Thursday, May 26, 2011

Off-grid living: a dream or a reality?

When I first met my hubby, he told me he dreamed of living off-grid.  I was a little skeptical, could we really live 'normally' off-grid?  I wasn't sure if I could live without TV or the internet.  Granted, I read a ton of books, but I enjoy the boob-tube as much as anyone else and I really didn't want to drive 50 miles to check my email. We did research, contacted companies and read a bunch of Home Power magazines.  I discovered I could have it all!!

Could we really do it?  It seemed like a lot of work, but the decision was pretty much made for us.  We lived 1.5 miles from the nearest power line and if we wanted power, we would have to pay for them to run it.  Since we live in the Pacific Northwest, we get a lot of snow in the winter and high winds so we wanted to have the lines buried where they'd be less vulnerable to the weather.  The cost at the time was $9 per foot.  Let's do the math..... $9 x 6600ft = $59,400.  {GULP}.  We could do a complete off-grid system for less than $40k.  We found a local electrician who was familiar with alternative energy and he did most of the work.  We were his first customers who weren't tied to the grid, so we both had a learning curve.   We had looked at photovoltaic arrays, wind generators and a water turbine.  First we ruled out the water turbine, although we have a seasonal stream in one of the draws, it would be too far away from the house and the cost of running the line was prohibitive.  Wind was also originally ruled out as too expensive.

We went with a 9 panel PV array and a bank of 9 batteries.  These aren't your grannie's batteries, these suckers are HUGE (and expensive).  The array is on a sun tracking system, which turns the panels to constantly face the sun and it puts itself to bed at night by turning back to it's starting point.  (Very slick!!)

The 'all-seeing eye'.

We have a shed devoted to the power system, housing the batteries and all the electrical components for the system.

My hubby has a HUGE binder full of notes and instructions.  Thank goodness he's handy and electrically savvy because he does all the upkeep and trouble-shooting.

1 comment: