Off Grid Electricity: Not as Cheap as You May Think...

  1. GPS1504
    Paying that electricity bill every month sure is the pits. As summer looms and the temperatures rise, it is going to get even higher if you are one to enjoy the benefits of air conditioning as many of us are. With temperatures already hovering in or near to the 80's in the southern states, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the country joins us in warmth and we watch together as temperatures soar.

    It is, of course, possible to live without air conditioning. Growing up as a kid in Pennsylvania, we never lived in a house with air conditioning. Although I grew up and moved away, when I went back to visit, my father was still living in a house without air conditioning. I visited in July and though all we had was a fan, the temperatures were bearable. I was, however, very glad to go visit my brother who lived in a modern house with air conditioning! In the south where I live now, the thought of going through a summer without the benefit of at least the occasional blast of air conditioning is not something any of us look forward to doing. Yet hurricanes happen and we lose power for weeks at a time, so lack of air conditioning happens, as does a lack of many other things on which we come to rely.

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    Many people think the answer to loss of power is to not depend on it in the first place. Living off grid sounds like the perfect life, not relying on anyone for anything, least of all the power company. A popular misconception is that it is simple to slap some solar panels on your roof and you'll be good to go. Depending on who you listen to, they might even tell you that you'll be able to generate more energy than you can use, so much that you will be able to sell power back to the energy company. As nice as that sounds, it is far from being the whole truth.

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    People who are handy and have inventive minds have proven able to build their own solar or wind powered devices. While it is excellent that those people are able to do that, I am not one of those people and there are lots of folks like me. What I need would have to be purchased and the supplies needed to generate your own electricity do not come cheap. Think about the list of things you might need, such as solar panels, a wind turbine, a battery bank for emergencies, and a backup generator. Many of these items can cost well into the thousand dollar range individually, so buying more than one can be hazardous to the health of your bank account.

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    Sure, these items will generate power to offset some of their expense. However, there are still asterisks by some of them. For example, there will be no solar power generated if the sun doesn't shine. There will also be no wind power harness when the wind isn't blowing. That will leave you at the mercy of an expensive battery bank or gas powered generator until the weather is again on your side. You may have an energy storage or surplus, but in time that will be exhausted, leaving you in the same situation, depending on battery and generator power.

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    An off grid lifestyle has lots of benefits and for many of us makes perfect sense to embrace. The key to having a successful one, however, lies in understanding the realities of the expenses you may incur as well as the potential failure points. The power itself may be free, but the machines and means necessary to harness it are not, and you will need to prepare for an inevitable time when Mother Nature decides to let you down, leaving you in the dark until she decides it is time for the sun to shine again.

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