Off Grid Living
I would like to entertain some thoughts from the masses who have lived their day to day lives in an off grid home. I am seriously considering a primary home purchase that is not powered with conventional electricity, but by batteries and generator. The house is absolutely amazing, but my knowledge of this type of equipment is basic and I don't want to under-estimate the upkeep and maintenance involved to keep things from going wrong. I figure the learning curve can't be too steep to get smart on the powerhouse.
I have the real estate agent looking into the type of generator, batteries and converter. So I don't know all the details yet, but would appreciate and real life experiences.
What kind of details are you looking for? We are remote therefore off the grid and love it. Just some big picture statements for you;
1. You are the utility. That means if the power goes out itís up to you to fix.
2. Fuel for the generator is expensive. Life cycle replacement of equipment is expensive. If grid power is available, chances are good itís cheaper.
3. If you are dependent on power for heat, I would have back-up power generation and a method for it to power your heat source. (i.e. a little Honda generator you could plug your furnace into)
4. All the equipment will require periodic maintenance. Winter/summer oil changes on the generator. Adding water to batteries. If you screw something up, youíre the one paying to replace it.
5. Eventually equipment will need rebuilding or replacing. (i.e. depending on cycling, good batteries have a 10 to 15 year life). I recently installed new high end batteries in my system. They were $1,200 each and I installed 6 of them.
6. Off the grid really comes into its own with renewable energy sources, (solar, wind. Hydro).
On the plus side;
1. I enjoy maintaining my system.
2. I REALLY enjoy adding more renewable energy sources. When I got this place the generator would start about every 3 days. Now it starts about every 2 weeks.
3. I get a kick when I go to town and hear people complaining about all the power outages. I rarely have a hiccup with my system.
Best of luck,
Understand what level of energy you can expect from the energy sources you have. Get used to staying within a certain daily ration of those power sources.
I have lived off-grid on a few different occasions with solar power and generator back-up. Once I understood the average amount of solar power I could use daily, regardless of overcast days or sunny days, I worked out a daily plan for usage. With solar power it is not like you can always use the amounts you would like to use, since the storage of solar energy can be minimal and used up very fast.
My thoughts are to be frugal with the solar power and keep the propane or gas powered generator usage to a minimum, so the odds stay in your favor not to be without power.
If you are generating enough solar power to run appliances, like the refrigerator, you should still have propane or natural gas inverter generator back-up to keep the refrigerator going. Use wood burning stove for your source of heat.
So, determine your usage based on the knowledge you acquire for expected storage capacity based on the total power sources you have. Do not exceed daily planned rations, unless you get lots of continuous days of sunlight and your solar system is able to build up storage capacity quickly. You can then use those days for other luxury usages like watching a movie on your computer, watching television, or whatever other use you do not normally ration for daily.
If I was going to build an off-grid home, I would use solar power with inverter generator back-up. I would also have a very efficient wood burning stove which can also be used for cooking in a pinch.
Here's the link to a power consumption table that will let you estimate how much power your appliances would draw (the ones you would have on your off-grid home). Lots of good information on the right side of the page, too.