sony XM3 Headphones (15w)

🟢 Apple Watches (2w)

🟢 Portable Power Banks (15w)

🟢 Recyclable Battery Chargers (15w)

🟢 Oculus Quest VR Headsets (15w)

🟢 Portable Shower (15w)

🔴 Portable Projectors (15w)

🔴 Mini Blenders (65w)

🔴 LED Lights (45w)

Rechargeable Battery Appliances

🟢 Radios

🟢 Portable Speakers

🟢 Clocks

🟢 Nose Trimmers

🔴 LED Lights

Yes, I’m at the stage of my life now where nose trimmers have become an essential item!

The beauty of buying the items above is that they are all 100% portable, so not only can I use them in the soon-to-be-erected cabin, but I can take them camping with me later in the year, and if the zombie apocalypse does turn up some point soon, I’m sorted.

All systems working!

Clearly to stay connected, I’ll need to tether my phone to the internet-based devices I have, so not everything is free, but it’s a good start, and does go to show that the art of what is possible is both sustainable and achievable if you want it…

Off-Grid On-Grid…

As Rabbie Burns famously once penned, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!”

It’s fair to say that as the dawn rose this morning, another day of being both completely healthy and totally locked in left me with feelings of melancholy.

In need of cheering up, I took it upon myself to make my wife a Valentine’s Day breakfast, her favourite of poached eggs on toast with sea salt and cracked pepper. With two small gifts and a hug or two exchanged, my mind quickly returned to the great outdoors. As the snowflakes fell again upon the cold ground, I could not help but feeling that this year was another one that is going to pass most of us by, certainly in the UK.

Mrofa Nefyn, home of Ty Coch, tenth best beach bar in the world…

The extra-currlcular project that I am working to invent and create an eco-retreat in North Wales couldn’t seem further away than it actually is geographically (i.e. anything beyond the Boris Johnson invisible line of seven miles is out of bounds according to the latest “guidelines”). Here we will have something that when deployed, will bring so much personal achievement for me and my comrades, as well an avenue for many others to enjoy nature, commune with others and return to an acceptable level of mind-body-spiritual balance, all of which are out of kilter for the vast majority of the populace.

I am resigned to the fact that it’s not going to happen this year. With so much uncertainty and blockers, my proposed project plan is already slipping to the right with no actions yet completed.

Someone said to me recently to only concern oneself with the things one can control and let go of the things one cannot. Wise words.

With those sage words of advice keeping my tinnitus company this morning, I took to YouTube for inspiration, and man was I inspired!

Dave and Brooke, inspiring couple

After several attempts to find the right viewings on creating ecolodges, I came across two wonderful individuals, known in cyberspace as Bushradical and the Girl in the Woods (move over Sarah Beeny and George Clarke).

Very recently, they have created what I had been dreaming of for the eco-retreat, an off-grid cabin/lodge erected simply and quickly from standard materials one can find at the reclamation/builders yards and hardware supply stores.

So impressed am I with the simplicity, speed and quality of the build, I simply have to share the videos below, in a hope to inspire myself to build a copy of their creation as a prototype in my own compact and bijou back yard, and if successful use the same design and materials as a template for our retreat.

Bushradical

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Girl In The Woods

Part 1
Part 2

After being totally consumed by these videos today, I started to put pen to paper to see how I can use Dave and Brooke’s template to create my “Cabin in the Yard”.

With the temperatures at zero outside, there is plenty of time now to draw up my plans on what the dimensions of the cabin will look like, and what materials I need to procure over the coming weeks. The planned build is to commence on the Spring Equinox (21st March).

Cabin in the Yard, initial plan on a page

Hope springs eternal, the eternal springs hope…