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

 
pollinator
Posts: 241
Location: Dolan Springs, AZ 86441
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No one is ever truly 100% off-grid.  The most important grid is the web of community that makes it possible for us to live as a species.

No matter if you are grid-tied, or completely off-grid, you are still dependent on batteries and other technologies, and most importantly, the people that form your community.

A combination of sources of power is a crucial component. Wind, PV solar, all require some storage system., usually in the shape of some form of batteries.

Flooded lead-acid batteries are relatively low-tech, and they could be home-built using recycled batteries. (it's a high-pollution process, but in the case of a longer-term disruption of grid service, people who know how to make new batteries from old will be in high demand.)

In the long run, forming self-supporting communities is going to be crucial: No one can do it all on their own.

It seems to me that the batteries are the weakest link. I propose a gravity-based energy-storage system to supplement the batteries.

Think of the possibility of using excess solar/wind power to raise a weight of water to drive a micro-hydro generator. if yo have two tanks on a see-saw, transferring the water from a high tank to a low tank can drive a water turbine. if more capacity is needed, more tank-pairs can be added to a system that drives a common generator. (Picture a series of tanks using gravity-driven motion to turn a generator's armature). I think that batteries in this system would be used to maintain a regulated DC power supply from a variety of variable RE DC sources. There are probably electronic gadgets that do the same thing.

However, as long as our society continues to function, I think a hybrid grid-tied system might be useful.

What all this points to is the political necessity to support Green New Deal proposals to improve the grid infrastructure, and strengthen local community resilience. The present capitalist-driven systems are obsolete dinosaurs and their collapse is inevitable without a drastic course change.  The biggest challenges are social, not technological.

 
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I live in a rural desert area, about 30 minutes from a small rural town.  I do have electricity.  It is horrendously expensive for electric in Southern California and we tend to have blackouts at the most inopportune times.  I did look at total solar tied into the grid.  If you go mostly solar the electric company here charges you anyway, so big systems to me are counter-productive.  So what I did was put together several stand-alone systems that I could, with my limited electrical knowledge, set up and maintain myself. They were relatively inexpensive and more systems, if I need them, can be purchased as I have the cash.  I have three stand alone solar set ups: for a solar refrigerator, a solar freezer and a solar evaporative cooler.  These give me security that if something does happen; I have the basics.

I then concentrated on having a good solar oven and a tandoori oven, both which I made.  I have a small washing machine that could be run from 12v batteries if needed and a solar panel just for charging 12v batteries. For me, this has worked splendidly.  I did not have the knowledge or desire to take the time to learn how a big solar system works, nor the money to buy one, nor really, the time to maintain it.....but the standalone systems are working fine for me, now 6 years into using them.  Each system has a 240V panel, a controller and two Trojan batteries.  So when the batteries do wear out, there doesn't have to be a big cash outlay to replace two batteries.

Along with my Vermont Castings tiny little wood stove (my cabin is 384s.f.), I have been able to be relatively self-sufficiently comfortable.  As I live in the desert, the whole front of my cabin is windows and even in 20 degree weather I am warm as toast. I have tankless propane water heaters; direct vent.  They were easy to set up and are connected to 5 gallon propane tanks which are easy for me to lug into town and get filled.

I do some indoor gardening in the winter.  I have Hidden Harvest Company's LED lights.  They are white spectrum so you can keep them anywhere..they won't hurt your eyes.  Each panel is 36 watts and cost $80.  In planning all these systems 15 years ago when I built my cabin, I centered everything built on this property around the idea that I am a woman, weight less than 120 pounds, (and now am 75 years old)....my thinking was to create systems that I could build myself without outside help, and maintain as long as I am here.

So yes, if one thinks out what they want, how they can best create it without paying others to help them, can pay for in stages so they don't incur debt, and those systems can be maintained when they are no longer young, then living off grid creates security that simply cannot be found in the city.
 
Posts: 33
Location: Zone 9b, northern California, 2500 ft elevation
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We lived in our 28-foot travel trailer, much of it off grid, after we sold our house in Nevada last July. Using a cheap Smart phone and library Internet service, we were able to search for a new place to live and recently bought a dilapidated house on a 4+ acre property at about 2500 ft in northern California. During our stint in the RV, we aimed for areas with nice weather (mountains in the summer, high desert in the fall and spring, southern desert in the winter) so we could count on solar from a couple of panels on the roof of the RV along with two robust batteries during all but the cloudiest of periods. A small generator was sufficient to charge up the batteries if need be. Since PG&E has started cutting off power whenever they perceive a combination of high winds and too dry conditions, we are getting a taste of powerlessness. Our immediate neighbors have huge generators for backup.

It's nice to have the RV backup system, especially for the fridge and stove, which run on propane. We make sure to keep the propane tanks filled, as well as extra gasoline for the generator. We learned to get by on minimal use of electricity, often washed our clothes by hand, and know how to live on 2 gallons of water a day for consumption and cleaning, as we used a composting toilet and sponge bathed rather than using the shower. We also now have a wood stove, with a flat surface for cooking and lots of sources of dead wood and will be setting up multiple water storage systems to collect winter rainfall.
 
gardener
Posts: 697
Location: SoCal USA
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jordan barton wrote:

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.



Hi Jordan, yeah I have a kill-a-watt as well, been moving it around to see what the cause might be. Tempted to flip the main breaker to the house and take a trip for a day or two, leaving the fridge on solar, and see if I still get charged for energy use.
 
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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.



Yes Elle, 'power' does need to be appropriate for one's area and uses too. Lack of trees was one of the major reasons we removed Wyoming from our list of choices. And for the very same reason you stated - winter COLD. A bermed house would be a good start towards not freezing, but it would be plenty cool  in winter. I fear that wind turbines might be negatively effected by extreme cold too. Is it possible to begin planting trees that could provide future winter heat? That is one of the things that we liked seeing when we visited Germany - blocks of trees rotated on land parcels. The trees don't have to be anything special, only grow to converts sunlight into 'fuel'.
 
Jain Anderson
Posts: 90
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First off, lets all understand that 'solar' is several things - wind, water, heat and electrical 'power'. These all result from the sun's energy hitting the earth's atmosphere. The term 'the grid' originated from electrical power lines (originally DC!) developing to supply electrical power to those who wanted that.

Other posters on this thread are right - there is NO truly 'independent' stand alone power - its all based on industry produced equipment. I do not claim nor seek to be self-sufficent as I have no intention of mining ores, refining and foundry those into items I desire. I decided a while back to be as self reliant as I could be. This required me to get as hands on AND knowledgeable as I could manage. (we all have limits of ability and energy too)

Regarding living 'off grid' - initially our land rather forced us into going this way - power line extension was outrageously expensive (hence cheaper land). So we tip-toed into alternative energy. When we moved onto our land we sold almost everything we had that had an electrical cord. We started off very small - one 35 watt PV panel and old batteries. But we had lights, radio and a light in the propane refrigerator. As $ allowed we slowly added a few PV panels, upgraded batteries and more energy efficient appliances (Sunfrost replaced propane frig.)

The BIGGEST advantage of developing one's alternative system as you go is that one can learn to live comfortably within the 'limits' that one HAS. Our initial little single panel system taught us the folly of trying to get more from a system than it had to provide. We developed a 'count to 3' habit - 3 things (2 lights, radio) on were maximum and ALL would go OUT if we turned on another light! Self regulation is a great teacher. And we developed alternatives that replaced previous no-thinking-required practices. Bed warmers replaced electric blankets, Muscle power turned grinders, made food and sunlight dried clothes on a line. No need for a gym membership when one lives more direct!

Regarding grid tied cost factors, consider that the power companies routinely OVER produce so as to be capable of supplying electricity when needed. So 'adding' excess power from individual systems really isn't needed. Check out how the 'pay back' $$s have decreased and will continue to do so. Math still runs a business.

The bottom line is that its more and more possible for making use of direct 'solar' in whatever form one can manage/afford. This is a 'tip-over' change that happens each time a newer technology begins displacing an existing one. Think steam engines giving way to fossil fuel engines which gave way to electrical motors etc. I'm old enough to remember telephones that were cranked to 'ring central', and needing to engage an operator to make long distance calls. All that has now been replaced with direct dialing world wide!

So I've developed my own attitude named mioneering which blends the best of functioning 'old' ways with more energy efficient new devices. Keeping within our limits and demands minimized, provides us with as self reliant and enjoyable a foot print for life as we can cobble together.

Best wishes for all you to do likewise.
 
Posts: 61
Location: Near Libby, MT
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Because my home is earth sheltered I don't worry much about staying warm, or cool in summer. I am practically surrounded by Forest Service land where trees fall down a lot. I will need younger muscle to cut them up for my stove but two cords usually gets me through our Montana winter.

My major concern is water security. I currently need electricity to run the pump in my 352 feet deep well. Although I typically use less than 300 kwh/month (at a great rate of $0.065/kwh) a good share of that is probably related to the pump. Of course that cost is irrelevant if the grid is down. Note: I have an underground reservoir that holds 16,000 gallons.

So who among you has experience with, or knowledge about, good old mechanical windmills? Wind here is not consistent but it's probably enough to keep water in my reservoir given an efficient windmill. Who still manufactures such things? Who knows how to install them? Are they practical for my deep well? Don't some farmers and ranchers still use them along with a stock tank or some such? I really would like to be energy independent but access to water remains my biggest issue.

Thanks for any ideas you have to share
 
pollinator
Posts: 440
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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 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




Hi Doug does the volt have a inverter from the 18.4 KWH battery down to the 12 V, then you goto your 1500 W inverter?


I have been looking into buying a used Volt battery and I am curious how your system is setup...

Thanks,


Mart
 
pollinator
Posts: 407
Location: North central Ontario
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roberta mccanse wrote:Because my home is earth sheltered I don't worry much about staying warm, or cool in summer. I am practically surrounded by Forest Service land where trees fall down a lot. I will need younger muscle to cut them up for my stove but two cords usually gets me through our Montana winter.

My major concern is water security. I currently need electricity to run the pump in my 352 feet deep well. Although I typically use less than 300 kwh/month (at a great rate of $0.065/kwh) a good share of that is probably related to the pump. Of course that cost is irrelevant if the grid is down. Note: I have an underground reservoir that holds 16,000 gallons.

So who among you has experience with, or knowledge about, good old mechanical windmills? Wind here is not consistent but it's probably enough to keep water in my reservoir given an efficient windmill. Who still manufactures such things? Who knows how to install them? Are they practical for my deep well? Don't some farmers and ranchers still use them along with a stock tank or some such? I really would like to be energy independent but access to water remains my biggest issue.

Thanks for any ideas you have to share

Roberta the first thing I would want to do is figure out what depth the water comes up to in your well, and at what rate it recharges itself. most of the time they hit water at that deepest depth but the well level rises much closer to the surface then that. They then proceed to hang the electric pump that deep because that gives them so much more capacity above the pump so you can't run it dry. It was not uncommon once upon a time to have the main deep well pump hung low and a much smaller jet pump installed close to the surface. They even make hand pumps and windmills for that application. You could not pull faster then the well can recharge itself but its somewhere to start.
 
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Mart Hale wrote:

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 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




Hi Doug does the volt have a inverter from the 18.4 KWH battery down to the 12 V, then you goto your 1500 W inverter?


I have been looking into buying a used Volt battery and I am curious how your system is setup...

Thanks,


Mart



Yes, the traction battery will keep the 12v battery up as long as the car is on. When the traction battery gets discharged, the ICE cuts in to charge it. 1500 watts seems to be the limit to pull from the 12v battery, not sure why, just what I've been told on Volt forums.
 
Posts: 33
Location: Wilderness, South Africa
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In South Africa, the 'grid' is barrelling towards an inevitable crash in the not too distant future. Experts have been warning the government for decades that our wildly inefficient coal powered electrical grid is not up to the job of keeping the country connected but, as always, the government knows better. Even more so when the coal companies line the pockets of government officials. Current predictions put a total blackout at 2040. I wonder if it would be better if that came sooner. We have been having 'rolling blackouts' for years where they intentionally blackout certain neighbourhoods and suburbs for hours at a time in order to try and maintain the demand-supply balance. They came up with a comprehensive schedule so that everybody would know exactly when the power was going off and plan their lives accordingly. They rarely stuck to that schedule.

A couple of years ago Cape Town nearly ran out water. It would have been the first major city to ever do so. They started implementing water blackouts as well. The taps would only run between 4-8 a.m and 4-8 p.m. This wreaked havoc in the house I was staying in with 5 other young adults, all with weird schedules and sleeping patterns. The competition became how many times you could reuse a batch of water or how little water you could use to get all your daily necessities completed. And Cape Town was only the poster child for the drought crisis. There were many other smaller municipalities that were, and still are, in dire straits.

In short, if you want all the comfort and amenities that we have become accustomed to in this era of automation, being off-grid is paramount.

I have not read all the posts preceding mine but something that I often see overlooked when being off-grid is discussed is sewage. How many 'off-grid' dwellings are still tied to the waste water grid? This has always amazed me because our wastewater is tied to a grid that turns an excellent resource into a noxious, dangerous by-product. And the solutions, to quote Bill Mollison, "are embarrassingly simple". Even for the squeamish where the idea of pooping in a bucket sends them running, a vermicomposting, wastewater flushing system may be set-up.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 839
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Given that they shut of power in parts of California, I would say that it's very important.
 
roberta mccanse
Posts: 61
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David Baillie, thanks for your response. I will find the well log. Initially we got 5 to 6 gallons/min. That dwindled to a pretty consistent 2 to 3/min. There is no aquifer here so we depend on seepage from rock. We put in the reservoir because we sometimes ran out of water in the middle of a shower, etc. So I don't think that there is a lot of water standing in the bottom of the well. In the meantime I love my reservoir.

Last week we replaced a broken pot filler and had problems getting the water turned back on. Had to replace a switch and will need to change out one of the pressure tanks (after I get property taxes paid). In the meantime water security is not the only issue. I also have "sewer security" concerns. Electricity runs the lift pump that brings waste from the septic tank to the drain field. Long and short, living remote is not for the faint of heart or for the technically challenged.
 
Posts: 14
Location: 106 Gaither Drive, Mount Laurel NJ, 08054
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Hi, I want to live with electricity and solar grid system. In summer days solar cell is help full, but in winter its hard to survive with the solar system. I love to use both combination and most of the time I charge my battery with the solar system.
 
David Baillie
pollinator
Posts: 407
Location: North central Ontario
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roberta mccanse wrote:David Baillie, thanks for your response. I will find the well log. Initially we got 5 to 6 gallons/min. That dwindled to a pretty consistent 2 to 3/min. There is no aquifer here so we depend on seepage from rock. We put in the reservoir because we sometimes ran out of water in the middle of a shower, etc. So I don't think that there is a lot of water standing in the bottom of the well. In the meantime I love my reservoir.

Last week we replaced a broken pot filler and had problems getting the water turned back on. Had to replace a switch and will need to change out one of the pressure tanks (after I get property taxes paid). In the meantime water security is not the only issue. I also have "sewer security" concerns. Electricity runs the lift pump that brings waste from the septic tank to the drain field. Long and short, living remote is not for the faint of heart or for the technically challenged.


"not for the technically challenged" Roberta I agree. BUT There is good earning potential figuring out how these things work and being able to diagnose and fix them. A good part of my calls come from troubleshooting solar, electrical and pumping equipment now. I am a terrible gardener though.
 
pollinator
Posts: 286
Location: Ozarks
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Near a major city is not where you want to be in a long term teotwawki(end of the world as we know it). Once the city runs out of food, which won't take long, they'll sprawl out looking for something to eat. That'll take like a week. When a hurricane is heading towards Florida, the store shelves are bare within a few days and all the stuff people buy lasts a matter of days.

Air, Water, Food, Shelter and depending on the weather, shelter may be earlier in that order. Clothing is shelter in a way.
Air, not much control over that. Might be able to improve air quality with HEPA filters.
Water - do you have a well? Can you pump from that well?
Food - hard to grow enough for yourself. Takes quite a bit of water too. Learn to store it. Look up Long Term Food Storage.

Internet - everything runs off the internet these days which is kinda scary. Hackers or a virus could be devastating.
 
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The reason for going off-grid would definitely be a family discussion and decision for sure!  Ones reason can be multitudes and there is a great benefit to doing so.  Our family has lived off-grid in the past and during that adventure we did not have solar.  It can be as simple as kerosine lights or 12 volt solar, to a huge undertaking with inverters to run EVERYTHING!  I would prefer to keep it simple and if I had one piece of advice, it would be to design your homestead to operate with whatever technology that you choose to use and to do without.  That is very important!  I lived in a poorly designed off-grid home and it ate cords of wood.  It had an upper story, with no floor where the wood cookstove was.  Guess where all the heat went?  Right up that wall.  I owned several homes that operated to perfection and made all the difference in the world!  A properly designed off-grid home is a thing of beauty though and the operation thereof is incredible to participate in.  You know the term location, location, location?  With off-grid it's design, design, design!  Know your climate and design accordingly.  A Rocket Mass Heater might be needed in Montana, but in Florida, not so much.  Your state or county code may require a septic or perhaps a compost toilet is fine.  It's all in the details and planning and when done proper, the off-grid homestead is a working thing of beauty!  Where the Amish thrive, it is community!  I know that most Permaculture folks get that, but it is important.  No doubt going off-grid can be done alone, but it is better with other like minded people around.  Think of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, www.dancingrabbit.org and Earthaven Ecovillage, www.earthaven.org.  The Amish who don't use motors, have a work day to cut cords for the community families.  It promotes exercise, fellowship, awareness and discussion.  Going off-grid can be great, just do it right and even your wife and children will be singing it's praises!  
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Off-Grid Lighting
Off-Grid Lighting
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Off-Grid Transportation
Off-Grid Transportation
 
pollinator
Posts: 306
Location: Nomadic
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Good thread. I’m late to the party as usual lol. I realized that one can “stock up” on lead acid batteries but get the dry cells and a separate container of battery acid. The dry batteries could sit in the root cellar or wherever for years, decades. In an shtf situation can you imagine what they might be worth for bartering!! Then do the Mcgyver thing after the EMP strike or whatever is over. Radios and basic stuff can be built. Also stock up on solar panels now they are inexpensive. I didn’t say cheap. But roughly 1/10th price of the first panels I bought. With just panels and batteries one can do a lot. I’ve met people who have nursed their lead acid batteries to last 15 years and still going. To me it’s just another tool in the tool box. I love my tools and I love electricity. But I can live without it if I need to.
These houses that loose so much heat are a liability. I would start digging a Earth bermed house and superinsulating if I was younger and thought I might live long enough for this issue to concern me. And catching water somehow. Also I’m thinking of building my own solar powered freeze dryer as I waste a lot of the solar in Summer. Oh yeah, I was going to search for threads on that.
Also remember that for basic DC lighting and DC loads it does not matter so much if you loose a battery here and there over time. Your light will just be slightly dimmer. Or a cheap little voltage buck boost circuit will work to bring the available voltage back up. So a string of good deep cell batteries could probably last 20 years or longer service.
I’m thinking of “stocking up” on some Nicad or nickel metal hydride batteries as they last a long time and can be rejuvenated.
If you really want AC power then “stock up” on a few old inverters. Get a 48 volt, a 24 volt, and 12 volt inverter. As the batteries slowly go bad go from a 48 volt to 24 volt to 12 volt system. The get the new batteries out of the root cellar and start all over. There’s 40 years of electricity. Replace the capacitors on the inverters and they may go for decades. Many of the original Trace Engineering or Heart Interface inverters are still functioning after 20-25 years in service.
Having said all this I have not exactly stocked up on dry batteries myself. I became semi Nomadic and my circumstances change a lot these days. . I guess I could bury some in a hole somewhere lol.
 
pollinator
Posts: 435
Location: zone 4b, sandy, Continental D
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A few centuries ago, we didn't  have all the conveniences that we have today .. but our ancestors did it, and they thrived. They didn't live as long, mind you, life was a lot harder and our human race was physically much shorter. So I don't go berserk at the idea that someday we might not have what we have now. But it will be hard, no matter what we do. {Just harder if we don't do anything}.
First remember that it has been done and take heart in that.
Then learn how it was done. Rediscover old crafts. Before cars, we had horses and buggies, folks who knew how to build saddles and boots from leather and life was hard. Rejoice in the knowledge that folks have survived not having all the conveniences, not even solar panels and heat pumps. Electricity, cheap electricity has been a blessing ... but also a curse, because now, we are living "above our means" so to speak and if we were to be suddenly deprived, we would have trouble adjusting. Your bank account would be useless because transactions depend on electricity: At my Credit Union, the clerks have to use computers to know what is in your account and dole you out some. Credit cards would disappear, along with all the parasites that thrive on our indebtedness. We would have to rediscover barter and reliance on neighbors. If the grid were to go down tomorrow, your savings, the savings of your entire lifetime would be wiped out.
After you use what's in your gas tank, your car would be useless: Every gas pump works with electricity.
We would have to learn animal husbandry all over, raise horses and mules to harvest and mill the grain. Our economy would be forced into de-centralization, which is not a bad thing either: We would have to make our own bread or buy from those who bake it by hand. A big plus is that chemicals might by and large disappear from our lives; so would obesity as it always does in hard times.
If you look at charts of life expectancy, first of all, they are remarkably similar in the overall form all over the globe: It shows a line going up, and up and up, slowing down only in times of war or terrible epidemics. Folks used to marry sooner, live harder and faster. In the middle ages a French Princess of 13 was lamenting that she had not found a husband yet. The very rich definitely lived longer, of course, as the poor were really the *working* poor and did for the rich what the rich would not do for themselves.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy
Everything that is in your freezer can be cooked and canned  tomorrow. I canned 2 big batches of apricot jam once, over a camp fire, when I found a cheap supply of apricots. You can use a bike to go to the closest town for what you must have and cannot build/ make yourself. Forget about cars: They are terribly inefficient, with as little as 40% of gasoline energy being converted into motion. Your home can be better insulated and you can dress in layers even inside an unheated home nd survive the coldest winters [drain the pipes though]. And here you have it: Waste not, want not. Tailor your needs to your assets.Shelter, food and transportation can be 'managed'. Not comfortably, not well, but you would survive.
One of the greatest advantages of our human race is that we are infinitely adaptable.
Water, that most precious of substances, can be collected and lifted from wells by hand like all families did it in Europe in the middle ages. Even in State Parks today we still have water being lifted from the ground by some long handle pumps.
Our survival depends on readiness more than anything else.
Determine that you will bloom where you are planted and be courageous: It would be hard, but not deadly for those who are ready.

 
Posts: 48
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I vote for off-grid, which is what we did. As I put it, it allows me to give the power company the hand gesture they deserve for the things they do, plus I think the future holds increasing grid breakdown and unreliability. But "can't be taken away"? I fully expect someone in the nearby town, who put HIS savings into a big fancy truck, guns and ammo, to come up here when the grid goes down and take our panels at gunpoint. A lot of people can't even get water without electricity and have made zero preparations.
I want to address a different question: if you do have panels, should they be on your roof as is often assumed, or in your yard? The two main reasons for putting them on your roof are that you live in a city and they're safer from theft and vandalism on your roof, and that you have hardly any yard and what you do have is shaded, whereas your roof has a decent sun-facing angle.
The reasons to put them on a ground mount (detailed instruction for a pressure-treated-wood mount on my husband's website at spectrumz.com, going solar) are that it's easy to seasonally adjust the angle, it's a hell of a lot easier to brush snow off, sometimes more than once a day, at just the time of year when you need every watt you can get...rather than hanging out a window when it's twelve degrees, or walking on an icy roof...and that you don't have to make holes in your roof which you hope won't leak, and that heat from your house will make the panels less efficient (they like cold temps). For us, there wasn't much choice because we built the house up against tall trees to the west, so it's entirely shaded from noon on in the summer--and thus we don't need AC and don't even use fans much. So the panels are 60 feet away where the sun lasts till five pm.
Even in Wyoming, I question whether you will freeze to death without modern conveniences. Was Wyoming uninhabited until the twentieth century when those arrived? But it's easy for me, I live in the Wyoming of the east, West Virginia, where the hardest part of homesteading is the steep hillsides all covered in trees, mostly hardwoods that make excellent firewood. In 11 years, we've never cut a tree just for firewood--we've used trees that fell, or that we cut for other reasons, and the ashes that died from the emerald ash borer...my husband says it takes about a gallon of gasoline a year to cut firewood. This seems like a sensible use of fossil fuels to me.
 
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my mother has grid tie solar, she never has electric bill, but one thing that amazed me is after a storm took out power lines on the street the grid power went down she had no power even though the sun was shining, I guess that's just the way her systems works. I'm no expert but just in practical terms I would think that type of set up needs to have a way built in to still provide you with power no matter what happens with the grid power.
 
Mary Cook
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That happened here. Two of the three households with solar are off-grid but one is grid tired (and we still have a 700 foot line to their house, so we get a boost of maybe 10 kwh every winter when we get a week of clouds). When the derecho came through in 2012 it knocked out power for up to three weeks around here. My neighbors only lost power for one day, but it was a hot sunny day--felt good to pipe power up to keep their freezer going. They worked out that it would be possible in the event of permanent grid failure, to convert it to daytime usability but I think not easy.
 
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Mart Hale wrote: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.  



I tend to doubt that the EMP will ever be caused by war.  If this occurs, the most likely scenario would be a low altitude nuclear device with limited regional consequences.  I live 40 miles south of St. Louis, and I doubt that our enemies would target that city, although there is an Air Force Base across the river.

I believe that the grid is vulnerable primarily due to neglect on the part of the political class.  Lots of infrastructure projects remain unfunded.  However, a nationwide blackout might occur if there is a coordinated terrorist attack on large capacity, High Voltage transformers for which replacements are not readily available.  Either a Cyber attack, or a series of targeted explosions could take down large portions of the grid for months.

My 17.4 kW system features 2 grid tied inverters, and I have added a 3rd inverter that charges a battery bank.  The batteries can provide power to a critical load panel for up to 4 days even if the sun does not shine.  Sunny days extend the range, of course.

I also have two 7.5 kW generators that burn propane (a Generac unit with auto-transfer switch, and a portable generator with a manual transfer switch) and I have a 400 gallon propane tank at the ready.  I really want to build a batch digester so that I might power the portable generator with bio-gas using grass clippings from the 3 acres that I mow.

The ability to heat the North end of the house with a wood burning stove is good, but I am also building a passive solar heating capability on the South end of the house.

I still need to build a greenhouse to supplement my hugelkulture growing beds in the winter, and I need to re-activate my aqua-ponics system once I can protect the Tilapia from freezing.

Once the Zombie apocalypse begins, it won't take long for the Zombies to find me.  My 8 acres is secluded, completely surrounded by trees, but they will find me eventually.
HV-Transformers-at-Risk.jpg
[Thumbnail for HV-Transformers-at-Risk.jpg]
 
Mary Cook
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Our wood stove easily heats our whole house, but we have a small attached greenhouse, seven by twelve feet. Given how cloudy it is around here in winter, it isn't a significant heat source, but on sunny days it can sometimes make the difference where we don't need a fire. More importantly, it's the place I start seedlings for my own and two other gardens; and the place I hang plants to dry (beans, peanuts, sunflower heads, sorghum heads, onions) and also I put my towel there after a shower to get toasty dry before the next one. We had to have a solid tin roof because there are hickory trees which bomb us in fall, but my husband figured out putting an inner roof at such an angle that the low winter sun comes through glass at the south end to add heat and light--but doesn't come in during the warm months. I've taken to wondering how any homesteader gets by without an attached greenhouse. Actually I need anothger shed for drying plants...is there a thread on How to keep mice out??
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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bruce Fine wrote:my mother has grid tie solar, she never has electric bill, but one thing that amazed me is after a storm took out power lines on the street the grid power went down she had no power even though the sun was shining, I guess that's just the way her systems works. I'm no expert but just in practical terms I would think that type of set up needs to have a way built in to still provide you with power no matter what happens with the grid power.




Good point: When you are grid tied, the electricity can be directed to the most necessary (emergency) users]. That would be  hospitals, police, old folks'homes, schools traffic signals  and other necessary services.
Which means that in theory, you could get a grid tied system installed and have it fail you at a crucial moment. This would be more likely if your local electric company has given you 'help' / 'incentives' in getting it tied  to help you get there. Here, in Wisconsin, there has been a couple of lawsuits because the amount of electricity you would *give* to the grid was not as valued as the amount of electricity you would *take* in a lean period. [Old wisdom, here, but if they helped you, they had their reasons]
I feel myself leaning toward off grid. We could survive on the food we produce, be warm in winter and have water that is not tied to the grid pretty easily. So I feel we are sitting pretty.
In a pinch, I'm looking for appliances that are DC, like they used in mobile homes, with maybe some solar panels to feed these batteries. We don't use *all* devices at the same time, so it should be possible to do intermittent switching?
Cumbersome system, no doubt, but still survivable.
More problematic is the possibility to have to defend your system against folks who are starving and have not prepared and are set on violence. It is true that civilization is only a veneer, and when things go bad, all hell can break loose. I hope to interest folks to be willing to change to get water/ food/ shelter rather  than resort to violence. I may be naive, but I'd rather be naive than heartless. I do believe that folks would rather be honest and work than just steal.
Give them fish and they's eat for a day. Teach them how to fish and they'll eat for a lifetime kinda reasoning.
 
pollinator
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I'm not as worried about this as I used to be. I used to be a firm believer that the end was nigh. But recently, I'm more concerned with communication security, economics of running my farm, and solving problems I have with homebrew technology. I hope to solve the problem of secure communication (ie, not being spied on 24/7 by who knows what entity) with encrypted radio. My old hobby right out of high school was creating languages and ciphers. So once I can actually send the messages, it should be quite easy to protect the data at the level of the Voynich Manuscript. Of course, radio has a lot of untapped potential. There is a pirate shortwave station in New York state that broadcasts television. You have to have a special setup to view it, but it still kind of blew my mind. One of the great things about radio communications is that radios don't have a gps in them. Your CB radio in your truck doesn't post on social media without even telling you. Your CB will not ping your location every 30 seconds. Your radio cannot be hacked. Cell phones are a damn bad idea unless you open them up and remove the mic and camera and gps...
 
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Mart Hale wrote:I believe we should be able to live without, and have a plan.    



This is what makes sense to me. My wife and I lived completely off-grid for a couple of years in the early '70s in the Slocan Valley of BC in Canada, relying on wood heat, in a tipi until the cabin was finished enough to move in. A small generator was enough to power a circ saw, so I didn't have to cut all boards by hand (or chainsaw). Kerosene lamps worked but were stinky and kind of messy, and I'm glad they were well in our past by the time our first child was crawling. It was a real treat to finally get electricity brought in to our subsequent property in rural Ontario, and it enabled much faster construction of the house we built there, and finally having an electric pump was wonderful for domestic chores and garden irrigation. We continued to rely on wood for heat and cooking (with a small propane stove for summer).

Having developed the more primitive skills of our forebears, we have the confidence of knowing we can live without modern conveniences. But that doesn't give us any reason to prefer living that way, and we have a portable generator with a transfer switch hookup for the odd time that the power goes out for more than a few hours. I'm truly amazed when I consider how productive I'm able to be with modern conveniences -- particularly tools (including computing devices). Learning to live like the old-timers was a satisfying adventure in our twenties, but we're able to enjoy our senior years a lot more with grid-supplied electricity. I've found cordless tools and outdoor solar lights to be marvelous applications of rechargeable batteries, but I'm leery of the environmental damage that goes with large-scale applications. For that reason, I can't see off-grid living that relies on big battery storage as environmentally conservative ("friendly"), although it may be the most practical for some specific remote locations.

We lived through the Great Ice Storm of 1998, about two weeks without power, only a borrowed generator for a few hours, and then an airtight fireplace stove to heat part of the downstairs, so that was a refresher in off-grid living. It was because of being in a rural area that it took that long for the old lines through wooded areas to be repaired; apparently maintenance had been somewhat neglected. Even so, I think it's extremely unlikely that there will ever be a truly long-lasting outage (unless there really is a zombie apocalypse!), so our backup supply is good for "these times we live in". I figure that if we can survive the zombies, we can make it through just about anything!
 
Jain Anderson
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bruce Fine wrote:my mother has grid tie solar, she never has electric bill, but one thing that amazed me is after a storm took out power lines on the street the grid power went down she had no power even though the sun was shining, I guess that's just the way her systems works. I'm no expert but just in practical terms I would think that type of set up needs to have a way built in to still provide you with power no matter what happens with the grid power.



Your mother is TIED to the grid. Really just a supplier of electricity for it. What she uses comes from it. If she was INTERtied to the grid, most likely she would have an inverter that is set to supply her needs first with excess going to the grid. That works fine while the sun shines, but even with an inverter favoring her needs, without storage ability (aka batteries) she would be without electricity when the sun isn't shinning.

We have been stand alone solar long enough to remember when that was OFF grid. Intertie used to mean dual ability for electrical source. Now off grid has broadened to mean anything  off main stream (like homesteading).

It makes us shake our heads to see HUGE amounts of PV panels mounted on roofs. Our entire house functions perfectly OK with 10 350 watt panels. And we aren't living in a yurt either. Appliances include - dishwasher, 2 chest freezers, washer, (gas) dryer, 2 computers (laptop), TV/dvd player, CF and LED lighting, occasional use of power tools, vacuum cleaners, electric (rechargeable) toothbrushes, electric shaver, hair dryer, curling iron etc. etc.

What the sellers of grid tied power DON'T tell you is how roof mounting can decrease output of PV as well as life span of those panels. PV crystals do NOT like heat. Even though here is an air space under the roof mounted panels, heat still builds up. So expect to replace those panels in less years than properly elevated mounted panels will last.
 
gardener
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Interesting question and an interesting thread

I moved into my home on Thanksgiving Day 2004.  Between then and May 8, 2009, we had 4 major power outages (if memory serves) that lasted over a day.

On May 8, 2009, we experienced a tremendous storm.  Technically it was a somewhat rare storm called a derecho, but this particular one is classified as a super derecho.  You can read about it HERE:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_2009_Southern_Midwest_derecho

Locally people called it an inland hurricane, and for good reasons.  There was a powerful storm, followed by a calm, windless period (that lasted about an hour) and on satellite pictures it looks like the eye of the storm.  It passed directly over us.

After the calm came the second storm.  We had sustained 100 mph winds.  This puts the winds in category 2 hurricane level.  I was at school and the sound was deafening.  After about 90 minutes the storm just disappeared.  The sights outside were devastating!  I could not get to my home only 5 minutes away due to downed trees.  I picked up my son from kindergarten, normally a 10 minute trip, this day taking 45 minutes from debris, trees and power lines on/hanging over the road.  About 1/2 of the power lines were snapped in half.  I eventually picked up my daughter about an hour later.  We were all hungry but there was no food and grocery stores were all closed.  I had to evacuate 4 hours north.

My point in all of this is that when I returned from my brief period as a climate refugee, I did so with a generator.  I got home, hooked up the generator and got it running and the power came back on less than a minute later!

In the decade since 2009, I have used the generator twice, both times for less than an hour.  I am planning on building a “solar generator”—really just a case with a good sized battery, a charge controller, an inverter, and some power outlets.  I might also buy 1-2 solar panels to go with it.

My wife thinks I am being silly.  Since 2009, we have had no major power outage.  I am thinking that most of the trees that could blow down and wreck power lines did.  I also know that some advanced switching has enabled a genuine power outage to be a just a brief, 1-3 second long loss of power (essentially the power gets routed a different way, bypassing the knocked-out power line.

Long story short, I am pretty certain that electrical power is more, not less secure than in the past.  It is always good to be prepared, and yes, I do get a little thrill of knowing that I can hook my generator to the house and “beat” the emergency.  I even wired my house with a dedicated panel to safely switch from grid power to generator power.  We have only used it once, and for only 45 minutes.

Again, I am all for preparation and safety.  I am building my solar generator out of a combination of curiosity/fascination and preparedness/safety.  But I don’t foresee a collapse of the electrical grid any time soon.  Storm emergencies can of course happen, but for me, these are the exception and not the rule.

Again, just to give you an idea of how bad the storm was, I really recommend a quick read HERE:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_2009_Southern_Midwest_derecho


Eric
 
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I am not convinced it is important to be off the grid.  I have a 2000 watt solar array.  So, it is goal of mine.  I also have a large pond that has a spillway that flows 9 months of the year that I am thinking about putting a wheel on.  But, I am not prepared to generalize.
 
Eric Hanson
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John,

I think you have a very sensible approach to off grid.  I am starting a very small off grid project.  I am building a small “battery generator.”  Really that is a poor term for what amounts to a little 12v SLA battery that has 12v and USB power output.  It will be based on a 12v 15 amp hour battery.

This unit is basically a test run for a much larger unit that will be based on a 100-125 amp hour battery that in addition to 12v and USB will also have 120v and a buck converter, a device that will allow me to dial up a wide range of DC voltage.  I would like to be able to use it to power a laptop which requires about 20v DC.

Either of those units would be useful for power outages or other off grid situations.  I would also like to eventually get a couple of decent solar panels to charge in the case of an extended power outage, something like what happened during the May 8th storm of 2009.

At any rate, I like your setup.  You have enough power at hand to operate a few powered pieces of equipment but you have not gone overboard.

Eric
 
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The one thing certain in the solar energy questions is there are ever more questions than answers.

I'm not ready to just sign up for some long term debt for a fancy system but will have to pioneer my way through low cost systems for a reality-based education.  Following YT videos, forum answers etc. just leads into ever widening circles of conflicting information.  Or I could just trust "Insert Someone's System I Paid For Here" and all will be fine, yeah right.

My Opinion:  

1) Off Grid is the way to go...

2) Major rethinking of use and reduction of need...

3) Redundancy while still have an income...

Electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket, not a matter of if but when...
EMP ~ war/terrorism or natural event is a possibility... (stockpile simple system components in sheltered case)  easier to do by upgrading simple systems over time and keep the base units.  Pick up components whenever they become available...
Live simple, be humble, be ready (as able) to help others when those who live the grasshopper lifestyle come crying on your doorstep...
Being self-sufficient is the first step in being able to help others...



 
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Greetings all.  Everyone needs a plan B.  So if North America sinks due to an EMP, social unrest, act of God we all need a life boat to jump into.  That could be a small country close by.  The country is the life boat, yet you still need provisions.  Owning a little land you can farm and build your own off grid home is the safest way to survive.  The only 2 safe and secure life boats in C. A. are Belize and Costa Rica.  
 
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So interesting.  When I began reading this thread, I noticed that in the first post all sorts of disasters were mentioned except a pandemic.  Now here we are.  While our pandemic doesn't, so far, seem to pose a threat to the grid, the possibility of dramatic economic collapse (or near-collapse) is clearly in sight, we had food shortages (and don't forget the toilet paper!) as well as shortages of bleach, alcohol, hand sanitizer, and the like.  It's not too great a leap to some additional strains on the system that create a greater need for self-sufficiency.  Just ask gardeners (i.e., every permie) who tried to find certain seeds at their usual time, only to find that there had been a run on seeds (and seedlings) this year.  

I was impressed by Purity Lopez's plans to limit her solar power to specific items (a refrigerator and freezer, for example).  That could be a good approach for us.  In general, we can keep things cold in the winter (frozen, at least); summer is better for solar power and if that could keep the fridge and freezer running, we would only have to figure out the water situation.  We have an unreliable (vernal, more or less) spring on our property, and a public spring less than a half-mile away.

I crave solar, and especially off-grid, but our property doesn't lend itself to solar easily due to combinations of tree shade, roof orientation, and the fact that south is uphill from our property.  Also, Vermont - not the sunniest state.  But we are building a root cellar, have wood heat (and lots of trees), and are contemplating some sort of independence from our electric water pump so we could access our water.
 
I miss the old days when I would think up a sinister scheme for world domination and you would show a little emotional support. So just look at this tiny ad:
Solar Station Construction Plans - now FREE for a while
https://permies.com/forums/freebie/list/44#freebies
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