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Thread: Living off the grid.

  1. #1
    Member RMiller's Avatar
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    Default Living off the grid.

    I have been contemplating a move and my dear wife says she like this cabin on Caribou island on Skilak lake. The cabin seems to be all there with generator and batteries and has been lived in full time before.

    My problem is that I think that with four little kids that would be insane. For a couple months a year there would be zero ways of going to and from the island except by helicopter.

    I am sure it is doable but what are some things that would be major concerns with living on an island on Skilak?
    "You have given out too much reputation in the last 24 hours, try again later".

  2. #2

    Default Alternative Power

    Mr. Miller;
    While all the electrical system is in place it may no longer be usable. Batteries need to be cycled to remain in good condition. If you can inspect the battery bank; check for these problems;
    ARE the batteries still square? OR do they have bulged or rounded ends or sides? This indicates they may have frozen and need replaceing.
    ARE the cells full of electrolyte? IF not they may be damaged/warped in the case causing a shorted cell. Fill the cells with distilled water only !! Then charge and test. Use a hydrometer to check charge and electrolyte specific gravity. Specific gravity should read around 1.27-1.28. A charged battery should read 12.7 volts, at 12 volts a battery is discharged about 90%. Batteries should be charged at no more than 20% of it's amp hour capacity, with 15% about optimum. Charging batteries too hard can overheat and warp plates damaging the batteries life. When charging a battery feel the side ocassionaly, if it's overly warm to the touch stop charging and let it cool and resume later.
    A charged battery WILL NOT freeze !! A battery charged to 12.7 volts and a hydrometer reading of 1.270 freezes at -95 degrees. Problems arise as the battery discharges; lead-acid batteries have a shelf discharge rate of about 4% a month. As they self discharge the freezing point of the battery lowers. In a couple of months of inuse they could freeze at -40 degrees.
    ALSO, consider the location of the cabin on the island. If it has a good source of available wind (as many do). Consider a small wind charger (400-600 watts) to suppliment a genset.
    If you do decide to go off-grid a hybrid system makes good sense. The combinations of solar/wind/hydro can yeild a near endless supply of energy.
    GOOD LUCK !!
    " Americans will never need the 2nd Amendment, until the government tries to take it away."

    On the road of life..... Pot holes keep things interesting !

  3. #3
    Member akfirefighter's Avatar
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    Default caribou island

    Have you spent much time there? Make sure you have a good boat. 4 to 5 foot waves are very common. Will you be living on a lake front? Water is another think to think about. I was talking with a guy today who has a house there and stayed over the winter two years ago and said it was wounderfull. He went two months with out seeing anyone. There are many places that people have dreams for but the waves scare them outta there. If you want I can try and put you in contact with the guy who lives there before he leaves state for the winter.

  4. #4
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    Default

    I knew a guy who has a cabin somewhere around there. He lives in Anchorage and drives a pickup with a camper on it. Says he's used it a number of times to sleep in while waiting for the lake to calm down so he could get to his cabin. He seems to really enjoy having it though.

  5. #5
    Member Vince's Avatar
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    Default

    i built a 2500 sq ft log home out on the Elliott hwy north of Fairbanks.... it was 2 miles to the nearest power.... with 6 kids the power needed to be on most of the time... if you have water systems it needs to be on all the time in the winter months... we ran a 6kw slow diesel gen set... to the tune of 4000 gallons a year... you can substantially cut that cost by going green but that cost is high initself... my house would have cost around 12,000.00 to solar power it.. it would have taken (then not now) 7 years to pay it off... fridges freezers etc... need to be wrapped in 2 " foam to hold in cold longer and a complete attitude change on water consumption and power usage is in order for the ENTIRE family... 12v lights and propane lights are an easy way to do it.. but the best bet is a 24 or 48 volt system. you actually get better power and longer service from your equipment and power inverters. speaking of....

    you can not just buy any ol inverter.... some heaters ( toyo/monitor... ) require specific sign waves as does some of your house hold appliances to work correctly... so a cheap 3500 watt inverter from an on line tool co WONT do you any good ....

    living out is not bad... if your stuck for three months then you need to plan that long... and honestly you can... life on the homestead was great.. we all learned to read with out he benefit of TV family communication flourished and we are stronger for it...

    the question is ....

    is your family ready for the seclusion.. the first months are easy. is momma REALLLLLLLY ready to be stuck nose to nose with you for the winter and do with out the nice things we take for granted... like the light flicking on.. instead of digging for matches.... hauling water, wood, fuel, food, laundry back and forth to get your deeds done... the work becomes routien... but at first IT REALLY IS WORK...
    "If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for; even when it isn't there."

    meet on face book here

  6. #6
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    Default

    Vince, you said it right. Our family is new to Alaska and very new to the bush way of life,we live up Steese Hwy. This way of life has really been different so far and we haven't even been here a year. We are off the grid,have perma frost as well. I can tell you that if you don't think it will be work your gonna fool yourself and it is work for the whole family. Even my 6yr old pitches in. We have an inverter system the inverter I bought was a 24v type from Backwoods solar,I had it shipped to us before we moved to AK and it alone was $1300 not counting batteries,cables,etc. Oh and you need a good woodstove. Everyone here does something with the firewood either cuts,chops,splits,stacks. But you need a good air tight heater. We do have some comforters such as satalite TV and internet. The TV we got but the internet we got through our homeschool program. And if your gonna be that remote you will be homeschooling. Alaska has some really good programs for that but it doesn't give you a break during the day from the kids.
    Pretty much what Vince said was right on the money. Maybe you could work out something were you could do a 3 month trail before you bought the place just to make sure?

  7. #7
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    Default Skilak Lake

    We have a cabin on Skilak but have never spent the year there. You should talk to Randy Smith from Soldotna (look in the phone book) who spent the entire year there last year if you want to know how he managed it.

    Look for the used book "Two Against the North" by Sharple who lived on Caribou Island in the late 1930's and 1940's if you want to know what it is like to live on Caribou Island and Skilak lake.

    The lake can be rough at times but there are very few days when it can not be crossed safely in a 18-20 foot SeaRunner which is the boat of choice of people who have cabins there. Of course it depends on where you have a cabin. The N and W sides are best. The E side is cheap but difficult with big waves coming in and big rocks in the water. The S side tends to be swampy and shallow also. Be careful where you buy!

  8. #8
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    Default Caribou Island Skilak Lake

    My husband and I lived on Caribou Island for almost ten years. Moved out there in 1981. I will say this; It was perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but also the BEST thing I ever did. I was 26 years old when we moved out there. You must use caution AT ALL TIMES!! And with small children there is that much more to consider. At times I never seen another person but my husband for several months. We built 8 cabins in the years we lived there.
    One winter, my sister and her two young children stayed a month with us. We home-schooled them and they did really well!
    If you should decide to move there, always remember this:
    Skilak Rules!!!!! Don't mess with her...respect her at all times and you should be alright. No bones about it...It can be dangerous!
    We left in 1990, but in all the years since, we still miss it...Living there was the best thing we ever did!
    We wish you the best of luck if you should decide to move out there.

  9. #9
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    Default hello I was wondering?

    Quote Originally Posted by akfirefighter View Post
    Have you spent much time there? Make sure you have a good boat. 4 to 5 foot waves are very common. Will you be living on a lake front? Water is another think to think about. I was talking with a guy today who has a house there and stayed over the winter two years ago and said it was wounderfull. He went two months with out seeing anyone. There are many places that people have dreams for but the waves scare them outta there. If you want I can try and put you in contact with the guy who lives there before he leaves state for the winter.
    Hi I was wondering if a person could cross those two months out of the year if it was froze and do you know if it froze this year 2009? Michele

  10. #10
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    Default hello I was wondering?

    Quote Originally Posted by RMiller View Post
    I have been contemplating a move and my dear wife says she like this cabin on Caribou island on Skilak lake. The cabin seems to be all there with generator and batteries and has been lived in full time before.

    My problem is that I think that with four little kids that would be insane. For a couple months a year there would be zero ways of going to and from the island except by helicopter.

    I am sure it is doable but what are some things that would be major concerns with living on an island on Skilak?
    do you know anyone who is selling on caribou island? and are there any stipulations that you know of? Michele

  11. #11

    Default

    There are no building codes out on the island. Dale Bagley is a local real estate agent and land specialist. Try contacting him.

  12. #12
    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    Default hovercraft?

    hovercraft is a possibility for the in between times when the ice is too thick to boat and too thin to snowmachine.

  13. #13

    Default ice

    I was wondering about the ice in the winter. I heard a rumor that the ice didn't freeze all the way around caribou island? Anyone have any experience with that? Any thin spots in the lake?
    Can anyone tell me more about the SE side of the island? Waves, Swampy, Hilly, etc..

    Thanks

  14. #14
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    Default Ice

    The ice around the island is fine. This year it is 18" think. You could drive a truck over. The SE side of the island is very rocky and shallow going out 100 yards or more. People with cabins there park around on the S side and walk to their lots. It is also the most windy. There is also a steep hill above the shore. This is why there are only a couple of cabins there.

    My brother and friends were on the island two weeks ago. They went over by snow machine. They chopped a hole in the ice then heated the sauna to 140 degrees. After a few minutes in the sauna they jumped in the lake. They repeated this 3 times. No thanks!

  15. #15
    Member nibenza's Avatar
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    Default I think this is still for sale

    http://alaskahomesteads.com/

    Quote Originally Posted by living4himamen View Post
    do you know anyone who is selling on caribou island? and are there any stipulations that you know of? Michele
    Life is tough........it's alot tougher if you're stupid.

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