My solar panel is a space heater. It has a duct that routes cooler air from the house in to the panel, and a duct that allows warm air into the house as well. Both of these ducts close automatically to keep cold air from getting in at night. When the panel heats up in the morning, a fan kicks on and drives air through the panel all day, as long as it is warm (over 85 F) inside. About 1/3 of our annual heating budget comes from this device. We bought it from a fellow who got it in the seventies. It has been producing warmth all these years and cost him about $1000 back in the day. We bought the entire system used for $400. I would have charged about $1000 to install the system, so payback for me would have been under two years.
Living, as I do, near the poverty line is not so much about survival, but about grace. I do not seek to purchase lots of environmentally safe or green products. I do not clamor for vacations to exotic resorts that allow me to see the rainforest. Instead I try to make sound choices that reduce my impact on the world as a whole. I have reduced the parts of my yard requiring mowing to less than half of their former extent. The time I save mowing allows me to tend a few perennial beds that produce organic food outside my own back door.
My chickens too, enjoy the warmth of the sun heating their coop. Granted, they have a cold night or two here and there, but they certainly have not had any problems with frostbite or torpor from the cold. The city only wants me to have a few chickens, but they produce more eggs than I can eat at times and they are way more fun to watch than television.
Reducing one’s impact today has become easier than ever before. As we modernize and find our way forward, being efficient becomes more and more easy. For instance, our television now, runs on 38 watts instead of 150 and we watch it less. Clocks that used to be plugged in can run for years on a single battery. Power strips allow us to cut off the energy vampires that used to sap electricity all day long. Our washer and dryer are both more efficient than they were ten years ago, as are the furnace, water heater and our fridge. As we learn to do more with less, opportunity to invest more in what matters comes with it.
May you find your way easily forward. If you need a bit of help, let us know. Saving the planet won’t be easy all the time, and the experiences of others can be of help to those just starting out on their path to sustainability. Huddling together helps my chickens to get through the long cold nights, and humans are not much different. With the coming Spring, may you find reliable sources of abundance all around you and learn to remove any and all obstacles to sustainability that might loom ahead.