In 2012, the average American household used 10,837 kWh, this according to the good folks at the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This equates to about 29.69 kWh per day. As anyone who has looked at their electricity bill lately can tell you, that’s a hell of a lot of juice to be paying full sticker for. Fortunately, there’s a simple, cheap alternative to obtaining your energy the old-fashioned, “on the grid” way. What, pray tell, is it? You get your sap of an employer to provide it, of course! It’s quick, easy and quasi-legal. Have I piqued your interest? Then read on!
Roughly speaking, a good car battery will get you about 100 amp-hours. This equates to about 1,000 watt hours, which, in other words, is 1 kWh. Like I said, this is a rough estimate, but given this information, the average American should be able to power their entire house for a day with 30 fully charged car batteries.
All you need is a place to charge ‘em.
As luck would have it, most of us have access to an easy, free source of nearly limitless power. What is that? Why your employer, of course!
As I discovered a couple years ago, it is illegal to run an extension cord to an outlet in your neighbor’s backyard to power your house. The Dictionary Dan’s over at the District Attorney’s office call it “stealing.” Now, while it may be illegal to steal power from your neighbor, there is no rule against charging your batteries at work. At least not any place I’ve ever worked that was unaware of what I was doing. Never mind that most employers think of charging batteries as a cell phone or two. The point is it’s the best kind of legal: technically.
Now, I know what you’re going to say next: “Woah, woah, woah mister. Even if that does work and isn’t technically against the law, 30 batteries is a heckuva lot of car batteries!” Sure. I agree. 30 is a lot of car batteries. Carrying 30 car batteries to work would be a bit onerous, but who says it has to be 30? First, 29.69 kWh is for the average American household who does nothing to cut their energy consumption. If you’re running off battery power, you’re going to be significantly more energy conscious than the average American. You’ll turn off lights. You’ll buy energy efficient appliances. You’ll line dry your clothes. Just making some little changes like those to your consumption habits could easily bring you down to 20 kWh (or even lower). Moreover, that number is for an average sized family. If your home, apartment or shelter has fewer people living in it, chances are you use significantly less energy already.
Secondly, there are certain things that need to stay on even when you’re away from the house, like the fridge. Those things must stay on the grid and don’t need to be factored into your energy usage. If you really wanted to you could create a second rotation of batteries that stay home with you during the day, but for me leaving the fridge plugged in works fine.
So now we’ll say that you need about 16 kWh. 16 car batteries still sounds like a lot, of course, but keep in mind you don’t have to take all of them yourself. You and your life partner could split it eight and eight, and if you’re single you probably don’t need as much power anyways. Now eight car batteries doesn’t sound so bad does it? That’s getting down to a manageable size that could be fit in a single duffel bag you can keep under your desk or tucked away next to an outlet in the break room.
Of course, there’s still one teensy problem. How do you get 16 car batteries? They don’t just grow on trees. Well, there’s no easy answer to that, but keep in mind this isn’t spending, it’s investment. Those batteries will pay for themselves quickly. A new set would likely set you back in the $1,000-2,000 range, but that should last you for years before you need a new set. How much would you be willing to pay to get most of your energy bill paid by someone else for three or four years? I know I’d jump at the chance to do it for $1,000. Keep in mind, there might also be other, cheaper alternatives, too. You might be able to take them out of cars at the junk yard, or perhaps you could build your own batteries, like Walter White? Or hell, maybe you know some sort of dirt cheap battery source I’m not thinking of. The world is your oyster! All that matters is you plug in at work. And hey, maybe next you can save on your gas bill with all your boss’s hot air, am I right?1