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

 
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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
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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  
 
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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.
 
pollinator
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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.
 
pollinator
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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.
 
pollinator
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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
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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!
 
pollinator
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If the SHTF remember that panels, batteries and inverters don't last forever.

 
Travis Johnson
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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
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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)
 
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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
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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
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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
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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
 
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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.
 
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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
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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
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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
 
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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
 
pollinator
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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
 
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