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11.25.02
With the transaction nearly complete, the mere anticipation of owning land has caused my thinking to undertake a kind of transformation.  Opportunities and possibilities that I simply did not entertain prior to owning land have suddenly entered my awareness, propelling my thoughts and energies toward the next goal, which is to take full advantage of the land by actually living on it as soon as possible.  Reaching this next goal will involve identifying the cost and configuration of building an effective temporary shelter and designing an off-grid energy system.  Of these, I am addressing the energy system first.
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According to my own research as well as the generous advice of people on the earthships mailing list, there are a number of different ways to approach the problem of temporary power requirements.  To best determine which approach is the most appropriate for one's particular situation, however, a comprehensive overview of current energy usage habits and likely future requirements is in order.  The general term for this kind of review is called a "load analysis".  A load analysis will account for all the electrical appliances one owns and uses, how many watts they burn when running, how much initial "surge" energy they use when turned on, and how many hours of run time per week they are typically used for, as well as other relevant info.
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I began my personal research with a combination of direct data listed on my appliances and documentation, internet research, and some generic data I found in a load analysis article provided by homepower.com.  I have used that article as the basis for an Excel spreadsheet you can download and use to do most of the math for you, as long as you provide the appropriate data.  Projecting what my day to day living would be like in the final earthship, I made a list of all the appliances I have now and expect to use in the future, and then duplicated the list, eliminating those items that wouldn't be so practical or important in a smaller dwelling, such as a washer and dryer, some of the lights, a vacuum, etc.  On the other hand, I boosted up the power tool demands for the temporary shelter phase in anticipation of using the weekends to work on construction.
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What I found in the initial comparison is that as a single person with simple daily requirements, it appears my energy needs may not change all that much between the temporary shelter and the finished earthship!  In fact, with the increased use of power tools I anticipate for the temporary shelter phase, it appears my pre-earthship energy requirements could potentially surpass the post!  With my inexperience in mind, I am willing to admit this finding could be the result of an incomplete analysis of my needs thusfar, or incorrect information on the specifications of my appliances.  Indeed, I will need to directly measure the energy consumption of most of my specific tools and appliances at some point before relying on the data as a foundation for planning.
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For now though, assuming the accuracy of the initial data within a reasonable margin of error, I am inclined to believe that designing one system for the entire project may be the most intelligent solution for my situation, albeit somewhat more costly in the short term.  From the standpoint of comfort this also makes sense to me, since I anticipate I may need to rely on the temporary shelter for some time, and under those conditions it would be important for me to have full access to most of the domestic energy uses I currently enjoy, such as a stereo, internet access, VHS movies, DVD movies, etc.  A generator could effectively relieve the need for some of the PV panels (and thus significantly reduce the overall cost) that would otherwise be devoted to power tool usage, and that is certainly an approach worth consideration, but I will need to weigh that against the expense and benefits of the generator itself.  I will be honing in on decisions regarding these points, as well as a breakdown of my likely temporary shelter startup costs in the weeks ahead.
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related links
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. earthships mailing list
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. homepower.com
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. load analysis article
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. load analysis worksheet (Excel)
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. temporary shelter load analysis
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. finished earthship load analysis
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