advise: going off the grid

we are deciding to go off the grid(solar and wind, cistern, propane etc), even simple people can create change. how cool would it be to be energy independent? i’m talking about finding a sustainable lifestyle. the adventure of the 21st century

good luck
Thanks for doing the right thing. I guess I am not willing to make the jump, but still try to make small steps when I can.

Hope it doesn’t mean you won’t have access…

Isn’t that cheating a bit? That is not being energy independent if you need propane for heat or kerosene for your lantern is it?

What about Internet access? Isn’t that on the grid or doesn’t that count?

I am not trolling (are you?), but have seen/heard several meanings for it.

Confused and locked into the grid is what I am.

However, I can’t help but applaud anyone able to make the break away from it all when I can’t seem to do it. (I need gas for my jetski, Hummer, and Cessna)


i hear your pain
yes we are keeping internet, solar and wind and yes i’m compromising on propane , this is a process. we aren’t just talking about it we are on our way. adventure!

I think I would
try to find an alternative to propane. At least around here, its the most expensive fuel going. I can run my whole house on electric for almost four months for what one 250 gal fill up of propane costs.

wood is plentiful. propane is easy but we’ll see. we are practising in the back yard with our #2 washtub fireplace and grill, mmm great for oysters! also corn on the cob. i also am wanting to give up chicken, beef, pork etc that is polluting. can it be done???

Depending on how
windy it is in your area, if you can generate enough wind energy at times to where you could actually be “feeding the grid”. Check with your local electric company and see how they handle it, but you are basicaly “spinning the meter backwards” at that point and generating a credit. I’m not up on the price of windmill generators, but installing more than you need to provide an almost constant surplus must have a payback at some point. You may be able to stay on the electric grid at low to no cost. That is definitely a greener alternative than burining wood to cook.

Electricity, regardless of how it is generated is by far cleaner than if everyone decided to cook over wood as an alternative and that much wood would be more expensive than electricity too.

Wind Power

– Last Updated: Feb-12-07 8:47 PM EST –

I can't tell you why, because I don't know, but all the privately owned windmill generators that sprang up around here in the late 70s and early 80s are either idle or have been torn down. I've heard that they have an enormous initial cost, they can't be cheap to fix, and most of the time there's just not enough wind to do much with them. For all I know, maybe that's the whole explanation for their demise.

I didn't intend to say anything about solar energy here, but I just thought of something. I knew a guy who had a solar-heating system that actually worked really well. For starters, he had a very large insulated room in the basement that was packed full of rocks. His solar-heating capacity was far in excess of what he needed to heat the house, and the excess heat would be pumped into that room full of rocks. At night, and during cloudy weather, something we have a lot of in the winter, air would be circulated through those rocks to transfer the stored heat into the rest of the house. I think he spent upwards of 100,000 smackers on his solar heating system, and it still wasn't enough for total self-sufficiency, but it was a mighty impressive system! Also, though his house was pretty enormous, most of the whole south side was a two-story indoor porch enclosed by glass. On a sunny winter day, it would be more than 80 degrees on the upper floor of that porch, and by opening doors in the right combinations, that would go a long way toward keeping the whole house warm.

This kind of stuff can be found in all sorts of info articles, but it also illustrates how great the expense can be to really "do it right".

off grid
My advice would be to stay exactly where you are. See how adept you are at making your electric meter spin VERY slowly. When you think you have gotten your energy usage down as low as you possibly can, measure your watt hours consumed for one month.

Then sit down with one of the many available alternative energy catalogs and see how much you would have to spend on solar panels, wind turbines, deep cycle batteries, controllers and all the rest—to produce that much power in a month. Assume a lot of cloudy weather and windless days. Be realistic.

If you are at all honest with your math, you will soon come to the conclusion that you are using much more energy than you would be able to supply with alternative means.

You have NOTHING to lose by spending many months on the grid trying to whittle down your energy usage to the bone. Each new energy efficient appliance you get will come in handy when you decide you ACTUALLY can go off grid and survive.

Depressing news: even the appliances and lights that the solar energy suppliers offer use way more power than you would suspect. You have to experiment a lot. Experiments cost a lot of money.


I’ve been living off the grid since 1972. I have 8 large solar panels and all the trappings. I’ve been paring down my energy useage to an incredibly small amount. I STILL have to run a back up generator far more often than I like… and I’ve NEVER had a single month where I’m spending less money on gasoline than I would on a utility bill if I were on the grid.

If you want to prove a point, go off grid. If you want to save money, stay connected and reduce your consumption. Going off grid will cost you much more than you think.

well … so much for ‘change’ danny
more power for the rest of us and we’re probably polluting less too!

South Carolina
It shouldn’t be too hard down there, no pipes to freeze.

energy requirements

– Last Updated: Feb-12-07 9:40 PM EST –

Not bad advice but I'd question some of it as there are a lot of variables. After you minimize your consumption as much as you can, what really are your requirements and tolerances? How many "appliances" and conveniences can you do without? How warm is it where you live? What are the resources you can draw on?

There are too many variables for absolutes. We lived for a full season out of a cabin (outside camping most of the summer) without any electricity and surprised ourselves at how little we missed.

It would be nice if you could keep a log and keep the forum posted it you really take this on.

I’d love to be able to do that
one day maybe. Would love to live on a ranch in central/south-central Texas, clear, large pond/small lake stocked with fish and crawfish, raise goats, grow my own vegetables, have my own well, and wind/solar.

Not me
I want a big house and heated pool. I may burn rotomolded kayaks as an energy source.

Here’s a very goo place to start:

Total electricity (no other energy source) bill in a real home (2 adults, 1 Newf, no kids) in a very cold January a couple of years ago was $28. Almost went this route myself. May not be off the grid, but can get very close.

when I’m living off the grid again I know where I can stop to wash off.

easy, tonto
i live in a part of the world where people can be “off the grid” just by their choice of a homesite.

here’s what the typical “off-the-grid” friends do when they visit:

  • they flip the light switches on and off, cooing with appreciation;
  • they also LOVE to take long, hot showers; and,
  • they tell us their latest diesel generator / windmill / hydropower maintenance problems.

    Their common theme: they would all love a monthly power bill …

Check into
Lehmans!! they have those hard to find items like refridgerators that run on kerosene(or propane, natural gas). It’s amazing how little kerosene it takes to run one.

If you live near a running stream, a small water wheel can provide a nice supply of 12V power. Just don’t tell anyone you are doing it. In some places it isn’t legal(which is really stupid).

Waterwheel, fridge by combustion

– Last Updated: Feb-13-07 12:15 AM EST –

Again, this brings up the problem of whether any money can be saved. With a simple waterwheel, I would expect that it would be very difficult to control the voltage to match changes in load. And of course you'd need an inverter to run anything that takes AC, and stepping up an average sort of 12-volt supply to 110-volt AC would leave you with precious little in the way of amperage so you'd just end up using it to run the radio and things like that. It wouldn't suprise me if someone has invented a sophisticated device to control such a thing though, maybe by providing automated control of the voltage to the field windings, but I'm sure you can count on it being very expensive. Of course, if you're an electrical engineer and are lucky enough to be more than just "book-smart" (which is a rarity among engineers nowadays), you could build your own.

I don't think that refrigerators which use propane are as cheap to operate as the electric ones we all have right now in the kitchen. If that's true, and since kerosene is more expensive than propane on an energy-output basis, I'd expect that a kerosene-powered refrigerator would be a good way to increase your expenses, not decrease them. In my book, buying kerosene or propane doesn't make you any more self-sufficient than buying electricity, but that's another issue.

off the grid
i run an entire lodge, restaurant, gift shop, and gas station off the grid.

  1. you need a good generator that can handle your load with plenty to spare. i have two 16 kW generators. i rotate them, and always have a backup
  2. next step is to install a battery bank. if you can afford auto startup/shutoff, it is nice. generator runs, and excess power charges the batteries. once batteries are full, generator shuts off and runs off the batteries until low, then the generator starts. this saves all the “wasted” power from the generator time.
  3. now you get to install your solar, wind, and hydro components. 30% tax break on solar, so if you install/invest in your generator and battery bank, install at least a small solar panel and the whole project will get you your 30% break. the more “clean” sources you include right away will add more to the overall cost, although you can recoup some of that by spending less on your battery system, or a smaller generator.

    remember, this will be a lot of work. you will have days where the power goes out, and you don’t get to wait with a candle for it to come back on.