One of the worst things about being old and living solely on Social Security is that as soon as the deposit is in your bank account you’re instantly poor again. It seems there’s always one big hit each month and then you scrimp along eating grilled cheese sandwiches so you can try and fool yourself into thinking you’ve had a hot meal.
Last month it was having my generator die. Living on a small sailboat at anchor I NEED to have a way of keeping my computer, iPad and phone with its wifi hotspot charged. It was a nice generator, too. A quiet four-stroke that hummed along right up until it blew a piston ring and vomited so much white smoke that a nearby neighbor jumped in their boat with a fire extinguisher thinking I was ablaze.
So, I had to go ashore, catch the once-an-hour bus over to the mainland and get to Harbor Freight and get one of their cheapo 2-strokers. It’s actually the THIRD ONE I’ve gotten from them. When I bought the first one over in Fort Lauderdale I also bought the extended warranty. The thing worked well enough for about nine months and then shit the bed. I took it to Harbor Freight and got free replacement. That worked until I’d enough money ahead that I was able to get the 4-stroker. I put the 2-stroke away as a back up. When I dug it up I couldn’t get it started, and you only get ONE free replacement. So I had to buy a new one and it came to a bit over $100 with the extended warranty.
A hundred bucks doesn’t seem like a lot of money to most people. Didn’t to me, either, for years. But NOW it’s almost 10% of my monthly income. Add on top of that $70 for phone and unlimited hotspot and another $115 for meds and instantly you’ve got more month than money.
Nearly a year ago I bought a 50 watt solar panel. I bought IT instead of a 100 watt panel because of its physical size; the same as the sliding hatch in my companionway. It’s 22 x 27 x 1.5 inches. The 100 watt panel is 47.3X21.3X1.4 inches. You have to remember, I’m limited on space with just a 22 foot boat with an 8 foot beam. I thought 50 watts would take care of my meager electrical needs. Nope! It does well. Takes care of close to 50%, I’d say. For instance, I didn’t need the generator yesterday. Was able to charge everything to the top simply off of my batteries which were, of course, charged by the panel. But I’m tired of listening to a generator going for several hours every day to keep things running, and I’m also tired of spending around $4/gallon for ethanol-free gasoline to run them.
So, this morning, I checked to see if the SS deposit was in the bank. Confirming that I went online and ordered a Renogy 100 watt kit for $220: 20% of my monthly allotment.
Renogy has a good reputation and manufactured the 50 watter. I got the “kit” because it include things you need to have like all the wiring to run from the panel to the battery bank, a 30 amp charge controller and “feet” to mount the panel. It’s scheduled to arrive at my mail drop in Holmes Beach, a free trolley ride away, next Tuesday.
My four-stroke generator is on an extended warranty for two years so I’m not in any great hurry to replace it. I’m pretty sure that with 150 watts of solar energy I won’t need a generator very often once the new panel is installed. If it works as it should, the savings of not buying all that gasoline will have the panel paid off in about six or seven months. In any event the immediate bonus is that I’ll have an additional $35 to $40 a month every month.
Now that I’ve posted this I need to row to shore and get to the pharmacy where I’m going to be out another 10% for my meds and then to the grocery store for probably another 10%. Doesn’t leave a lot left over if there’s an emergency.