• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Mike Jay Haasl
  • Burra Maluca
garden masters:
  • James Freyr
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Steve Thorn
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Dave Burton
  • Pearl Sutton

In these times we live in, how important is it to be off grid?

 
Posts: 5
Location: Albuquerque, NM
3
goat composting toilet greening the desert
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hive mind,
For those of you tuned into the roiling waves of political instability, energy depletion, impending economic collapse, ecological fragility etc. [insert your possible dooms-day scenario here]:
If you had the choice to put your resources into either going off-grid solar with battery back-up, or on-grid solar for less than half the money (just 20% of the current electric bill), what would you choose? Does it really matter if you are off grid and you live close to a major city? What, given the interesting times we live in, are the relative pros and cons of off-grid versus on-grid living?
Your kind and thoughtful words will be appreciated!
Eric
DL_32618-006.JPG
One corner of my currently on-grid project.
One corner of my currently on-grid project.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 3963
911
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Likes 9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The United States Electrical Supply is in a death spiral and no one seems to notice, or care.

Grid rates are based 100% on consumption, so there is a problem. My electrical company, Central Maine Power (CMP) has ever increasing costs...labor, material costs, fuel costs, etc. YET consumers are buying appliances and such, that REDUCE their electrical consumption. Here is where the death spiral starts.

In order for CMP to survive, they get their price per KW to go up. That causes consumers to buy more appliances with better economy to reduce their electrical costs, which causes CMP rates per KW to go up again, which causes consumers to be motivated yet again to buy more electrical saving devices. That is the death spiral we are now in.

The a way out of this is to stop charging for the KW's consumed. Maine is already talking about charging a flat fee for grid hook up.

That has slowed somewhat because heat pumps have really taken off here. They save money over that of paying for oil or propane, but they still drive up the consumption of electricity...which is what CMP needed. But eventually people will grow tired of heat pumps, and try the next big home heating trend. And the death spiral will continue.

The only TRUE way out of the death spiral, is to go off grid. Staying hooked to the grid, with even a flat fee is not going to be good because no matter what, CMP is going to have X amount of costs to maintain the power, and the flat fee will just be high to cover that.

 
gardener
Posts: 2483
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
178
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I guess it depends on what electricity is used for, and what kind of collapse you are planning for.

I live in heart of the city, and I am confident that I could modify a grid tied system in case of collapse,  so grid tied is the choice for me.
I'm in a bad place for solar anyway,  too many trees and buildings, and my roof is oriented at an awkward angle.
Plus I'm poor,  with bad credit.
I'm focused on conservation, because saving energy saves money and helps the environment.

I've heard the Amish goal is to avoid becoming dependant on the "English" world.
Maybe that should be our guide.

Heat and light can be covered by burning various things.
There are a whole host of labor saving devices that use electric,  starting with laundry, but  all of which can be done hand.

Simple,safe and bright light,  refrigeration and long range communications seem like the three things that an electricity free  homestead would miss the most.

Power tools are up there, but the are at least replaceable.
 
pollinator
Posts: 355
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
55
forest garden tiny house books
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When we first moved to our property, we had a 40W solar panel and an old car battery. That kind of set up doesn't get you much juice. We learned to mostly just not use electricity.  If you can do that, you'll be fine either way.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 11352
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
736
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I plan to get a grid-tied system for the house and shop.  If The End Of The World As We Know It occurs, I won't be using that much electricity anyway, so a few solar panels with devices will be sufficient for awhile before I kick the bucket from starvation.

In my opinion the only truly independent strategy if TSHTF is to go full caveman, and not need electricity at all, because all those electric doo-dads will eventually fail anyway.

I don't expect TSHTF during my lifetime, personally, so I don't plan for it.
 
Eric Chrisp
Posts: 5
Location: Albuquerque, NM
3
goat composting toilet greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Travis Johnson, You raise some interesting issues, such as the overall fragility of our grid,  pretty much nation wide. In my area (New Mexico) I don't believe there is any talk of a flat fee. However, I think that there has been talk of charging fees to grid-tied solar owners. That's not what you were talking about was it? I'll have to look into that.


William Bronson, I appreciate your position. Yeah, I can see living like the Amish.  Though I'm not sure anyone else in my family of four can! We are homesteaders, (Chickens, turkeys and goats for milk, eggs and meat) but if there is a continuum of homesteaders from extremely mainstream (all the modern amenities and comforts) to extremely radical (Amish or otherwise primitive lifestyle) we are somewhere in the middle. Until the lights go out I'd like to have electricity. What you are saying, in a way, is that when the grid goes down, life without electricity might not be so bad, eh? So I can adapt and perhaps the additional money for batteries is not worth it.

Any other pros and cons that folks can think of?
 
Posts: 146
11
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
if we end up back in the dark ages depending on the reason it might not matter anyway,
what is the deal with the electric company will they pay you for excess power you produce, or charge additional fee each month just because they can. might check with you power co state and local rules or laws that might be involved.
i would think an off grid set up is kinda like a diploma once you got it it cant be taken away and you can benefit from it, just remember batteries dont last forever, and need to be replaced.

do your homework into each type of system before spending $$$$
 
Posts: 15
Location: Arnheim, MI
1
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Eric Chrisp wrote:If you had the choice to put your resources into either going off-grid solar with battery back-up, or on-grid solar for less than half the money (just 20% of the current electric bill), what would you choose?



We didn't have the resources required to make that choice when we bought our place, but I'd have preferred off.  Jan is on point though.  

Eric Chrisp wrote:Does it really matter if you are off grid and you live close to a major city?



The pros and cons don't change a whole lot based on your proximity to a major city, imo.  If you're close to large groups of people and the grid goes down temporarily, you make a lot of new friends, real fast, if you still have power.  If you're close and the grid goes down more or less permanently, you make a lot of enemies if you still have power.

Eric Chrisp wrote:What, given the interesting times we live in, are the relative pros and cons of off-grid versus on-grid living?



If you start a project on the grid, you've got the flexibility to use more than you can generate, to run cheap electric tools and accomplish a lot of one-time tasks quickly.  Grid-tied tools are more plentiful, therefore easier to come by used and inexpensively.

If you start a project off grid, you're getting used to living within your means from day one, which is good.  But you're probably having to use more battery powered tools, which cost more, and you're still tied to the grid because the grid builds your replacement batteries, expansion panels, controllers, etc.

If you're in an area where the grid has to buy back your excess generating capacity for an attractive price, and you have the resources to install something that meets their standards, then maybe you want grid-tied solar to help offset the installation cost.  Don't plan on that arrangement being permanent.  A captive regulator can flip those buyback rules around and cut off that kind of cost offset pretty quickly.

So, like most things, it depends.  Going off grid is frequently framed either as referendum on the methods the grid uses to generate and distribute power, or a strategic choice about how long you expect the grid to continue to function in your area.  Things fall apart.  Eventually the grid connected to whatever you're thinking of connecting it to will permanently cease to function, but without a crystal ball, none of us can say when.  If you're building with the intention of passing something on, being grid tied may mean passing on a serious systemic weakness.  If the inheritors are aware of the weakness and you pass on the resources or skills to work around it, maybe that's good enough.

Personally I feel like we should be encouraging decentralized generation and consumption to the furthest extent possible for each use case, but the ethical dimension of any decision is always personal, so that's for you to mull over.  Knowing where the juice in your grid is coming from may be the thing that sways you away from being tied to it, even with solar.  As long as you can flip a switch in an emergency and disconnect yourself from the grid, grid-tied solar still makes strategic sense to me.  If that switch isn't automated, and your local substation eats itself, how much damage can that do to your equipment?  If your system can be killed by the grid, that's certainly a point in favor of being off-grid from day one.

Practically speaking though, as we age, our society leans heavily on electronics to keep us alive.  Who knows what kind of technology you'll feel justified in using, as time goes on?  Would you change your resource investment based on that kind of speculation?  If you answer "yes", then do you risk falling back on a grid that may or not be there to catch you, or do you build a more robust off grid system that may cost more to maintain?  Up to you, based on your understanding of the nature of the grid where you live, and your tolerance for difficult-to-quantify risks. All grids are not created equal.
 
gardener
Posts: 615
Location: SoCal USA
110
cat dog trees wofati composting toilet bike solar
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm a fan of off grid and combining that with "radical simplicity" conservation. My total system with batteries cost less than the typical grid-tied inverters I've seen, not to mention the certified installer fees and everything else. I've read that the excess production rates are starting to drop, so you get paid less than you'd be charged for the same energy use too. Combined with the mandatory disconnect whenever grid power goes down (to prevent any feedback from zapping repair techs), grid tie seems like a lot of hassle.

I'm still looking for phantom loads- was out of town several days with router/modem turned off, and fridge plugged into the solar-charged batteries, and my utility claims I still used about 650 watt hours per day... so 25-30 watts per hour. Perhaps a digital clock and a phone charger plus microwave clock?
 
pollinator
Posts: 700
Location: Southern Oregon
120
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I live in fire country. The plan is to shut down the grid during extreme fire conditions. Many, if not most people around here are just not prepared for that. They will have no water without the grid, temporary generator set-ups are not allowed. My generators are fixed and inside a garage. In my mind, being prepared is more important than on or off grid. I'm off grid and I like it. I really wanted to not be dependent on the local power company, but I know that not everyone shares that concern.
 
Posts: 41
Location: Lasqueti Island, British Columbia
11
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mark Brunnr wrote:I'm a fan of off grid and combining that with "radical simplicity" conservation. My total system with batteries cost less than the typical grid-tied inverters I've seen, not to mention the certified installer fees and everything else. I've read that the excess production rates are starting to drop, so you get paid less than you'd be charged for the same energy use too. Combined with the mandatory disconnect whenever grid power goes down (to prevent any feedback from zapping repair techs), grid tie seems like a lot of hassle.

I'm still looking for phantom loads- was out of town several days with router/modem turned off, and fridge plugged into the solar-charged batteries, and my utility claims I still used about 650 watt hours per day... so 25-30 watts per hour. Perhaps a digital clock and a phone charger plus microwave clock?



Hey mark.
Ive got a product called a kill a watt. It was around 20 bucks used. It is used with AC power and it tells you anything from how many amps are being drawn to how many watts are being use, It is rated for 15Amps at 120 VAC.
Duck duck go search for Kill a Watt


Referring to the original post. Where i live there is no option to live on the grid.  We are an off grid island. I have been living this way for 3 years now and love it. Having the responsibility and control over my power really changes some of my days because i know i can do certain tasks while the sun it out. It adds a bit of mystery to my day as some days it could be cloudy for a few hours and than come 2 or 3 in the afternoon the sun could come out and i can do some heavier power task like using the well pump, or doing laundry, or using the table saw, or the mitre saw, among a few other items which require there to be over 1000 watts coming in.
 
gardener
Posts: 1320
Location: mountains of Tennessee
402
cattle chicken bee homestead
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A hybrid system might be a good compromise for normal situations. In case of zombies I'd prefer completely off grid. On second thought, with or without zombies I'd prefer off grid. Any electro-mechanical system will eventually fail though. I think it's important to be capable of doing without electricity. All it takes is some basic tools & skills. Easier done out in the country rather than in a city. An important aspect of designing any photovoltaic system is to minimize the load first. For example, improving insulation & reducing air leaks is often a better investment than adding a couple extra solar panels. A RMH could remove a huge load. Etc.

Consider this ... back when the first electric company opened there were no customers. So they invented toasters & gave them away for free. Look where we are now. Things that make me go hmmmm.
 
pollinator
Posts: 358
63
food preservation cooking homestead
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
How you have to prepare depends on your resources, and what trouble will come your way.

I have 3,000 Watts of solar, but that will be worthless if an EMP hits and takes out my charge controller.     Emp may be from solar ejection, or by war.

Beyond that I have built a charcoal wood gas generator and I have run my generator off wood gas.    But for this to work it will require much work to prepare the charcoal, and
work to maintain the engine.

How much electricity do we need?      Well   we know people lived without it 1700's ...    We can go back to history and learn how they lived without it.     Steam engines were used at that time and more coal.

People want to make it alone, but it is very hard to do so without a doctor, without those who have the skills that you need.     This is why community is so important.

I believe we should be able to live without, and have a plan.         I know my local food sources and water sources that are easy to get to.     So in these time is is always best to have plan B, C, and D.

Mart



 
William Bronson
gardener
Posts: 2483
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
178
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Planning for total, permanent collapse is beyond my personal abilities.
Any permanent grid failure will bring with it permanent failure of manufacturing.
Anything you can't make,  eventually won't be available.
Batteries. Insulated copper wire. Replacement panels.
If this stuff is still being made somewhere,and having it is a priority, maybe bugging out to the last bastion of industry is a better plan?
Otherwise,  the only long term plan for electricity in a totalling term collapse is to do without.
If that's what your planning for,  what not set up those systems now and learn to live with them?
If you can produce and store food,  clean water and a warm place to sle


Planning for a collapse that is partial, or temporary is within my grasp.
Planning that improves my lot even if societal collapse doesn't come in my lifetime is  why I'm here on Permies.
A good battery array costs too much compared to a working grid.
An otherwise inadequate battery array that can keep your freezer running during a collapse could be priceless, yet it won't cost what a "full sized" battery system would.
So I say grid tie,  then add battery capacity up to the "miminum".
In a collapse, short term or partial,  batteries of some sort will be more attainable than solar panels.
Even a bunch of freezers or an ice maker that only runs when the sun shines would be of incredible value during a collapse.
 
pollinator
Posts: 872
Location: Pac Northwest, east of the Cascades
227
hugelkultur forest garden trees chicken wofati earthworks building solar rocket stoves woodworking homestead
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Eric Chrisp wrote:Does it really matter if you are off grid and you live close to a major city?



This is the important bit I think.

On or off grid, I would say more rural you can get the better.

While ideally you would be rural and off grid, the most important I feel is being away from the cities. This isn't just the issues of cities being unprepared etc... It is about how rural people tend to come together in crisis a lot better than urban and suburban folks. Rural folks have had to come to grips in their day to day living that they can't do it all alone, and have learned to form community with neighbors and/or others in the area. Even people of different social and political views will often put those conflicts aside to make sure each other survive winter, or spring melt, or dry summers.

To me, this is the key difference that will put rural folks in a better place when things go bad.

That said, even the best off grid set up is not 100% self sufficient. Most off grid folks will admit that at some point they still need to up keep things. Be it batteries going bad, or panels, or inverter going, or turbine blades needing replacement. While up keep is not every day or even every year, at some point something is going to stop working right. If you are completely reliant on have electricity then things will get bad for you. So while having off grid capabilities might be a good thing, it is also important to invest in no electric alternatives to achieve tasks. This is one of the 1st pieces of advice I give anyone going off grid, to figure out as many things you can remove the need for electricity as possible to lower the need of electric production and storage.
 
Travis Johnson
master pollinator
Posts: 3963
911
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

bruce Fine wrote:iwhat is the deal with the electric company will they pay you for excess power you produce, or charge additional fee each month just because they can. might check with you power co state and local rules or laws that might be involved.




This is actually a misnomer. I do not know of any power company that actually "pays" you for your excess power. My uncle has a wind mill, and what happens is, he gets a "credit" for when he does buy power. In his case, his wind mill saves him about 50% of his power.

The credit system is both good and bad. It is good because, he is basically getting paid retail prices for his extra power. While boilers, hydro dams and what have you might be getting 10 cents a KW, he is getting 14 cents...what he has to pay for power as it is a one for one credit.

But the bad is, if you overproduce power, you just keep a running tab of kws you can get from the power company. You will never get a real check in the mail for your power.
 
Mother Tree
Posts: 11060
Location: Portugal
1701
dog duck forest garden tiny house books wofati bike bee solar rocket stoves greening the desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I sell all my power to the grid, and buy back what I need at the same rate.  I bought the biggest array I could afford and use far, far less than I sell.  I make a sizeable chunk of my income from it, though my total income is probably far, far lower than most people's .  

I considered it better all round to export surplus power and reduce the need for production in other ways by the rest of the grid.  
 
Travis Johnson
master pollinator
Posts: 3963
911
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My fear with a flat flee electrical system is: it would be like city water. Here in Maine anyway, if you have a private well, and they put city water past your home, you are required to use the city water supply. If you still do not use it, you get a bill nonetheless for what they assume you would use. They do that because they know if a homeowner was not forced into it, the city water and sewer system would go broke. It needs 100% utilization to be effective.

My fear is, after they implement a flat fee for electricity, a homeowner could not opt out and be grid-free...they would bill you anyway. They would never allow a ton of people to suddenly go off-grid and cause the flat fee numbers to double!

Myself, I have ample non-grid power generation. I do not call it alternative power because it is just a generator powered by a diesel engine, but I can run two houses off it; such is its size. I can uncouple from the grid at any time, throw some switches and never know I was operating on my own supplied power. I also have enough fuel on hand to live like that for over a month.

I have no interest in wasting my time trying to think of doomsday scenarios. If that happened the only scenario I need is one I already have: the ability to adapt. Trying to prepare so that my life does not change, after the entire world changes, seems kind of silly. That would only make you stand out, and 99% of the people in the world would be literally gunning for you.
 
pollinator
Posts: 247
Location: North central Ontario
25
kids dog books chicken earthworks cooking solar wood heat woodworking homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So many great replies!
You've really touched a nerve here. I can tell you what we did and why and you can see how it relates to your situation. We originally built the house fully off grid and grew our solar array to 960 watts and our battery storage to about 10 kW Hr. For running a home with a fridge, pump, lights, some internet and some circulator pumps it was perfect for 9 months of the year in my northern climate.  The other three months of the year involved regular charging up using a propane generator and carefully managing time of use for chores such as laundry and tool use. Panels were a lot pricier so you could get 3kW of solar for the same price now and never look back. You will be tied to a different kind of grid though one of technology, parts suppliers, and propane delivery. That system could deliver 3kW Hrs a day with no problem for 3/4 of the year. There are other issues as well. A system like that you will be using propane to cook, a propane dryer if you want one and propane for hot water. Again another grid but less prone to immediate failure.
When babies came we hooked up to the grid to replace the generator and to allow for more conveniences like a freezer, washing clothes(diapers... soon many diapers) anytime and not having to worry about starting that cranky propane monster in the yard. Consumption has grown to about 8 kW Hrs per day with the solar and grid combined. I could do a net metered array and feed back to the grid but between equipment costs, permits, insurance increases, meter swap out fees and regulation I would never see that money back. My electrical grid was close by and hook up was less then $2000 so it was an easy choice to make. I have a basic connection fee of about $25 per month and a consumption charge of about $0.11 cent per kW Hr. All told that works out to $0.22 cents (canadian) per kW Hr. At that cost the genny was a crazy idea.  I would never give up the solar component of the house though since it has become like a stand by generator that actually sees daily usage to reduce the kW Hr's I have to use from the grid as opposed to a standby generator that just sits idle and waits...
Depending on your budget there is a lot of cool gear out there. you would want to research "grid zero" options if your utility does not allow feedback or " net metered" for a grid connected array or " net metered with battery backup" for a hybrid system. My system is a bare bones manual controlled system by comparison to the new gear that is out there. I charge based on voltage of the batteries with nothing more complicated then a plug in of the inverter. I feed the solar production to the batteries and run the chosen critical loads to a separate AC panel which can be flipped over to the grid or run through the inverter... Easy as can be.
I would investigate the health of your local utility as well. If they are a rural only utility chances are they are in trouble; old infrastructure and aging plants. If they have a rural and urban mix of clients chances are they are doing better as urban clients are cheap to service and offset the rural one... Next I would investigate what it costs to hook up to your site. Finally I would investigate what their grid connection policy is for solar. If they only swap credits you are just offsetting consumption which is ok but no money changes hands, if they offer a feed in tariff then you can size for actually making a return on your investment. Each options would change the scenario...

Looking forwards to seeing how this progresses,   David
 
pollinator
Posts: 1227
Location: Green County, Kentucky
63
  • Likes 9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a friend who used to work for a power company in Wisconsin.  Several years ago she told me that when she was working for that company (would be seven years ago or so now), her boss told her that within ten years the power companies would no longer be able to guarantee reliable power to rural areas, due to the aging of the grid and lack of updating.  He thought the grid would become intermittent and unreliable, starting with the areas farthest out, and working in towards the population centers.  So, IMO, it is wise to work towards getting off the grid as much as possible.  Minimize electricity use, and provide alternative sources of power for those functions which are truly necessary.  

Keep in mind that all of the alternative sources of power (that I can think of at the moment) are also ultimately dependent on the survival of the grid.  They may outlive it for a while, but if the grid were to go down completely and permanently, eventually, so would all of the alternatives, unless you have some other source for batteries, parts, solar panels, and so on.  A stock of replacement parts might delay that outcome for a while, but it will come.

What I'm doing is prioritizing:  Necessity number one is water, so I need to have an alternate means of getting water up from our well.  Thankfully, this well isn't nearly as deep as our last one and a hand pump will easily do the job (keeping in mind that hand pumps need replacement parts eventually, too).  Should the hand pump backup ever fail us, we have a pond (water would have to be boiled) and are about a quarter of a mile from a stream (water would also have to be boiled).  Because hand pumping, or hauling, water is a lot of work (and time) compared to just turning on a spigot, you have to minimize the amount of water you need.  If you have animals, take them to the water two or three times a day, rather than carrying water to them.  And use those permaculture principles to minimize the need for watering your food crops!

Necessity number two is heat; even in this climate, several months of the year are pretty chilly to downright cold at times.  So we have, first, a non-electric propane heater, and second, a wood stove.

Necessity number three is refrigeration.  With planning, we could survive without refrigeration, as our ancestors all did.  A root cellar would provide a cool spot for some things; a spring house is even better if you have a good spot for one.

Necessity number four is lighting.  I have battery-operated lights, rechargeable batteries, and solar chargers.  But these fall in the category of things also requiring the grid to produce replacements and replacement parts/batteries eventually.  Candles are great, but there is a reason why they used to be so expensive -- in a cottage/homestead economy, the materials (whether using wax from beehives or tallow from butchering) are scarce.  So you learn to live by the sun, and do a lot of things outdoors where the light is better.

Computers and phones are really not necessities (truly they aren't!).  Communication becomes more difficult, but the gossip vine comes back into play.  Entertainment becomes home-grown again, which is a feature, not a bug.  

Necessity number five is laundry.  Doing laundry without a washer and dryer is a pain, and clothes won't get washed as often, perhaps.  But if you plan ahead and have alternative means of washing and drying clothes, it can be managed.

There's more, but I've got to do some real-world things.  Will check back here later.





 
Posts: 68
Location: Northernmost California
5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jan White wrote:When we first moved to our property, we had a 40W solar panel and an old car battery. That kind of set up doesn't get you much juice. We learned to mostly just not use electricity.  If you can do that, you'll be fine either way.


Like you Jan, we started off with a single (35W) panel and old batteries. It gave us light and radio. What it really gave us was learning to live withIN what we had. We slowly added panels, upgraded batteries and ended up with all the 'modern conveniences' we truly wanted. its been over 35 years since we first moved off grid, but we still choose to live that way. Besides NO BILL is so lovely!
 
Jain Anderson
Posts: 68
Location: Northernmost California
5
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hands down I choose to be grid free - in the original sense! - aka independently solar electrical sourced.

If one looks, there have been waves and waves of 'back-to-the-land' movements through out history. Often this was after wars - sort of a return to basic values and more peaceful lifestyle. Humans have also lived without electricity for centuries. Electricity is NOT a 'basic' albeit currently felt to be a 'necessity' of life. For sure electricity is a mighty leverage of energy, but unfortunately way too much of the generation of electricity is from a 'stored energy' source. Not bad when that when its water in a dam flowing thru mechanical generators, but coal and oil continue to be major sources of 'power'. Those are already reducing to less and less efficient AND 'clean' levels. With the sun's energy being showered on the earth constantly, why not make use of that?!?

Yet the biggest obstacle to evolving from 'grid' to grid-less remains one main element - attitude!! its soooo easy to discount change as 'too expensive' or 'taking a step backwards' or 'not possible for everyone' etc. etc. etc. I prefer to think of any potential solution(s) based on an old Chinese proverb - The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single footstep.

KISS - Keep It So Simple  
 
Eric Chrisp
Posts: 5
Location: Albuquerque, NM
3
goat composting toilet greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Devin Lavign wrote:

Eric Chrisp wrote:Does it really matter if you are off grid and you live close to a major city?


On or off grid, I would say more rural you can get the better.



Generally I agree with you. I my case, that decision has already been made. We got a screaming deal on 3 acres with a house on it, just outside of city limits but in a mostly suburban area (but with a distinctly agricultural presence, lots of hay fields between the houses). In a SHTF situation it will be a terrible location, though not as bad as being in the middle of big city. The neighbors are a mix of suburban and rural in their mentalities. Some will be great in a crisis while others will likely be trouble. Until said crisis strikes it is fine. We are not counting on SHTF, just wary of it. For now, we need employment and services so we can't get too far from an urban core anyway.
 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 872
Location: Pac Northwest, east of the Cascades
227
hugelkultur forest garden trees chicken wofati earthworks building solar rocket stoves woodworking homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Eric Chrisp wrote:For now, we need employment and services so we can't get too far from an urban core anyway.



I hear ya, job opportunities are not great in the rural areas. You are doing what you can, which is better than most.

As for the neighbors, some might surprise you in a crisis. I generally believe most people are good at their core, just pick up bad habits from society. Plus most people really are followers. If there is enough good folks around to give good examples of how to behave, a lot of those questionable people will likely follow the lead of the rural minded folks. They will quickly see the benefit in coming together over trying to lone wolf it. Some likely will never change for the better, brainwashed too far into thinking only for their own benefit. But I would suspect that in a crisis the rural pull together folks will end up sweeping most of the other folks into their way of thinking just through sheer will power and ability to act in crisis vs falling apart like most who are dependent upon civilization running smooth.

The big point of my comment is simply it is less about on grid or off, and more about community and who is around you.

So while things are still goodish, you can work at mitigating some potential problems by hosting BBQs or other social events to get neighbors talking and just generally seeing each other as fellow humans. From social events, you could plan work parties, to demonstrate how team work eases burdens. Something like a wood splitting party to get wood chopped up for those with fire places. Or some similar task that could bring a group together to get something done that benefits the group. A few events like that and some amazing things can start to develop.
 
Posts: 1975
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
156
kids duck forest garden chicken pig bee greening the desert homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It would take more than some solar power to make it worth it for us. We would freeze to death. We can heat with our wood stove but we have no trees. We'd be ok for a year, maybe 2, then we'd freeze to death. So to go off grid we'd need to convert our heating system to something electric. This would cost A LOT. Then we'd have to get a combination of solar and wind power. Quite a lot of them. At least 3 wind turbines would be needed for regular use. Solar for when it isn't windy out.

SO basically, if the power goes out and the world runs out of gasoline, we're freezing to death.
 
Travis Johnson
master pollinator
Posts: 3963
911
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Devin Lavign wrote:I would suspect that in a crisis the rural pull together folks will end up sweeping most of the other folks into their way of thinking just through sheer will power and ability to act in crisis vs falling apart like most who are dependent upon civilization running smooth.



You are right!

In 1998 we had the Ice Storm of 1998, and over 600,000 Mainer's lost their power...over half the state. Conditions were bad, 4 inches of ice coated everything, and for days we took chainsaws to cut our way through the trees in the roadway. Four days of that.

Everyone got along, people went house to house checking upon people, the places with power did free hot meals for people who did not...people just got along...

AND THEN...

FEMA showed up and started handing out checks. That was when the fighting started because some people were getting more money than other people. IT GOT NASTY! We were getting along just fine without FEMA.

As for power, I was out of power for 14 days. On the radio they stopped saying how many people were without power still when they got to less than 1000 people. I was still without power, which tells you how much they rate my town. The sad thing was, they said they could not check meters so they "estimated my power usage for January 1998...the same as the month before!
 
pollinator
Posts: 1062
Location: Victoria BC
121
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

elle sagenev wrote:It would take more than some solar power to make it worth it for us. We would freeze to death. We can heat with our wood stove but we have no trees. We'd be ok for a year, maybe 2, then we'd freeze to death. So to go off grid we'd need to convert our heating system to something electric. This would cost A LOT. Then we'd have to get a combination of solar and wind power. Quite a lot of them. At least 3 wind turbines would be needed for regular use. Solar for when it isn't windy out.

SO basically, if the power goes out and the world runs out of gasoline, we're freezing to death.



Yeesh. Is there any hope of planting trees, so that some day you or your successors have a source of wood?

If you did try using renewables for heat, a building with serious thermal mass and solar/wind dumping heat directly into the mass would be an interesting option. Electrodacus has made a charge controller designed to take a lot of panels, and divert excess power to resistive heat when it is not needed for battery charging..


And ya. It would cost a lot!
 
Posts: 478
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If the SHTF remember that panels, batteries and inverters don't last forever.

 
Travis Johnson
master pollinator
Posts: 3963
911
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

elle sagenev wrote:It would take more than some solar power to make it worth it for us. We would freeze to death. We can heat with our wood stove but we have no trees. We'd be ok for a year, maybe 2, then we'd freeze to death. So to go off grid we'd need to convert our heating system to something electric. This would cost A LOT. Then we'd have to get a combination of solar and wind power. Quite a lot of them. At least 3 wind turbines would be needed for regular use. Solar for when it isn't windy out.

SO basically, if the power goes out and the world runs out of gasoline, we're freezing to death.



Not really Elle...you live in Wyoming, so you could just get a stove that burns both wood and COAL. A person has to use what they got, and for you, even if you did not want to burn coal all the time, you could get the cheap coal you have in Wyoming, and stockpile a few ton of it for emergency purposes. No one would ever fault you for saying warm with a resourse you have close by in an emergency situation. It would be silly to spend thousands on solar and wind, when you could have back up heat with just a few hundred dollars in several tons of coal.

I will not get a stove that will not also burn coal. I live in Maine where heat is also critical, and I like having multiple heating options. last year in this Tiny House I stayed warm with Firewood, Wood Pellets, and Coal. I also have #2 Furnace Oil as a back up heater. I like to burn coal when it gets really cold because it burns so much hotter, and so much longer than wood.
 
pollinator
Posts: 539
Location: Denmark 57N
119
fungi foraging trees cooking food preservation
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would chose the on grid but have it set up so you can run it without the grid if needed, even if that means getting an electrician to put in a manual switchover on the side. As to the subject wander in the thread. It really depends where you are, for me solar is not useful in a SHTF situation as when I most need power (winter) there is no sun and only 5 hours of daylight.  a Friends 12KW array generates 600W in the winter. Conversely we could live here with no heating, -15C is about the minimum but normally winter hovers just under freezing. On a money point of view even with the most expensive electricity in the developed world, solar doesn't pay back inside the expected lifespan of the panels. (not since they removed the decent feed-in tariffs and subsidies)
 
pollinator
Posts: 3105
Location: Toronto, Ontario
380
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think you have to look at actual goals and timelines, along with what resources you are willing to put towards it.

If you are going off-grid so that, in the event of a power out of any length, you can keep on going without loss of crops or livestock, I think it's more important to be energy and infrastructure independent, rather than dependent on another energy teat.

So while I find the idea of coal use abhorrent (my visceral reaction, not my reasoned response on a case-by-case basis), I do not live in an environment where it is prevalent. I grew up burning wood to heat our house, though, so I know how that works. I like the coal heat example, though.

I think it's important to make sure that one's progress isn't impeded by allowing the pursuit of off-grid infrastructure to stand in the way of other needed progress.

My work-around for this is to minimise the need for electricity entirely. If you have a little elevation or raise some water tanks filled with wind pumps, you can use mechanical timers to fill irrigation trenches, even if those look more like swales.

If you happen to be in a situation where it is easy to source and cobble together an effective power storage facility for your needs (battery banks, controllers, etc...), it may not only not be an obstacle to other progress, it might, in the event that you have neighbours who desire to be off-grid, be an opportunity to generate cashflow, or resource exchange and goodwill.

We have one of those emergency weather radios with the solar panel and hand crank generator. It has USB charging ports for phones. I would love to have one, but built into a stationary bicycle, with added capacity for extended emergencies, but I have always been a fan of overkill.

I think, to answer the OP's question, the less you rely on electricity to provide your basic necessities, the less important it is to be off-grid. If you heat your home in the winter, and cook, with something other than electricity, and if you can pump water without power, and if you can make do without refrigerated goods, and if you're lighting with candles or woven-wick alcohol lamps with modern reflectors do you need power?

If all your appliances, including lights, are propane-powered, what use have you of electricity at all? At that point, all you'd need is something to run your electronics.

-CK
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1975
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
156
kids duck forest garden chicken pig bee greening the desert homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Travis Johnson wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:It would take more than some solar power to make it worth it for us. We would freeze to death. We can heat with our wood stove but we have no trees. We'd be ok for a year, maybe 2, then we'd freeze to death. So to go off grid we'd need to convert our heating system to something electric. This would cost A LOT. Then we'd have to get a combination of solar and wind power. Quite a lot of them. At least 3 wind turbines would be needed for regular use. Solar for when it isn't windy out.

SO basically, if the power goes out and the world runs out of gasoline, we're freezing to death.



Not really Elle...you live in Wyoming, so you could just get a stove that burns both wood and COAL. A person has to use what they got, and for you, even if you did not want to burn coal all the time, you could get the cheap coal you have in Wyoming, and stockpile a few ton of it for emergency purposes. No one would ever fault you for saying warm with a resourse you have close by in an emergency situation. It would be silly to spend thousands on solar and wind, when you could have back up heat with just a few hundred dollars in several tons of coal.

I will not get a stove that will not also burn coal. I live in Maine where heat is also critical, and I like having multiple heating options. last year in this Tiny House I stayed warm with Firewood, Wood Pellets, and Coal. I also have #2 Furnace Oil as a back up heater. I like to burn coal when it gets really cold because it burns so much hotter, and so much longer than wood.



Coal is a northern Wyoming thing. We don't have any of it down here. We have natural gas under us but no idea how I'd tap into that.. Wyoming is also rich in Bentonite but I drove to CO to get it because it was cheaper and closer than getting it from the place that digs it up in Wyoming. Pretty much any form of fuel I could think of would take an hour or two to drive to get.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1975
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
156
kids duck forest garden chicken pig bee greening the desert homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dillon Nichols wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:It would take more than some solar power to make it worth it for us. We would freeze to death. We can heat with our wood stove but we have no trees. We'd be ok for a year, maybe 2, then we'd freeze to death. So to go off grid we'd need to convert our heating system to something electric. This would cost A LOT. Then we'd have to get a combination of solar and wind power. Quite a lot of them. At least 3 wind turbines would be needed for regular use. Solar for when it isn't windy out.

SO basically, if the power goes out and the world runs out of gasoline, we're freezing to death.



Yeesh. Is there any hope of planting trees, so that some day you or your successors have a source of wood?

If you did try using renewables for heat, a building with serious thermal mass and solar/wind dumping heat directly into the mass would be an interesting option. Electrodacus has made a charge controller designed to take a lot of panels, and divert excess power to resistive heat when it is not needed for battery charging..


And ya. It would cost a lot!



I've planted 100s of trees. Man do we have some happy rabbits and ground squirrels. lol We also have our very first dead pine. Pine beetle has finally reached us. So now even our wind break isn't likely to survive.
 
Eric Chrisp
Posts: 5
Location: Albuquerque, NM
3
goat composting toilet greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks everybody for your input! That was a great discussion and my first post so thanks for showing me how awesome Permies can be! My partner and I really used your input, mulled it over, and have consequently decided to stay on grid for now. There are a number of reasons for this, mostly owing to the particulars of our situation. Energy prices are expected to keep rising in our area. Our solar system will be financed and will pay for itself in about 8 years. After we finish paying off the loan, its free power until the darn things wear out, warranted for 25 years, likely to last longer. So solar, on-grid or no, makes financial sense for us. Also, the Federal 30% tax credit is still good for the remainder of this year. Furthermore, we plan on putting on a badly needed new metal roof at the same time. This costs more than the solar, will also receive the 30% discount, will add another R-7 insulation to the house, will come with gutters and allow the clean capture of rain water in our greening desert, will increase the value and equity of the house etc. Talk about stacking functions! So rather than choosing between a roof and a battery back-up solar system, we are getting the roof with all of its functions, along with a lower power bill for the next 25 years. I actually probably can't raise the money for the batteries, solar AND the roof. So in the end, it was largely about limited finances.

I have wanted to live off-grid for decades (almost made it happen but that pesky divorce got in the way!). As one of the respondents said, I don't like the idea of the power company having the power to turn off my system at anytime (The word "Power" here has manifold meanings). But in a great downturn, SHTF type situation, as many of you pointed out, knowing how to live without electricity will be a virtue. We want fewer THINGS in our lives anyway. So while we will have solar panels and the energy they provide right up until the hammer falls, we will be simultaneously working on our post-apocalyptic skill set.  
Thanks again all!
Eric
 
Posts: 7
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here's my take on this subject matter...foolish disconnect allows for the wise to flourish IF they bond together!

Generally speaking, those with the biggest hearts have the least amount of power.  However I see a real change
in this millennial culture.  They see the stupid, the waste, the contention...most 25 and under have lived their entire
lives going to school wondering if they will get shot (it is mostly psychological but it really impacts kids...I remember
nuclear war as a threat in high school recall how this impacted my thinking about the future)

Practically speaking, seeking a more minimal and wise lifestyle will draw others and if we can set the template of
sharing with each other opening, lovingly this is something that cannot be denied.  I live in a mountain community now
and neighbors dont know each other, everyone is busy into their own lives and interests...years can go by and if not for
a disaster or emergency, there is no dependency on each other.  Modern times has produced a lack of neighborly vulnerability.

How important to be off grid?  Well, if it is important to you then it is important.  Making decisions for self over fear seems
the best practice.  Preparation and planning is great until it becomes obsessive...and I am back to fear as a motivator over
wisdom.
 
Posts: 11
Location: North Country of NYS
goat forest garden food preservation
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Although it's going ever so slowly I'm trying to get my homestead geared for using no power.  I'm not mechanically inclined and I feel either a wind turbine or a solar array will need parts and repair eventually.  The only thing I would worry about is harvesting wood without a chainsaw.  anyone else out there with this mindset?

Larry
 
Travis Johnson
master pollinator
Posts: 3963
911
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Larry Streeter wrote:Although it's going ever so slowly I'm trying to get my homestead geared for using no power.  I'm not mechanically inclined and I feel either a wind turbine or a solar array will need parts and repair eventually.  The only thing I would worry about is harvesting wood without a chainsaw.  anyone else out there with this mindset?

Larry




Oh yes I have! (LOL)

I grew up logging, and a chainsaw is really an extension of my right arm. I have cut wood with a crosscut saw, and have many varieties for hardwood and softwood, crosscutters and felling saws, but they were referred to as a "misery whip" for a reason!

I had a conversation with a friend and fellow farmer yesterday, but we disagreed on horses. He felt tractors were the reason the small farm died off and lost its marketing edge, but I disagree. It comes down to property taxes. With them going up so high, so quickly, the amount of land it takes to feed a horses makes it very unpractical. This is happening as the price of tractors are plummeting. Everyone has a Kubota for a reason; they do a lot of work, for very little money, sipping fuel. I can run mine all day on $12. A person with a horses will get far less work, and pay more for feed, property taxes to have a field of hay in which to feed that horses, along with oats and grain.

I do not see how a horses farmer could ever get the advantage of a tractor farmer in the seeable future.

Like you, I would have a hard time giving up my tractor and chainsaw, both of which do an amazing amount of work for what little bit they consume in fuel.
 
Larry Streeter
Posts: 11
Location: North Country of NYS
goat forest garden food preservation
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Travis, yes I have a small tractor as well as a 4 wheeler.  As it stands now I'd give my tractor up before my wheeler but I definitely understand your point. I guess I'm just approaching this from a more catastrophic viewpoint.  The Amish here in NNY obviously only use horsepower although they have the land to feed them.  They also rely more and more on stationary gas and diesel engines.

The only thing I can think of for a tractor must would be skidding timber logs.  I could do some firewood carting with goats as I am in a much better position to feed goats with tree hay (which I'm experimenting more and more with).  This 70YO carcass of mine would probably spend LONG days harvesting with a misery saw as you call them. I'm just trying to get my homestead geared for my future generations.  To perhaps better clarify being nonelectric to me would not be a big deal.  Being without gasoline would be.

Larry
 
Posts: 30
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I installed my grid tied 4.6 KW PV system in Jan 2012, and it has paid for itself as of June this year. Now I am getting paid to use electricity. I have the usual American middle class loads, AC, TV, washer, no dryer, and also two welders, glass kiln, hot tub, chest freezers. I have a 5K watt Honda genset I converted to propane I can hook into the house wiring in case the grid goes down. I just bought a Chevy Volt which has a 18.4 KWH battery I can tap into indirectly thru a 1500 watt inverter connected to the 12 volt battery. http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/PV/DougEnphase/DougEnphase.htm
 
David Baillie
pollinator
Posts: 247
Location: North central Ontario
25
kids dog books chicken earthworks cooking solar wood heat woodworking homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Doug Kalmer wrote:I installed my grid tied 4.6 KW PV system in Jan 2012, and it has paid for itself as of June this year. Now I am getting paid to use electricity. I have the usual American middle class loads, AC, TV, washer, no dryer, and also two welders, glass kiln, hot tub, chest freezers. I have a 5K watt Honda genset I converted to propane I can hook into the house wiring in case the grid goes down. I just bought a Chevy Volt which has a 18.4 KW battery I can tap into indirectly thru a 1500 watt inverter connected to the 12 volt battery. http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/PV/DougEnphase/DougEnphase.htm


Nice clean setup Doug...  Ground mount is really the way to go if you have the space and you cannot beat those micro inverters for maximizing production. Enphase is the industry leader. AP systems has a more bargain version but the support is much more basic. With all the new rules coming into force the days of the central grid tie inverter are drawing to a close soon it will all be micros... More efficient, easier to trouble shoot and safer as well.
Cheers,  David
 
We should throw him a surprise party. It will cheer him up. We can use this tiny ad:
This is an example of the new permies.com Thread Boost feature
https://permies.com/wiki/61482/Thread-Boost-feature
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!