Off the Grid?

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Ade Sundog
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Off the Grid?

Postby Ade Sundog » 23 Jun 2008, 16:37

Hello Everyone

I was wondering if anyone on the board has managed in a small or large way to become self-sufficient ,
or almost so , or is working towards it?

I'm thinking of Solar Power , Wind Power , Water Power , growing your own food , raising chickens,
Cycle-powered washing machines , not having a car , wind-up devices , anything like that .

If find all this really interesting and something to aspire too , maybe it's something that will become
more widespread in the coming years .

Thanx in advance

ps:if i've put this in the wrong forum , sorry, please move it to the right one . ta

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Paul Mitchell
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Re: Off the Grid?

Postby Paul Mitchell » 23 Jun 2008, 16:53

Interesting...
we are in the process (again) of costing up photovoltaic generation from our home. I know there is a stupidly long pay back, and that the creation of PV cells is not environmentally friendly, but opting into this technology seems no more damaging than opting to stay out of it!

We've massively reduced our electrical consumption at home, although there is probably still room for improvement. We're looking into getting a wood burner installed into our living room (via Corwen if he can do it.... did you get the e-mail?) as well I'd also be interested in setting up a 12volt lighting system and the like for our sumer house, but will look into getting the bits fro scrap caravans when the opportunity arises.

So, we might go for it, depending on cost, the credit crunch, viability, all that sort of stuff.
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Badger Bob
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Re: Off the Grid?

Postby Badger Bob » 23 Jun 2008, 16:58

Not having a car is easy, if you have never had one you don't miss it. I had to live a very frugal lifestyle as a student in the 80s and the science of eking has never left me. I still wash clothes by hand and dry outdoors, I don't own a TV or a refridgerator (although I do use my parents freezer occasionally). My main luxuries are a DAB radio, PC and a portable convection heater. Apart from that I recycle candles and try to keep the meter ticking over as slowly as possible. Given the cost of living rises lately, I might even manage a career showing other people how to eke...

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Corwen
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Re: Off the Grid?

Postby Corwen » 24 Jun 2008, 22:36

Hi All,

we don't live off grid now but Kate lived off grid on her narrowboat for 15 years. On a boat the engine generates all your power and hot water and you can run it off biodiesel. I lived similarly for a long time in a succession of trucks, caravans, benders etc. Its easy but only if you have time to do things the slow way, collect wood, carry water etc. IME the hardest thing is if you are working during the day, because in the winter there isn't enough daylight time to do all the outdoor chores. Nowadays we live in a place where we have access to communal washing machine, fridge and shower, and we have an electric supply to our caravans which means we have a TV and even broadband! However its a matter of rhythm, we know that this won't be for long and won't really miss mains electric when we don't have it any more after we move back to the boat.

I did get the email Paul, and have been thinking about it. I am happy to install a wood burner in a truck, caravan or shed but your outhouse is so nice, and subject to things like building regulations and house insurance which those of us who live on unauthorised traveller sites don't have to worry about... Plus I'm not entirely sure how its constructed. Lets talk, maybe we can figure it out together with the advice of the local building regs guy at the council and the folk who erected it :)

For anyone else who is interested in these things (in the UK) I know a guy who makes cheap woodstoves from recycled gas bottles, they are a very practical design. We have a small one in each of our caravans and a big one on the boat and they work really well. Small size is about £45 and big is £55. I can pass his number on to anyone interested, he is based in Glastonbury.
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Jarvisfamily4
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Re: Off the Grid?

Postby Jarvisfamily4 » 25 Jun 2008, 02:15

I did an experiment for several years, seeing how much we could do for ourselves while living a 'normal' life. We have to have a car because things are too spread out here in the West, and the heat/sub-freezing cold is preclusive to being outside sometimes.
we raise as much of our own veggies as we can, and had chickens for five years. No A/C at all, until an evap cooler two years ago - we we've mastered passive cooling (widndow blinds shut during the day, spray water on the sheets before going to bed, etc.) and use a woodstove to heat the house. Two rain barrels to collect roof water. I line-dry my clothes in the summer, and could in the winter if I had to, and have wanted to have a manual washing machine for years, but couldn't justify the space or expense.

What I learned was this:
On a half acre we could perhaps raise and put up enough fruit and veggies for ourselves, but we couldn't raise enough for a flock of chickens that would sustain us in meat and eggs - chx food and meat/protein sources would have to come from elsewhere (we would have had room to raise a couple pigs, too, but again, the food would have to be supplimented. )

We could easily get enough rainwater to irrigate a portion of our yard for a portion of the summer, but not all of it, and not all summer long in survival mode we would water the garden, and let the flowers and grass die off. Besides, a 500 gal. tank wouldn't be big enough to collect all the winter and spring water, and then we'd have to have a pump, and it all became too expensive to be practical.

To feed a family of four, we'd have to have a freezer. Even with a root cellar, we'd still need to freeze food. Not everything can be canned.

It was a LOT of work. And the set-up equip to go even further 'off grid' was too expensive to justify it. Even the solar set-up or windmill set up, which could generate enough electricity to sell back to the power company, wouldn't make us enough money to earn back what we put into it.

Things will not change until it becomes unaffordable to do otherwise. When the gov't starts subsidizing (Seriously subsidizing! not this token stuff they do to look good) alternative fuels and electric cars, etc. I'll be all over that!
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Corwen
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Re: Off the Grid?

Postby Corwen » 25 Jun 2008, 11:08

I did an experiment for several years, seeing how much we could do for ourselves while living a 'normal' life.
I think that is the issue, what is 'normal'. I lived for a long time without any electricity, not even 12 volt, in bender tents or on protest sites. You get used to it after a while, and actually this is 'normal' for most of the planets popuation and I think its good to remember that! One candle is enough to do most evening activities, and a head-torch is handy if you want to read... :candle: I'd like to go back to those days, but at the moment we are both working paying off what we've spent on our boat, and that way of life is too hard to combine with outside work.

Its almost impossible to maintain a modern standard of living and live within what the Earth can sustain, but I suppose the thing is to try to design a 'lifestyle' (horrible word) which suits you and which gives you control of what you produce and consume as much as possible, we can only do our best. The big problem in the UK is access to land, much of which is still owned by the descendants of those friendly folk who invaded in 1066. If you think I'm some kind of hysterical class warrior maybe you should read this article:
http://libcom.org/news/article.php/land ... k-10032006

The other thing to resist is the 'off grid' lifestyle as just another consumer product. Half a mile away from here is a new eco-house with geo thermal heating, wind turbine etc. Its massive, essentially a statement of wealth. It will take many decades for the energy implicit in all the bricks to be paid back by whatever the turbine generates. In reality its far less green than the old cob houses either side of it. Its easier for the media to sell us these 'solutions' than for them to examine the fundamental issues of human greed, laziness and disconnection from the land!

For example this website looks quite typical, maybe there is good information in the book, but no shortage of things to buy...
http://www.off-grid.net/

I'll get off my soap-box now! :oops:
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Re: Off the Grid?

Postby Kernos » 25 Jun 2008, 14:24

Interesting article on the Scientific American website:

Inside the Solar-Hydrogen House: No More Power Bills--Ever
Mike Strizki has not paid an electric, oil or gas bill-nor has he spent a nickel to fill up his Mercury Sable-in nearly two years. Instead, the 51-year-old civil engineer makes all the fuel he needs using a system he built in the capacious garage of his home, which employs photovoltaic (PV) panels to turn sunlight into electricity that is harnessed in turn to extract hydrogen from tap water.

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Re: Off the Grid?

Postby Corwen » 25 Jun 2008, 15:10

How ridiculous! He could have spent the half a million dollars that cost to do a lot of good elsewhere in the world, and maybe bought a bicycle, a woodstove and some candles...
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Re: Off the Grid?

Postby PaintedCrow » 12 Dec 2008, 22:40

This is a subject that interests me greatly. I've been an advocate for alternative energies way before the whole "goin' green" trend started.

My wife and I are hoping to one day build on the family ranch, but for right now we are experimenting with what we we can do in our current home. I live in West Texas. It's windy out here from time to time. So much that they dedicated a sculpture (that was defaced by an uneducated fool), called the windy man. I've talked my in-laws into looking at putting up a PV system or a wind generator. There are many many companies here in the States that cater to home owners, farmers and ranchers. Two companies I recommend for general information and instructions are: http://www.backwoodssolar.com and http://www.altenergystore.com. Both companies are family run and their catalogs will help explain alternative energy to you in layman's terms so you determine what you need. Now, like I said, these are just two of the MANY companies out there. But these catalogs have items you can gain knowledge on and then (if you want) shop around to see what you can afford.

Currently my wife and I are enjoying our current home and we are making modifications or it as we go. Currently we are looking into replacing our leaking water heater. With the information I got from these catalogs (and searching the net) I found a natural gas tankless heater for under $200. But if we were to live off the grid there is an ingenious vacuum tube system you can invest in to heat your water with. Similar to the older photovoltaic (PV... solar panels), but each tube is replaceable if one is broken. AND if one is broken, the system still keeps working!!

Hmm, I'm getting off the subject, I apologize. I get passionate about this.
I also wanted to say that you live in the states, you should look at government incentives and tax breaks for using solar or wind to power your home or business. The government is set up to help you out with getting you either tied to the grid (running your meter backwards) or using a battery bank. I know in TX we have some good incentives.

The main thing about living off the grid is this, you need to get used to not having modern conveniences in use like you have now. You need to learn to turn off lights, unplug electronic devices so not to pull phantom loads from your battery bank, etc. You have to learn to be a conserver, not a consumer. There are ups and downs to living off the grid. If you are still tied into the grid (running your meter backwards) you may or may not get a check for that, depends on your energy consumption. If you are 100% off the grid, you will have to monitor your deep cycle batteries and replace them when time comes.

Now if you want to live an electric free life (Like the Amish), then everything I mentioned above really doesn't matter. LOL
Another catalog you should look into is: http://www.lehmans.com Items are expensive, but it could be a catapult for you to find certain items elsewhere. And finally I would like to suggest that if you can find it, pick up the Fox Fire book series: http://www.foxfire.org/

Man i hope I didn't confuse anyone.

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Re: Off the Grid?

Postby Jarvisfamily4 » 13 Dec 2008, 06:48

I'd love more information about the government incentives. I have looked, cursory searches, I admit, but have not found anything significant enough to really be an incentive... hardly enough to take the painful start-up edge off, in fact ($25-150 rebate on an $8K system is negligable)
We are doing a remodel/expansion next spring, and all this stuff needs to be budgeted and planned before spring! We have a great opportunity here to do something great... but we are not millionares, not even 'upper class'. We need all the help we can get!
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PaintedCrow
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Re: Off the Grid?

Postby PaintedCrow » 13 Dec 2008, 23:35

Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE) http://www.dsireusa.org/index.cfm
NOTE: There is also a federal tab right above the by state map.

Energy Star Rebates Finder and Federal Tax Credits Information Find rebates in your area: http://www.energystar.gov

GovBenefits.gov is the official benefits website of the U.S. government, with information on over 1,000 benefit and assistance programs. http://www.govbenefits.gov

And, just in case you are reading and you are building: Energy Efficient Mortgages http://hes.lbl.gov/hes/makingithappen/financing.html

I'll keep looking for more. I do know that a lot of companies that sell or install wind or solar panels know how to get these rebates for you.

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Jarvisfamily4
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Re: Off the Grid?

Postby Jarvisfamily4 » 22 Dec 2008, 07:36

I'm sorry! I thought I posted a 'thank you' a long time ago!
There is a LOT of links on these pages. After the new year I'll get more serious about looking into them and applying for some grants and seeing what we can come up with for assistance.
Thanks for helping with those links!

Daniella
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Charlene
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Re: Off the Grid?

Postby Charlene » 08 Jun 2011, 08:11

I know this is been a quiet thread, but off grid is quite normal for big ranches in remote areas of BC

They do off grid with a combination of solar and wind, with a back up gas generator. This one rancher told me he ran his generator once in five years, during winter.

It is my plan to create an off grid retreat somewhere.
Peace All

Charlene


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