Where to start???

Discussion in 'Energy & Electricity' started by *Andi, Jan 10, 2010.

  1. *Andi

    *Andi Supporting Member

    Alright where would one start ... if they want OFF the grid???

    I have looked at most of the things out ther now ... You name it , I have looked into it. :confused:

    I would 'love' to get get off the power grid .. Maybe I'm not looking at the right things ... (help me out)

    Wind - not in my area:( ,solar... well right now out of my price range, the river looked good till they made it a statepark...:gaah:

    So... I'm someone wanting to start out small and work their way out, what would you advise???
  2. bunkerbob

    bunkerbob Supporting Member

    Andi, look at my posts and replies I'm sure we have talked about this subject numerous times in the forum. I started small and worked my way up to full off-grid.

  3. *Andi

    *Andi Supporting Member

    Tried that... but 460 post and dial up don't work.

    I'll try at the library or else where.
  4. NaeKid

    NaeKid YourAdministrator, eh?

    *Andi - start small, that's what I did. You can search the 'net for deals on all kinds of solar-type systems, or, you can look into purchasing an RV that is already solar'd up. I have a very good friend in the RV-business and with his connections I can purchase high-wattage solar-panels for "very cheap" and the charge-controllers to go with the panels.

    Costs for wiring is where the big-money really is. You need to run the power from the panels to the batteries through the charge-controller - and - that is where the wires come in. The longer the run between the solar-panels and the charge controller and then the batteries and then the appliances (ie: lights) would mean using high-grade welding-cable (1.0 gauge). A short run you would use lighter welding cable (4.0 gauge). Welding cable is highly recommended to carry the power to the charge controller due to the loss-less power transmission.

    From the batteries, you can run "automotive grade" wiring in the 10-gauge range off of a fuse-box (similar to what is used in an RV) direct to 12-volt lighting through-out the home.

    You can also run higher-grade wiring (in the 4.0 gauge range) to high-wattage inverters (like a 3000watt unit) to convert the 12-vdc (or 24-vdc) power to 110-vac to run normal appliances like your microwave (if you have one that is).

    I was given a DVD for Christmas that has many of the hints, tricks and warnings on setting up solar-based systems. I'll have to see if I can ask the person who gave it to me on where they got it from and get back to you on it later.
  5. *Andi

    *Andi Supporting Member


    I've been looking around today and found a few things to look into.
  6. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member



    Off the grid should start with a down hill slope,
    Preferably facing south.

    Gravity will do a lot of work for you if you let it, and 'Down Hill' is ALWAYS a good thing!

    South facing slope will let you take advantage of 'Passive Solar' for heating and cooling.


    Hillside is ALWAYS a good place to have an earth sheltered home...
    We aren't talking about the old 'Basement' houses of the past,

    We are talking about something with solid interior walls,
    (Called 'Thermal Mass') which regulate the heat/cool in the living space,

    Wide open floor plans so you don't get claustrophobic,

    Lots of south facing windows to absorb sunlight in the early morning all day long with low winter sun,
    But a porch roof that shades the interior while still letting a lot of light in and keeping the hot summer sun from directly shinning in.

    With slope on the hill,
    Building into a hill side lets you have drainage both outside the foundation (French Drains) and drainage inside the house (Sanitation)...
    That stops the Wet House' thing many of the older basement houses had going on....
    Without using a sump pump to keep the water table lower than your floor!



    We are talking about 'Super' insulation in the home.
    Nothing like keeping your hard earned money for heat/cool IN THE HOUSE where it belongs...

    We are talking about taking advantage of solar thermal for heating the house, hot water for the house, ect.

    You will save more money over the long run by proper insulation-- below, sides, roof, than you can shell out money for in panels for MORE heat/cool...
    Insulation is your friend!

    Earth sheltered homes are super efficient,
    Warm in winter, cool in summer simply by using earth as insulation.
    Adding extra insulation is money in the bank!
    It will just lessen your need for expenditure for heating/cooling, and you can take that to the bank!.


    A man can't work well on poor feed!

    The first thing I put in was a large garden, compost pile so I didn't have to buy fertilizers as much,
    And a 'Root Cellar'.

    Nothing as good for you as working in the garden, canning instead of watching TV, and the food is MUCH BETTER FOR YOU than the pre-processed junk you get at the store.

    Root cellars/storm cellars were pretty standard in the days before processed, big business food came along,
    And they are CHEAP to build,
    Anything from an old metal shipping container to old tires or concrete blocks for building material...
    Since it's going to buried, it doesn't matter what it looks like!
    Earth sheltered so the temperature stays pretty much constant and you are off to the races!

    We have about two years worth of food stored in REUSABLE canning jars, dehydrated in reusable vacuum bags, ect.


    The second thing I did was drill a deep well.
    Although I have a small lake, I wanted clean 'Deep Rock' water that couldn't be contaminated by anything airborne or run off.

    Shallow buried storage tanks means the deep well pump doesn't have to run very much, and the shallow pump doesn't take much current at all...

    And that way you can time the 240 volt deep well pump for daytime operation so solar power runs the pump and you sill have plenty of battery to power the home in the evenings.

    Energy Management.

    You have to run tools, have lights, power the well pump, ect.

    We are talking about solar electric, wind and maybe water (micro Hydro) for your electric service needs.

    Take assessment of what you have on the property.
    If you have UNSHADED property where you can use the sun DO IT!

    If you have a running stream that doesn't freeze over, USE IT!

    If the wind will NOT stop blowing, USE IT!

    Planning should continue to low consumption appliances.
    About 40% of the average home consumption is from lighting.
    That means low consumption lights in 'Dark' areas, like compact florescence light bulbs or LED light bulbs.

    That means a high efficiency rating on appliances like Fridge, Freezer, Microwave, washer & dryer.
    Gas cooking stoves and gas cloths dryers are the most practical when living off grid...
    Same with house furnace, but a back up heat source, like wood burning stove is always a good thing to have in case the propane isn't available when you need it...
    Like in a blizzard or natural disaster!

    The cloths might have to dry on lines, and you may have to heat with wood, but you will have CLEAN CLOTHS, ELECTRICITY & HEAT no matter what happens!

    Drying cloths on lines indoors in the winter is actually beneficial to you...
    Puts much needed moisture in the air, and saves on the gas bill to dry them!
    Most of us 'Wood Burners' have a pan of water on top to keep humidity in the air in the winter anyway!


    Remember, most states the banks WILL NOT give you a lone for solar power, wind generators, drilling wells, ect.,
    However, they WILL lend you money on the ground and to build a house.

    Your cash money is better invested in upgrading the land value (IE: Well, Solar, Wind, Root Cellar, ect.)
    The stuff they WON'T lend you money on,
    But WILL increase your properly value when you apply for the home building loan if it's already there...
    (Then they wind up financing the entire thing anyway!)

    When you build the home,
    Think low sun in the winter, high sun in the summer and plain your porch roofs accordingly.

    Radiant floor heat is a WONDERFULLY EFFICIENT THING TO HAVE, and it saves a TON on duct work maintinance throughout the lifetime of the home.
    Some boilers are even wood pellet or corn fired, so you can GROW your own fuel for the boiler...

    Attaching the solar thermal panels to thermal mass via tubes or radiant floor heat will reduce bills also, and on sunny days, you will have virtually nothing for heating bills.

    Earth sheltered homes are naturally resistant to any kind of disaster when built strong enough.
    Solid poured concrete for inside walls means the building will be structurally impervious to tornadoes, hurricanes, termites, ect.
    Building on a hill side makes you impervious to floods,
    Rear rooms will NEVER drop below freezing since they are earth sheltered no matter what goes on.

    Look into things like 'Light Pipes',
    They are a sort of sky light that brightens up the back rooms without electricity in the daytime,
    My significant other REALLY LIKES her light pipes in the kitchen, bathroom, hobby room, and they weren't too expensive at all.


    IF you go fully 'Off Grid',
    Then consider some economy in your buildings around the place.

    I set up my first solar array on a old house trailer frame.
    that allows me to turn the entire array to track the sun for more energy (about 40% increase!) as the sun moves across the sky...
    That keeps me from having to buy more solar panels to keep up with demand!
    I'm running on 12, but have space for 48!
    I'll increase later I'm sure, but for right now, being able to track the sun CHEAPLY kept me from having to buy more panels at $500 a piece!

    The 'Power House' puts a roof over the well head,
    Contains the batteries and their support stuff,
    Contains the inverters, charge controllers, ect.
    And keeps the noise out of the house.
    It's nothing more than an old yard barn, but it works REALLY WELL.
    I'll upgrade to something more solid when money/time allows...

    Keeping the 'Power House' close to the DC production source (panels, wind generator) keeps my expensive wiring to a minimum,
    And the AC wiring to the house is much less expensive than trying to push DC to the house.

    My 'Emergency' batteries are doing work instead of just sitting there wasting energy through heating up & chemical losses.

    I use a golf cart and old converted S-10 pickup around the place to haul, move about, ect.
    The golf cart fits in the 'Power House' shed, and the S-10 parks right beside it, so I can plug both into the system easily.

    And the batteries in both are 'Emergency' power for the inverters in the event of several days without sun or wind,
    (Which I haven't had to use in 5 years...)


    Most 'Rural' places have little or no building codes, so you can do much of the work by yourself.
    You WILL make mistakes, but if you hire a contractor to do the work, then you have paid for them TWICE!

    AC wiring is easy, and keeps you from having to buy all DC or special order appliances,
    And AC pushes through wires with a lot less losses, so you get to use more of your production instead of having the energy wasted.
    Buy some books on wiring,
    Ask some questions, and pretty soon you will be able to do most of the wiring yourself!

    Your panels, inverters, charge controllers, ect will all be DC wiring, which can be a little harder to pick up,
    So stick with recommended instructions or hire a professional to do that part of it,
    But any knot-head can wire a light switch or outlet in AC, and that's the time consuming (expensive) part...
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2010
  7. fobhomestead

    fobhomestead Well-Known Member


    I would like to be completely off the grid as well. The home we just bought has a septic, so we are good to go there. We also have a wood burning stove. We are on well water too. SO, basically the only thing we are on the grid with is electricity (and maybe that is what being on the grid is, but I am new to all of this! I have lived in cities my whole life with plumbing, water and electric!) I dont know what your situation is... what animals do you have? Do you have a wood stove? Well water? Here is my plan, and would love to know if this is even feasible!
    As of right this moment, I am paying cable, rent, water, electric, sewer, trash and recycling. SO, needless to say, moving to our new home is a huge step in "going off the grid".
    So, we have a wood stove downstairs (I really appreciate the idea of a clothesline inside during the winter! Thank you!) and a place upstairs for a wood cooking stove.
    I also have a horse. Now, can somebody please tell me if they have ever done this? I heard that horse manure packed into a log maker and dried out for the summer does not stink and it burns like a hard wood. The ashes are supposed to be excellent for the garden. This is where I heard this: Your manure pile by Rev. J.D. Hooker Issue #87
    I have a whole forest of deadwood, but it would be nice to use the ashes if it really does work.
    I am planning on how to get off the grid, and the only way we will be able to do this is time and resource management. Yes, I can spend 8 hours a day cutting up trees in the forest, or I can spend 30 minutes a day collecting horse poo (heehee) and making brick logs. The more time I have free, the more time I have to refine my marketable skills. In my case, I like to write, so I created a website to post articles for free reading (I like to share too). By doing that, I may be able to sell a few pictures or an article to some magazine or something. A few pictures sold means I can get a solar panel (and apparently totally convince JeepHammer to come help me build all that other sparky stuff that goes along with it!!) If I can sell my goats, then that money can be used to support them.... etc. But the key is to NOT COUNT on that. If I dont sell anything, I am still able to maintain and save.
    I guess for me, the big part is to 1) be able to afford what you do have with whatever base money you have coming in, then 2) see what you can do to free up your time and efforts to make what you have actually work for you. If you can function without something that you currently have (like TV- we wont have cable TV when we move, but we will have movie nights with a VCR/DVD) then get rid of it. If you have goats or farm animals that are overpopulating your land, sell them. If your hobby is to make down pillow's with the chicken down feathers from last nights dinner, then put it on craigslist? Why throw it away if there is someone out there that might want it? I dunno..
    My goal is to just use what I need, and sell the rest and hopefully bring in enough to pay for the greenhouses, barns, fences, feed, solar panels, etc. that I want. I really want a wood cooking stove to replacfe the electric stove we have (the home has a place for it, they just took it out). After the fence, that will be my next goal.
    Take inventory of what you have right now that you can convert.. I want a goat so I dont have to buy the milk (my house is far enough from the nearest town that the gas alone is not worth it) and chickens for the same reason (the perishable stuff that cant be bought in bulk). I dont realistically think I can totally go self-sufficient right away, but at least its a (small) start.
  8. Emerald

    Emerald Well-Known Member

    Many cultures burned dry animal dung-not unheard of before, and since buffalo poo, dried burns rather well, I would think that horse poo would too. But if you're thinking off the grid, and have wood, then I would use the horse manure and compost it and it would go back into the garden to enrich the soil. But horses only seem to digest what? 10%?(or it just seems that way) the manure really needs to be "hot" composted to kill any obnoxious weeds that would come up in the garden.

    On the matter of selling the goats-you are so right not to count on that, I have chickens and sell the extra eggs, some weeks I can't keep an egg in the house, other weeks I have 16 dozen in the fridge:scratch so I can't count on selling them every week. But lucky me, eggs, when stored properly can last for over a month in the fridge and still be fresher than those they sell in the store.(at least they are to me. lol)
  9. trkarl

    trkarl Member

    If your desire is to get completely off the power grid then your goal first off should be to reduce your electrical consumption as much as possible now so you will know exactly how much you need to produce yourself.

    If you just replace your electrical stove for a gas one and then have to buy gas all the time I wouldn't consider that off the grid.

    Solar will probably be the best bet so you need to find out how big a system you need and then start building it as you can afford it. Buy quality components that off gridders use and depend on and make sure you can expand the system as time goes on.

    But the first most cost effective thing to do is see how little power you can actually live on and take it from there.

  10. fobhomestead

    fobhomestead Well-Known Member

    I am really bad at that, so it is nice to have a reminder every now and again. I like all my lights on. :eek: I plan on getting a wood cookstove (we have a wood stove downstairs but it is not a bakers stove) We have an electric stove upstairs and that really confuses me because the previous owners took out the wood cooking stove! At least we have a place to put one, and they are not that expensive on craigslist (I would LOVE a new one though!). Our neighbors (from what I heard) has bees... maybe I will get into that as well. Yummy hunny and bees wax. lol... my problem is that I will try to do everything at once. I work better under pressure! I figured I would get the rest of the stuff done, then tackle the power (the last thing to go). Does anyone know any good and (for dummies) books on solar panels and going off the grid? Maybe my Hubfriend will be willing to take on this challenge. I will have to get him to buy into it :sssh: He hasn't quite gotten the severity of where our country is headed. He avoids the news and learning new things like the plague. :scratch
  11. fobhomestead

    fobhomestead Well-Known Member

    At least if we cant get rid of them, we can EAT them!! I am still wondering how I am going to do with killing a pet goat. War is one thing.... Animals are another thing completely (I like animals :D ). I already know it will be up to me to do it. What types of chickens do you have?
  12. Sourdough

    Sourdough ExCommunicated

    I have to ask........If the electric power was free.......Or if I paid your total utility bills for ever would you still prefer to be "Off Grid".........? Is it the Electric that you loath.......just because it is electric? Or is that you feel you are on a endless tread-mill, chained to constant employment, never able to break free of the monthly cost of living as you currently live.......?
    Note: most people who go off grid, would embrace "FREE" Electricity. I am on the grid, my bill is prepaid for (5) Five Years, cost per month is $8.74 that is it $8.74 I like being on the grid.
  13. fobhomestead

    fobhomestead Well-Known Member


    That is all good to be on the grid and not have to pay utilities. The home I am moving to has electricity on the grid. But that is not what I am worried about. If something were to happen (and believe me, stuff goes wrong and a gas generator can only last so long), then my family and I would be FUBAR'd. I would much rather be off the grid and supply my own source of electricity. I dont mind paying the bill while we still get power, but I dont want to be without power if there is (when there is) an energy crisis resulting in a meltdown. I am pretty practical and dont have an issue using what is available to me at this point in time, but I want to make sure I am living as close to 100% self-reliant as possible because when shtf, that is NOT the time to "start the process". It will be very difficult for most people to do that and keep themselves alive. (IMHO... In My Humble Opinion).
  14. Emerald

    Emerald Well-Known Member

    All different types, mostly old fashioned ones that are dual duty birds, meat and eggs. Aracona, Americana, Rhode island reds, Brown leghorns, Buff orpingtons, and a few others that I bought in a rainbow layers mix. But I will bite the bullet thsi fall and cull quite a few of the older birds and the extra roosters that I have, as I have been hatching a few out for the past three years and never culled!! I just have a few too many that are not laying as much and I am not able to foot the bill on feed any longer. Plus I can not free range them as I have neighbors who have dogs that run allllllll over loose. I have plans for a chicken tractor, but need just a few more things to build it, and well cash is hard to come by just lately. But then it is that way almost every where.. lol;)

    OH, they lay eggs in every shade of brown and blue and green and white! it is quite the pretty mix in the carton, and my few customers love the different colors.:D
  15. Tirediron

    Tirediron RockyMountainCanadian

    There is a book about solar power etc By Rex Ewing , it explains the steps he went thru going solar,
    You have already gotten some very good advice with these posts
    But I will sum up how I suggest you make your transition. (many of thes things have already been covered by other members on this thread)
    First learn how to be more efficient ,turn lights off when you don't need them etc
    A chest freezer can be converted to a fridge and use a fraction of the power (due to higher insulation and the fact that the cold or at least most of it stays in when the door is opened)
    If your wood heater has a cook top learn how to use it, trivits are very handy to control temperature
    Do Power failure drills (turn off the main power to everything except your fridge / freezer and try to keep it off for at least 2 days , you will be surprized at the lessons there
    When you do things take small steps, Off the grid should start with a back up system and grow from there.
    Don't try to bite off too big of a project at once
    Write down your plans in detail and then do research , let thing "cool down " and then with an open mind look at your plan .things are a lot easier to change on paper or on the computer than after the money/time is spent.
    People lived for thousands of years with out the grid , you can too

    Big thing and maybe first thing figure out how to get water from your well with out electricity :scratch
  16. fobhomestead

    fobhomestead Well-Known Member

    You know how they sell those solar panel kits for electric horse fences? Would that work for the well pump?
  17. NaeKid

    NaeKid YourAdministrator, eh?

    BunkerBob described his well-water system off of his solar-power. He has his pump put onto a timer that will only pump at high-noon so that the solar-panels will provide all the power to his 220vac pump through an inverter. That pump fills a cistern and the automatically shuts off. House pressure is controlled through a second pump that takes the water from the cistern.

    From my research, the "common" well-pump is 220vac, but, there are companies that can supply you with a self-contained solar-powered well-pump. One such company is located on the 'net at: Solar pump and solar pumps for solar water pumping from wells ponds and creeks
  18. Tirediron

    Tirediron RockyMountainCanadian

    I was also meaning some type of manual pump, there is a good plan on drum runners sight for a simple foot valve pump . If you are already on the grid it is hard to convince your self to buy the solar or what ever equipment , but a small back up system is a verry good idea
  19. *Andi

    *Andi Supporting Member

    Thanks one and all of the info :D ... but for some reason :scratch I can't get the hubby or my son on solar power ????

    So for now I'm going with what I call NON ELECTIC... :2thumb: You know ... the old hand crank can opener ... the wind up clock ... wind-up radio and such ...

    Also .... after a trip my hubby came home with an "old" but not poplar idea. So I'm checking on that now. (It's amish and only snail mail will work) ... but looking good (and to be honest I think I will like it better.) More on that when I get the info. :D