It is an enticing endeavor to live off the grid and be totally independent as far as water and electricity goes. Technically, you can haul water from a well and do without electricity…heating and cooking from a fire and using an outhouse.
Living off the grid is not typically meant to be similar to living in the Dark Ages. It is more about bringing the creature comforts of connected life to the home by an alternative means.
There are many reasons to live off-the-grid. It may reduce your impact on the environment. It may cut the cord that attaches you to civility through utilities. But don’t be fooled, living off the grid does not free you from regulation.
One of the best reasons to live off-the-grid are because you live too far away from utilities, or it is a secondary home that can easily be powered by occasional generator use. More often than not, alternative power is used as a secondary power source that keeps the power on should the grid go down. Living off-the-grid is difficult unless it is done correctly.
The last reason to live off-the-grid is to get rid of utility bills. However, the initial investment into alternative energy sources does take time to pay for itself.
4 Ways to get Power Living Off-the-Grid
A very common way to get power when choosing to live off-the-grid is solar energy. Sunlight will be collected by your solar array (collection of solar panels) and changed from DC to AC current through an inverter. Lastly, it will be stored by your battery bank.
Sounds pretty simple, right? And it does work. But living with solar power alone is not so simple. You must consider what items need continuous power, such as the refrigerator and the internet modem and router. Using all items like in a house with on-grid electricity is a no-go.
Additionally, you must consider when it is appropriate to use other items. For example, the water pump can draw a lot of electricity. Showers may need to be short with intermittent water use. You may not flush the toilet with every use. You’ll have to time clothes washings, and a dryer is not really a sustainable option.
The life of a home living off-the-grid with solar power is one of energy conservation. You won’t use lights mindlessly. You will be hanging your clothes outside to dry. This makes it difficult during winter months.
The last part of solar power that is a challenge is that it is weather dependent. Sunny days will allow for more electricity use, but battery banks are necessary for nights. To sum it up, solar power is totally doable, but it is a major life adjustment.
Residential wind turbines, or micro wind turbines, are another option for off-the-grid living. They are available in many sizes to produce different amounts of power or handle different levels of wind. Like solar, they harness wind energy that is then stored in a battery bank.
Life lived on wind energy is similar to solar in that energy consumption must be monitored, but the most difficult thing about wind energy is that it is not constant. Even if you check average wind speeds in a region, there is no guarantee that history will repeat itself.
One solution for off-the-grid energy collection and storage is a combination of wind and solar energy. Not only does this produce more power, but it also gives more opportunity for energy sources. For example, wind turbines will run day and night so long as there is wind. When there is no wind, the sun may shine. Combining solar and wind eases the fear of running out of power.
Hydro-electric power is the forgotten power source in off-the-grid living, which is too bad because it is an excellent option if you have a stream with constant water flow.
One of the reasons hydro-electric power is such a good option is its cost. It is less-expensive to install the turbines, and the constant flow of water reduces the need for large battery banks.
While residential hydro-electric seems like a no-brainer, there are a lot of misconceptions about where it can be installed. Getting a stream with enough flow to create enough energy can be challenging. Costs for the turbines and pipes vary, but when everything works out, the results can be awesome.
When all else fails, you can still get off-the-grid power by using a generator. Portable generators may be big enough to run a generator, but home generators can be very effective alternatives to on-grid living.
The major downfall of generators is fuel cost. Additionally, you have to have fuel storage. There are multiple ways to accomplish this, but it isn’t cheap, and it isn’t green.
There are Many Options for Off-the-Grid Power
Consider all of your options when going off-the-grid, so you can live in as much comfort as possible. No matter what, it is going to be an investment, and you probably won’t live the same way as you would if you were connected to the grid. Still, off-the-grid living has many benefits, and getting creative with energy solutions can go a long way toward off-the-grid contentment.