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Guitar

Going off the Grid

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So I am looking at what my requirements would be to go off grid. I average about 700 kWh per month but this would go down when we switch to gas water heater and gas stove.

 

What would I need in the way of solar panels and storage to have enough energy to go off grid?

 

I currently pay about $.11 per kWh. ROI?

 

I live on a ridge so don't have an issue with fog. Have acreage so I can put the panels in full sunlight.

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Guitar if you get the chance take a free solar class with Pg&E do it. Took one last year. Going off grid totally is pretty rare what I found out is that if your already hooked to the grid that you will want to take advantage of the grid ie pumping extra juice into the grid when you don't need it and pulling juice off the grid when you do.

 

If your serious about going 100% off grid #1 thing you need to add to your list is a solar water heater given that it will provide nearly all your water heater needs pretty much through out the year except during snow which case a gas water heater assuming you already have one is a nice back up.

 

Natural gas is interesting - big write up in Business Week recently about the speculators /traders in this biz. I can say that those I know who have it trucked in to their large tank at the house pay a hefty sum of money when they need it. Just about all of them avoid gas fired house heater use due to this cost.

 

 

As for cost - most of the effective home installations in CA are around 4kw systems which seem to run around $30K with whatever discounts you can qualify for.

 

A friend who owns 190 acres up near Mendicino and has zero utility access - has built a filter/capture basin for a year around spring on his property - run a pipe down the hill about 80ft to get around 60psi water pressure and is building a small 1000sqft cabin which will be 100% off grid. The power demands will be very minimal which case battery and solar system will work pretty well. But your average home say 1500sqft and above based on what I had reviewed during the PG&E class would be pretty challenging to go 100% off grid per the cost of storage ability and power needs etc.

 

Seriously check out the PG&E free courses they have them up in Sacramento all the time easy access for you.

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Thanks, I'll look into the PG&E class. Have had solar water since I built the house, closed loop. Twin honeycombed panels with high end IG glass units.

 

Propane is not that expensive ($1.90 gal) if purchased during the summer months. I need to find a 500 gal. tank which would carry me through the winter months.

 

My brother was one of the first to put a home wind generator in. He is in Tracy and you can see it on the 100 foot tower north of 205 near Grant Line Road. County shut him down after it was installed for noise (46 db). I was trying to get it from him but have not pursued it once I heard how noisy it is.

 

He now has solar panels and feeds the excess back to the grid like you mentioned.

 

I just saw they tested solar panels for longevity and found they last 10 years more than expected. Reason for my pursuing this.

 

Rick

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I've got an article somewhere about a guy who took one circuit off the grid and his calculations and costs - I'll try to find it. I think your largest cost is going to be storage because of the cost of batteries, the overage you'll need to compensate for maximum discharge allowed, and scheduled replacement. Working with your local utility to capture state and federal incentives gives an in-grid system a much faster pay-off. You just have to accept that you're actually subsidizing the renewables for the utility. Add a little storage for emergencies. Any chance you're in SMUD-country - just read that they got $127 mil of the state's $205 mil stimulus from the Dept. of Energy.

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Hey G

 

The trick is to have enough capacity to generate what you use that way your not funding cheap power to PG&E. There is a big push for getting full face value for the surplus juice you pump into the grid vs getting credits something PG&E is not so happy about for obvious reasons.

 

The folks who go ape crazy and put in more capacity than they use simply invested way - way too much money to hand free power over to the utility company. Our new president at one point mentioned this so at the top of the heap I know there is at least one guy that wants to try and fix this challenge so that alternative power is more attractive to home owners.

 

On grid systems are cheapest as noted you have no storage challenges or maint you simply give and take what you generate and your at net - net zero which is the best approach and fastest return on investment. Not to mention the most stable way regarding power source etc.

 

I think the coolest way to generate day or night power is hydro. A friend's old uncle has a place up in Seattle with a year around creek running through his property. He set up a small hydro unit on the creek head starts at one end of the property where he pulls off some water via a pipe - runs that parallel to the creek to the bottom of the property where the head pressure spins a cool little hydro unit and the water goes back into the creek. He pulls enough juice for his 1200sqft house that he can power all the basics. Guessing he's moved to LED lighting now and probably switched to more efficient fridge etc too. He can essentially be 100% off grid at a fairly low cost. But storage is an issue hence all the lakes around CA where they pump the water up to the lake during surplus hours and then run it down for hydro juice when they need power - not very efficient but still has a big enough return to do it.

 

Solar to hydrogen - stored hydrogen at the house then hydrogen back to power at night will be the cats meow if the brainy guys can ever sort out how to make it work efficient enough.

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Before anyone else asks, this is sailing related how??

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don't care, it's interesting so STFU !!

 

Solar panels, wind mills and granola do not belong in a sailing forum. Don Quixote might like this thread but he didn't sail. Yeah, yeah, I know, then quit reading it.

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Off the grid, or negative load?

 

IE, do you need to go off the grid for some reason, or are you just looking to lower your carbon footprint? It's much easier to generate more power than you use, but still stay on the grid - it will mean that you don't have to store power. You use power when you need it, either from your own production or from the grid, and pump power back in when you are generating power & not using it all.

 

Before you start generating your own power, you need to do everything you can to use less. Efficiency will be your friend - you will have all CFLs or LEDs for lights, the most efficient appliances, etc etc. Then you need to move into conservation mode. Turn off lights, fast showers, etc etc.

 

Once you have done all those things, it's time to start with the renewable sources of power.

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Solar to hydrogen - stored hydrogen at the house then hydrogen back to power at night will be the cats meow if the brainy guys can ever sort out how to make it work efficient enough.

 

On NPR last week

 

Solar to hydrogen interview

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Check in with your insurance company before you cut the umbilical.

 

Heard a bit on NPR a couple of weeks ago about difficulties going "off the grid", one being that it may be difficult in some places to get insurance. Making also very hard to maintain a mortgage, if you have one. Can't find the NPR story, but some related links...

 

http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/...rance-problems/

 

http://www.backwoodshome.com/advice/askjeff003.html

 

http://www.ecobroker.com/

 

Solar home insurance

Jeff:

 

I'm having a very difficult time finding homeowners insurance for my off-grid property. At the moment I'm looking for a "builders risk policy" since I'm still in construction, but eventually I'll want a full-blown homeowners policy for the building as well as standard liability on the property. Any inputs or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

 

My current company, American Family, won't touch "off-grid" with a 10 pole.

 

State Farm gave me a quote a few months ago, but upon asking for an updated quote recently, they completely denied the possibility.

 

Farmer's Insurance gave me a quote so high it was probably illegal -AND- they required a "qualifying vehicle" to be insured as well (at a rate at least double my current policy).

 

The first place I thought might have an answer was Backwoods Home. Would you happen to know if others are having trouble getting homeowners insurance due to living off-grid? Would you also happen to know of any insurance companies willing to cover a home that is off-grid?

 

Thank you very much for any and all information you can provide. I will be checking with numerous insurance companies, but would value your advice as well.

 

Michele

 

Michele
Home insurance has been a problem for some off grid homeowners due to several wrong ideas about what "off grid" actually means, so be careful how you discuss it. Many "old-school" insurance carriers have had very bad past experience with some early homeowners trying to obtain fire insurance on "wood shack" construction, miles up some impassable dirt road, with exposed un-vented batteries in the living space, a generator with several large leaking fuel drums nearby, and an exposed mix of bare DC and AC wiring that would never meet even a basic electric code inspection. This is what they are thinking about as soon as you say "off grid".

 

In addition, insurance carriers know that many off grid homes are being built in a very remote wooded area that is far from any fire department, and served only by a small well pump that could not be used to fight a fire. Many banks also would not provide construction loans for these off grid homes in the past for the same reasons.

 

Most of the off grid builders today are building extremely well designed and constructed homes that meet all building codes and are inspected. If you are building in a state or county that has not gone through this process with anybody before you, you may have a problem with getting insurance and a loan. However, today there are banks actually advertising that they provide solar related loans, once they have had some experience, and more solar homes are being built in their areas. The same is true for the insurance firms.

 

I suggest that you show the inspection and permit forms indicating the construction and wiring meets current code as you shop for your insurance. Photos are also helpful.

 

I had one of the first electric vehicles in Virginia over 20 year ago. You should hear the trouble I had getting a license plate and insurance. It also failed a state safety inspection because "it did not have a working muffler!!" Remember, it takes much longer and is much harder to do anything if you are the first, and that is especially true when dealing with banks and insurance companies!

 

Hang in there and shop around, and don't make a big deal about the off grid power. You will find a carrier if you keep trying.

 

Jeff Yago

 

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Before anyone else asks, this is sailing related how??

It is sailing related because if there were not people

with the mindset of looking for alternative solutions to the way

the general population is over using and abusing the

environments and natural resources of the planet

we will not have much of a planet to sail on any longer.

At this point spaceship Earth is like one big Easter Island

scenario, it is not long before we cut down our last tree

and Doom ourselves to Unmitigated Failure.

Hopefully, sailors can understand this and take collective action.

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Hey Guitar: we live entirely off the grid in SE Wyoming. We have no problems keeping up with demand ... but then, "demand" translates as 4.5 kWh per day, which kinda makes it easy. But then, we run a modern 1100 sqft house and a full-time cabinet shop on that much juice, so make of that what you will.:)

 

What follows is long and tedious; unless you are really into this shit, your time would be better spent looking at porn.

 

Anyone still here?

 

In case you haven't already heard, getting consumption down is always the first part of it. Six kWh/day is easy, nine is reasonable, twelve is more or less the upper limit. A system that will supply 12 kWh per day is gonna ding you $36k. I posted the slides from an Offgrid Living course I taught on this webpage. Good advice on solar hot water, BTW -- up to 50% return on investment vs electric or propane heating. We use a temperature-modulated demand heater (propane) to supplement our solar thermal, and we also use the hot water as space heating (PEX in the floor slab).

 

You're east of Folsom lake? According to DOE maps, that's not good for wind power. You need a MINIMUM of 12 mph average wind speed to make wind power worth installing; OTOH, wind is a very local thing, so maybe your ridge qualifies. I'd advise a cheap logging meter on a pole and a year's data before submitting to the hassle that is small wind power. No point adding a turby if the resource isn't there. (We average 14.5 mph year round, 16.5 in winter when days are short and cloudy -- so a hybrid system works for us.)

 

If you need 9 kWh per day (so ~14 kWh generated): at an average of 5 hours insolation per day in winter (worst case), you'll need roughly sixteen 200W panels (mono or polycrystalline). Figure $800 per, plus mounts, plus balance of systems and batteries (see below) ... minimum $25k. Is California still paying half the cost of residential renewable systems, including offgrid? That will make all the difference. (See this site for all incentives and tax stuff.) If so, you're only on the hook for $12,500. Deduct federal credits as applicable. Now you are cooking with gas!:) At $0.15 per kWh typical electric rate in CA, a net-to-you $10k system would pay for itself in twenty years. If you have a good wind resource, you could reduce that to fifteen years, easily -- but then small wind turbines have very limited service lives.:(

 

Okay, batteries: the make or break part of an offgrid setup. Our are massive telecom tearouts: we estimate them between 7000 and 10,000 AH to 80%DoD at the hundred hour rate. Which applies, with batts this huge. Twelve 2.1V cells in series, 700 lbs each. Holy shit. (BTW, most new PV systems are opting for 48V, which is better if you can make the battery thing work.) We carry 45 days of storage capacity. But that's why our system works so well: batts live forever cuz they rarely drop below 20%DoD; when sun and wind are good, we always have space to put the amps; when no sun or wind, we can coast thru the bad days. Six years now without having to run a generator. Big batts are the key.

 

Two final thoughts: If you can't upsize your batts or don't have the space or dough for 16 panels, you can supplement/back up your RE system with a small generator. A pad-based, hard-wired gasoline or propane genset can fill in around the edges & eliminate the need to oversize your PV system. And if grid-tie is an option, you can do away with the the headaches, cost, and replacement issues of batteries: the grid becomes your battery. California generally has the friendliest net-metering laws in the country, paying full retail for the electricity you put on the grid. Seriously shortens your ROI time, down to ~12 years for a grid tied system. Wyoming, in contrast, merely credits you avoided cost -- the wholesale cost of generating those watts w/ coal. Take a long time to pay down PV at 2.5 cents/kWh, man.;)

 

Cheers, and PM me if you have detailed questions. Or we can hash em out here.:)

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An interesting alternative to batteries is to use the excess energy to pump water up a hill, or into a water tank. Then when you need to use the energy, release the water through turbines to generate your electricity. You won't have to worry about batteries wearing down or messing with the nasty chemicals in batteries.

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An interesting alternative to batteries is to use the excess energy to pump water up a hill, or into a water tank. Then when you need to use the energy, release the water through turbines to generate your electricity. You won't have to worry about batteries wearing down or messing with the nasty chemicals in batteries.

 

Yeah, except the efficiencies will slaughter you.;) Good batteries have in/out efficiencies above 90% -- 91% is what we get on our flooded lead calciums. Put 100 AH in, get 91 AH out. Versus the incredible inefficiency of pumping water up a suitable hill or tower (huge losses), then recapturing the kinetic energy via microhydro at, and I'm being charitable here, 15% efficiency. Good god. Just buy more battery capacity, eh?

 

Battery systems do exhibit charge-resistance inefficiencies in the top 20% of their charge state -- though good 3-stage controllers can mitigate this problem. But whew. Building a 20,000 gallon reusable hydro system? No thanks.:) Some people have tried/discussed/floated similar schemes for compressed air, which has the same problems, albeit in a smaller volume. We convert our excess power to heat when the batts are full. Our Outback charge controller triggers a solid-state relay, which diverts the PV and wind power to a couple AC water heater elements cut into a storage tank. Sort of. It's complicated. :huh: This setup provides domestic hot water, in floor radiant heat, and a steady (and effectively bottomless) dump load for the wind turbine. Gotta keep a load on those pups, or the blades fly off. And hot water is always a useful substance to have around.

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An interesting alternative to batteries is to use the excess energy to pump water up a hill, or into a water tank. Then when you need to use the energy, release the water through turbines to generate your electricity. You won't have to worry about batteries wearing down or messing with the nasty chemicals in batteries.

I once thought personal sized pumped storage would be a neat idea too. Compared to battery storage it's elegantly simple and you don't end up with hundreds of pounds of toxic material to dispose of. The only hitch is that it makes no sense from an engineering and efficiency standpoint on such a small scale.

 

While we're on this topic, can anyone tell me why it wouldn't make sense to use large municipal water towers for pumped storage? Since you're going to be pumping water up into them regardless you'd think it would make sense to recapture some of that energy when it empties.

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I once thought personal sized pumped storage would be a neat idea too. Compared to battery storage it's elegantly simple and you don't end up with hundreds of pounds of toxic material to dispose of. The only hitch is that it makes no sense from an engineering and efficiency standpoint on such a small scale.

 

While we're on this topic, can anyone tell me why it wouldn't make sense to use large municipal water towers for pumped storage? Since you're going to be pumping water up into them regardless you'd think it would make sense to recapture some of that energy when it empties.

 

The idea of tapping outflow on municipal storage isn't bad, but if you compute potential energy (mass X head) for that volume of water, then multiply by the aforementioned (charitable) 15%, it's a trivial amount of electricity realative to what we use. Might still be worth a go. But on a residential scale? Most microhydro turbines produce <400 watts at full blast, and it takes a fair volume of water and/or 100ft drop to achieve that. You cannot, repeat, cannot, run a household on that much energy. What about surge loads? The fridge won't start. You'd need a second storage tank at the bottom to catch the water as it comes down; water storage at ground level costs $1-2 a gallon.

 

What's inelegant about batteries? No moving parts. No noise. No water flying around. A battery is far simpler than the Rube Goldberg mess of a gravity storage system. Hell, if you really want something in the latter category, try solid weights raised and recovered by stepper motors. Similar to weight-driven pendulum clocks. That would be far more efficient than moving water. People do not realize the losses entailed with any fluid-driven turbine -- steam, water, or air. Physics places a maximum cap of 60% efficiency (look up the Betz Limit); add real-world dissipative elements like friction, drag, turbulence, tip spillage, and alternator losses, thirty percent is pretty damn great.

 

Please forgive my frustration: half-baked schemes are the bane of renewable energy. Every time I hear someone extol their great new vertical axis wind turbine (mounts on the roof!) or propose sticking propellers in their downspouts, I die a little. :( It's hard enuf to sort out and find backing for technologies that DO work without cluttering up the field with technologies that don't. Nothing wrong with thinking outside the box, but Physics doesn't go away because people WANT something to be true.

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I have a 1200 sf cabin off the grid about 60 miles north of Seattle, works fine. I removed the wind generator as it was loud and produced little power, getting it higher would have helped a lot but I found solar worked better over all. If I had access to utility power I would use it, building a system to provide power in the worst 10% of the time adds likely about 3 to 5 times the cost, I would rather build a system that meets or better the load 90% of the time and use some other form of power for the 10% of the time (short cloudy winter days) - it is a heck of a lot cheaper. At my cabin I have a gas genset for the few times a year I do not have the required solar/battery capacity. I would need to add about $7000 of panels and batteries to meet the load on those few days I run short, a $500 gen set was a better value. The utility would play this role and it also allows you to do something with the extra power made in the summer, I do not have storage capacity to store all the production of my panels in the long summer days. The ROI would be a lot better if that extra power was doing something like running a meter backwards rather then being dumped by the charge controller.

 

I figured I pay $0.25/Kwh for my power, that is a lot more then my house in Seattle where my utility rate is about $0.07/Kwh - current tax brakes and net metering would have helped cut that number down a lot. Still ROI's are long +10 years and I have let to see a ROI calc that includes the reduced output of panels over time in the math, or typical maintainance costs.

 

As for water storage I paid $0.18/gal for my at ground storage of 5,000 gal so I am not sure where the $1-2 a gallon number came from in the post above. That is my drinking water collected from roof runoff - I know there is no usable power in it...

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I once thought personal sized pumped storage would be a neat idea too. Compared to battery storage it's elegantly simple and you don't end up with hundreds of pounds of toxic material to dispose of. The only hitch is that it makes no sense from an engineering and efficiency standpoint on such a small scale.

 

While we're on this topic, can anyone tell me why it wouldn't make sense to use large municipal water towers for pumped storage? Since you're going to be pumping water up into them regardless you'd think it would make sense to recapture some of that energy when it empties.

 

The idea of tapping outflow on municipal storage isn't bad, but if you compute potential energy (mass X head) for that volume of water, then multiply by the aforementioned (charitable) 15%, it's a trivial amount of electricity realative to what we use. Might still be worth a go. But on a residential scale? Most microhydro turbines produce <400 watts at full blast, and it takes a fair volume of water and/or 100ft drop to achieve that. You cannot, repeat, cannot, run a household on that much energy. What about surge loads? The fridge won't start. You'd need a second storage tank at the bottom to catch the water as it comes down; water storage at ground level costs $1-2 a gallon.

 

What's inelegant about batteries? No moving parts. No noise. No water flying around. A battery is far simpler than the Rube Goldberg mess of a gravity storage system. Hell, if you really want something in the latter category, try solid weights raised and recovered by stepper motors. Similar to weight-driven pendulum clocks. That would be far more efficient than moving water. People do not realize the losses entailed with any fluid-driven turbine -- steam, water, or air. Physics places a maximum cap of 60% efficiency (look up the Betz Limit); add real-world dissipative elements like friction, drag, turbulence, tip spillage, and alternator losses, thirty percent is pretty damn great.

 

Please forgive my frustration: half-baked schemes are the bane of renewable energy. Every time I hear someone extol their great new vertical axis wind turbine (mounts on the roof!) or propose sticking propellers in their downspouts, I die a little. :( It's hard enuf to sort out and find backing for technologies that DO work without cluttering up the field with technologies that don't. Nothing wrong with thinking outside the box, but Physics doesn't go away because people WANT something to be true.

You left out hooking up a generator to a stationary bike. That's a favorite of mine.

 

You did notice that I said "The only hitch is that it makes no sense from an engineering and efficiency standpoint on such a small scale." about personal sized pumped storage, right? I wasn't in need of convincing.

 

I have a somewhat different view of the "bane of renewable energy", at least as far as on-grid houses go. From my perspective, it's people having the misguided notion that they need to generate their own power. Economically, it makes a lot more sense for a utility to build a 10 MW solar field rather than have 10,000 houses install 1,000 watt PV arrays. I think part of it is that it's sexier to install PV panels rather than get a solar water heater and add some more insulation. Obviously this doesn't apply to truly rural areas where off the grid is the only option, but those cases are a tiny fraction of the overall renewable energy market.

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My father and brother just installed solar arrays on their properties/homes for some significant tax savings and state/federal rebates. I don't have access to their blogs here at home, but basically the outlay is funded 2/3 by the immediated rebates and tax credits, and the last third will pay for itself in about 3 years.

 

I'll link to their blogs tomorrow when I'm home- it's interesting stuff.

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I have a 1200 sf cabin off the grid about 60 miles north of Seattle, works fine. I removed the wind generator as it was loud and produced little power, getting it higher would have helped a lot but I found solar worked better over all. If I had access to utility power I would use it, building a system to provide power in the worst 10% of the time adds likely about 3 to 5 times the cost, I would rather build a system that meets or better the load 90% of the time and use some other form of power for the 10% of the time (short cloudy winter days) - it is a heck of a lot cheaper. At my cabin I have a gas genset for the few times a year I do not have the required solar/battery capacity. I would need to add about $7000 of panels and batteries to meet the load on those few days I run short, a $500 gen set was a better value. The utility would play this role and it also allows you to do something with the extra power made in the summer, I do not have storage capacity to store all the production of my panels in the long summer days. The ROI would be a lot better if that extra power was doing something like running a meter backwards rather then being dumped by the charge controller.

 

I figured I pay $0.25/Kwh for my power, that is a lot more then my house in Seattle where my utility rate is about $0.07/Kwh - current tax brakes and net metering would have helped cut that number down a lot. Still ROI's are long +10 years and I have let to see a ROI calc that includes the reduced output of panels over time in the math, or typical maintainance costs.

 

As for water storage I paid $0.18/gal for my at ground storage of 5,000 gal so I am not sure where the $1-2 a gallon number came from in the post above. That is my drinking water collected from roof runoff - I know there is no usable power in it...

 

Clap clap clap. Sensible post all around. :) I got the $1-2 per gallon figure because that's what rotomolded poly or pre-cast concrete septic tanks/cisterns/stock tanks cost up here, installed. We got some of each, and that's the going price in the mountain states. Might be cheaper closer to Canada; price may have changed (ours were purchased 6 years ago). A quick Google shows above-ground water tanks as low as $0.35 per gallon (plus shipping, if rq'd); underground poly tanks close to my $1/gal figure and experience; our neighbors' 2000 gal. concrete septics and cisterns ran $3000 installed, but that included 60 miles of delivery (they did the excavating, seller craned it into the hole.)

 

Re panel fade and maintenence. PV doesn't need much upkeep, as you know. Monocrystallines might fade 10% over a 40 yr service life (my panels are warrantied 40 years at >90% rated power; warranties have been reduced in recent years, for corporate rather than performance reasons.) Polycrystallines fade a titch more, but not much. Amorphous or film panels are the ones with fading issues, sometimes 20-30% depending on the design. Most of the fading occurs in the first few years, then it tapers off. I saw net losses of about 100W out of 1200 on our monos over the first 3 years; they've held steady the last three and a half.

 

Agree with your cost per kWh numbers and your advice about augmenting w/ a genset rather than sizing PV arrays and batteries for the worst-case scenario. Eight grand in additional panels plus mounting and controller vs. $2000 Generac or $1100 for a Honda EU.... Easy. Besides, if your existing panels aren't producing cuz it's cloudy, adding more panels won't help. It's still cloudy. For all Seattle's reputation, nice to know solar still works there.:) What brand of turbine did you have?

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What's inelegant about batteries? No moving parts. No noise. No water flying around. A battery is far simpler than the Rube Goldberg mess of a gravity storage system. Hell, if you really want something in the latter category, try solid weights raised and recovered by stepper motors. Similar to weight-driven pendulum clocks. That would be far more efficient than moving water. People do not realize the losses entailed with any fluid-driven turbine -- steam, water, or air. Physics places a maximum cap of 60% efficiency (look up the Betz Limit); add real-world dissipative elements like friction, drag, turbulence, tip spillage, and alternator losses, thirty percent is pretty damn great.

 

Please forgive my frustration: half-baked schemes are the bane of renewable energy. Every time I hear someone extol their great new vertical axis wind turbine (mounts on the roof!) or propose sticking propellers in their downspouts, I die a little. :( It's hard enuf to sort out and find backing for technologies that DO work without cluttering up the field with technologies that don't. Nothing wrong with thinking outside the box, but Physics doesn't go away because people WANT something to be true.

 

Here's another energy storage idea. (Plus a comparison of what's out there already.)

 

http://mechanicalelectric.com/storage-comparison

 

-ng

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So - how would those who have done this suggest that a complete neophyte begin educating himself?

 

I'm interested in reducing monthly energy $$ spent, increasing the overall efficiency of my home's energy consumption, and using as many "free" and "green" sources as are economically and physically viable given my home's layout/location.

 

That said - there's a BUNCH of stuff to read, but, I don't know enough to understand what to discount and what to consider.

 

The thoughts of those w/experience would be most appreciated.

 

Thanks!

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Off the grid, or negative load?

 

IE, do you need to go off the grid for some reason, or are you just looking to lower your carbon footprint? It's much easier to generate more power than you use, but still stay on the grid - it will mean that you don't have to store power. You use power when you need it, either from your own production or from the grid, and pump power back in when you are generating power & not using it all.

 

Before you start generating your own power, you need to do everything you can to use less. Efficiency will be your friend - you will have all CFLs or LEDs for lights, the most efficient appliances, etc etc. Then you need to move into conservation mode. Turn off lights, fast showers, etc etc.

 

Once you have done all those things, it's time to start with the renewable sources of power.

 

Started with the LED already on some lights, looking to replace the fridge with new model for efficiency. I would guess I need to go to negative load first then go off grid if I can figure out the storage.

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Check in with your insurance company before you cut the umbilical.

 

Heard a bit on NPR a couple of weeks ago about difficulties going "off the grid", one being that it may be difficult in some places to get insurance. Making also very hard to maintain a mortgage, if you have one. Can't find the NPR story, but some related links...

 

http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/...rance-problems/

 

http://www.backwoodshome.com/advice/askjeff003.html

 

http://www.ecobroker.com/

 

Solar home insurance

Jeff:

 

I'm having a very difficult time finding homeowners insurance for my off-grid property. At the moment I'm looking for a "builders risk policy" since I'm still in construction, but eventually I'll want a full-blown homeowners policy for the building as well as standard liability on the property. Any inputs or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

 

My current company, American Family, won't touch "off-grid" with a 10 pole.

 

State Farm gave me a quote a few months ago, but upon asking for an updated quote recently, they completely denied the possibility.

 

Farmer's Insurance gave me a quote so high it was probably illegal -AND- they required a "qualifying vehicle" to be insured as well (at a rate at least double my current policy).

 

The first place I thought might have an answer was Backwoods Home. Would you happen to know if others are having trouble getting homeowners insurance due to living off-grid? Would you also happen to know of any insurance companies willing to cover a home that is off-grid?

 

Thank you very much for any and all information you can provide. I will be checking with numerous insurance companies, but would value your advice as well.

 

Michele

 

Michele
Home insurance has been a problem for some off grid homeowners due to several wrong ideas about what "off grid" actually means, so be careful how you discuss it. Many "old-school" insurance carriers have had very bad past experience with some early homeowners trying to obtain fire insurance on "wood shack" construction, miles up some impassable dirt road, with exposed un-vented batteries in the living space, a generator with several large leaking fuel drums nearby, and an exposed mix of bare DC and AC wiring that would never meet even a basic electric code inspection. This is what they are thinking about as soon as you say "off grid".

 

In addition, insurance carriers know that many off grid homes are being built in a very remote wooded area that is far from any fire department, and served only by a small well pump that could not be used to fight a fire. Many banks also would not provide construction loans for these off grid homes in the past for the same reasons.

 

Most of the off grid builders today are building extremely well designed and constructed homes that meet all building codes and are inspected. If you are building in a state or county that has not gone through this process with anybody before you, you may have a problem with getting insurance and a loan. However, today there are banks actually advertising that they provide solar related loans, once they have had some experience, and more solar homes are being built in their areas. The same is true for the insurance firms.

 

I suggest that you show the inspection and permit forms indicating the construction and wiring meets current code as you shop for your insurance. Photos are also helpful.

 

I had one of the first electric vehicles in Virginia over 20 year ago. You should hear the trouble I had getting a license plate and insurance. It also failed a state safety inspection because "it did not have a working muffler!!" Remember, it takes much longer and is much harder to do anything if you are the first, and that is especially true when dealing with banks and insurance companies!

 

Hang in there and shop around, and don't make a big deal about the off grid power. You will find a carrier if you keep trying.

 

Jeff Yago

 

 

Nice find BJ. Never thought of the insurance side of it. Thanks,

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Hey Guitar: we live entirely off the grid in SE Wyoming. We have no problems keeping up with demand ... but then, "demand" translates as 4.5 kWh per day, which kinda makes it easy. But then, we run a modern 1100 sqft house and a full-time cabinet shop on that much juice, so make of that what you will.:)

 

What follows is long and tedious; unless you are really into this shit, your time would be better spent looking at porn.

 

Anyone still here?

 

In case you haven't already heard, getting consumption down is always the first part of it. Six kWh/day is easy, nine is reasonable, twelve is more or less the upper limit. A system that will supply 12 kWh per day is gonna ding you $36k. I posted the slides from an Offgrid Living course I taught on this webpage. Good advice on solar hot water, BTW -- up to 50% return on investment vs electric or propane heating. We use a temperature-modulated demand heater (propane) to supplement our solar thermal, and we also use the hot water as space heating (PEX in the floor slab).

 

You're east of Folsom lake? According to DOE maps, that's not good for wind power. You need a MINIMUM of 12 mph average wind speed to make wind power worth installing; OTOH, wind is a very local thing, so maybe your ridge qualifies. I'd advise a cheap logging meter on a pole and a year's data before submitting to the hassle that is small wind power. No point adding a turby if the resource isn't there. (We average 14.5 mph year round, 16.5 in winter when days are short and cloudy -- so a hybrid system works for us.)

 

If you need 9 kWh per day (so ~14 kWh generated): at an average of 5 hours insolation per day in winter (worst case), you'll need roughly sixteen 200W panels (mono or polycrystalline). Figure $800 per, plus mounts, plus balance of systems and batteries (see below) ... minimum $25k. Is California still paying half the cost of residential renewable systems, including offgrid? That will make all the difference. (See this site for all incentives and tax stuff.) If so, you're only on the hook for $12,500. Deduct federal credits as applicable. Now you are cooking with gas!:) At $0.15 per kWh typical electric rate in CA, a net-to-you $10k system would pay for itself in twenty years. If you have a good wind resource, you could reduce that to fifteen years, easily -- but then small wind turbines have very limited service lives.:(

 

Okay, batteries: the make or break part of an offgrid setup. Our are massive telecom tearouts: we estimate them between 7000 and 10,000 AH to 80%DoD at the hundred hour rate. Which applies, with batts this huge. Twelve 2.1V cells in series, 700 lbs each. Holy shit. (BTW, most new PV systems are opting for 48V, which is better if you can make the battery thing work.) We carry 45 days of storage capacity. But that's why our system works so well: batts live forever cuz they rarely drop below 20%DoD; when sun and wind are good, we always have space to put the amps; when no sun or wind, we can coast thru the bad days. Six years now without having to run a generator. Big batts are the key.

 

Two final thoughts: If you can't upsize your batts or don't have the space or dough for 16 panels, you can supplement/back up your RE system with a small generator. A pad-based, hard-wired gasoline or propane genset can fill in around the edges & eliminate the need to oversize your PV system. And if grid-tie is an option, you can do away with the the headaches, cost, and replacement issues of batteries: the grid becomes your battery. California generally has the friendliest net-metering laws in the country, paying full retail for the electricity you put on the grid. Seriously shortens your ROI time, down to ~12 years for a grid tied system. Wyoming, in contrast, merely credits you avoided cost -- the wholesale cost of generating those watts w/ coal. Take a long time to pay down PV at 2.5 cents/kWh, man.;)

 

Cheers, and PM me if you have detailed questions. Or we can hash em out here.:)

 

 

Excellent info, thanks. Would like to shorten down the ROI. Started this project 30 years ago when I built the geodesic dome, wanted to continue to embrace the theory of limited impact on resources with this. I start my calculations.

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So - how would those who have done this suggest that a complete neophyte begin educating himself?

 

I'm interested in reducing monthly energy $$ spent, increasing the overall efficiency of my home's energy consumption, and using as many "free" and "green" sources as are economically and physically viable given my home's layout/location.

 

That said - there's a BUNCH of stuff to read, but, I don't know enough to understand what to discount and what to consider.

 

The thoughts of those w/experience would be most appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

My dad is all sorts of into this stuff right now, and he'll talk your ear off if you let him. He's not on SA, but he just started a blog about it his solar adventures. Contact him for all the specifics as they apply at our locale. I believe certain credits for him made it beneficial to begin before the end of the calendar year; that may be the case for others.

 

http://pittsolar.blogspot.com

 

http://encsolar.blogspot.com

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One day, we're going to build one of these.

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Don't mean to be a dick - but this is Sailing Anarchy....Why not just move on board and be off the grid?! All offshore cruising boats are "off the grid" of course-and it would not be a big stretch to stay that way when tied to the dock.

Otherwise, this is very interesting stuff, but does not belong here...

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Don't mean to be a dick - but this is Sailing Anarchy....Why not just move on board and be off the grid?! All offshore cruising boats are "off the grid" of course-and it would not be a big stretch to stay that way when tied to the dock.

Otherwise, this is very interesting stuff, but does not belong here...

 

I could have sworn I started this in GA. Please ignore.

 

Plan on part one of your reply, just wanted to get my house in order before I head out. Somewhat sailing relate as we all realize the importance of keeping the world green so we and the generations to come can enjoy it.

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So - how would those who have done this suggest that a complete neophyte begin educating himself?

 

I'm interested in reducing monthly energy $$ spent, increasing the overall efficiency of my home's energy consumption, and using as many "free" and "green" sources as are economically and physically viable given my home's layout/location.

 

That said - there's a BUNCH of stuff to read, but, I don't know enough to understand what to discount and what to consider.

 

The thoughts of those w/experience would be most appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

AGITC - This technology fascinates me, and I don't have much experience other than my own research and a small panel on the boat. I think the problem is a regular dudes like me, who live around 99.8% of the population that doesn't give two shits because they will be dead long before there is an energy crisis using non-renewable fuel, it is still cost prohibitive...You have to want to do it to make a statement and reduce your own footprint.

 

I can't justify the cost to add a big PV array on the back of the roof (my wife would NEVER let panels be on the road side of the roof, so I am already fighting an uphill battle, even in my own home :( ) to either spin my meter backwards, or heat hot water, etc.. I still gotta make a mortgage payment & get my 20 year old Civic running again that still gets over 30MPG, and stop driving my gas guzzling Jeep Cherokee so much..for me personally, it is about the priorities hitting me in the face today. Those are the contributions to society that I can currently make that will make a bigger difference than dumping $15-20K into PV and slapping it on the roof.

 

My opinion is the cost needs to come down to make ROI a reality for those of us (me anyway) stuck in suburbia & hooked into the status quo. Electricity (& other fossil fuels) are still too convenient, and much like our satellite TV, & high speed internet, and cell phones, we continue to bend over and pay for it.

 

Maybe that is just me giving up, & I dream of a good solar/alternative solution, but I just can't justify it yet & don't personally have the resources, so flame away. <_<

 

Anyway - try this! - http://www.dummies.com/store/product/produ...0470596783.html

 

edit - Guitar, if you'd started this in GA, I never would have seen it. B)

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So - how would those who have done this suggest that a complete neophyte begin educating himself?

 

I'm interested in reducing monthly energy $$ spent, increasing the overall efficiency of my home's energy consumption, and using as many "free" and "green" sources as are economically and physically viable given my home's layout/location.

 

That said - there's a BUNCH of stuff to read, but, I don't know enough to understand what to discount and what to consider.

 

The thoughts of those w/experience would be most appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

AGITC - This technology fascinates me, and I don't have much experience other than my own research and a small panel on the boat. I think the problem is a regular dudes like me, who live around 99.8% of the population that doesn't give two shits because they will be dead long before there is an energy crisis using non-renewable fuel, it is still cost prohibitive...You have to want to do it to make a statement and reduce your own footprint.

 

I can't justify the cost to add a big PV array on the back of the roof (my wife would NEVER let panels be on the road side of the roof, so I am already fighting an uphill battle, even in my own home :( ) to either spin my meter backwards, or heat hot water, etc.. I still gotta make a mortgage payment & get my 20 year old Civic running again that still gets over 30MPG, and stop driving my gas guzzling Jeep Cherokee so much..for me personally, it is about the priorities hitting me in the face today. Those are the contributions to society that I can currently make that will make a bigger difference than dumping $15-20K into PV and slapping it on the roof.

 

My opinion is the cost needs to come down to make ROI a reality for those of us (me anyway) stuck in suburbia & hooked into the status quo. Electricity (& other fossil fuels) are still too convenient, and much like our satellite TV, & high speed internet, and cell phones, we continue to bend over and pay for it.

 

Maybe that is just me giving up, & I dream of a good solar/alternative solution, but I just can't justify it yet & don't personally have the resources, so flame away. <_<

 

Anyway - try this! - http://www.dummies.com/store/product/produ...0470596783.html

 

edit - Guitar, if you'd started this in GA, I never would have seen it. B)

 

Thanks, hope it shares a statement of why we sail, normally sailors are more in tune with their surroundings. Hoping to be part of keeping things green (and blue).

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This is a great thread!

Who cares that it's not in it's "proper" arena, it's anarchy!

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So - how would those who have done this suggest that a complete neophyte begin educating himself?

 

I'm interested in reducing monthly energy $$ spent, increasing the overall efficiency of my home's energy consumption, and using as many "free" and "green" sources as are economically and physically viable given my home's layout/location.

 

That said - there's a BUNCH of stuff to read, but, I don't know enough to understand what to discount and what to consider.

 

The thoughts of those w/experience would be most appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

AGITC - This technology fascinates me, and I don't have much experience other than my own research and a small panel on the boat. I think the problem is a regular dudes like me, who live around 99.8% of the population that doesn't give two shits because they will be dead long before there is an energy crisis using non-renewable fuel, it is still cost prohibitive...You have to want to do it to make a statement and reduce your own footprint.

 

I can't justify the cost to add a big PV array on the back of the roof (my wife would NEVER let panels be on the road side of the roof, so I am already fighting an uphill battle, even in my own home :( ) to either spin my meter backwards, or heat hot water, etc.. I still gotta make a mortgage payment & get my 20 year old Civic running again that still gets over 30MPG, and stop driving my gas guzzling Jeep Cherokee so much..for me personally, it is about the priorities hitting me in the face today. Those are the contributions to society that I can currently make that will make a bigger difference than dumping $15-20K into PV and slapping it on the roof.

 

My opinion is the cost needs to come down to make ROI a reality for those of us (me anyway) stuck in suburbia & hooked into the status quo. Electricity (& other fossil fuels) are still too convenient, and much like our satellite TV, & high speed internet, and cell phones, we continue to bend over and pay for it.

 

Maybe that is just me giving up, & I dream of a good solar/alternative solution, but I just can't justify it yet & don't personally have the resources, so flame away. <_<

 

Anyway - try this! - http://www.dummies.com/store/product/produ...0470596783.html

 

edit - Guitar, if you'd started this in GA, I never would have seen it. B)

 

That's a very accurate post in all respects, HB. Offgrid living only makes financial sense if utility power isn't available, or with really massive subsidies. Of course, utility companies and the fossil fuel industry get really massive subsidies too, so fair is fair.;) Some people will add solar or wind simply because they want to "Do my part" or "Stick it to Da Man", and those are noble impulses. I like co-generation for lots of reasons, but it will probably forever augment rather than replace centralized power plants and some sort of carbon-fueled economy.

 

We chose offgrid because our nearest power lines were a mile away, and the utility wanted $25k to run the lines. And since I am a home business, they'd require two meters w/ two monthly service charges, taxes, etc. That part of the bill typically cost more than our electrical useage! (It's a perverse truth that the people most suitable for offgrid living are the ones for whom it makes least financial sense, but anyhow....) So I said "$25k for utility power? I could build a super-fly offgrid system for $19k and get a $3k rebate from the state. See ya." The ROI is real short when you pocket the savings up front.:) The break even is now 1/2 mile. Shorter than that, it's more economical to hook up to the grid. Longer than that, it's cheaper over the long haul to go cordless.

 

Solar hot water still makes sense for nearly everyone! Simple tech, cheap buy-in, huge energy savings. Bulky buggers, tho.

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So - how would those who have done this suggest that a complete neophyte begin educating himself?

 

I'm interested in reducing monthly energy $$ spent, increasing the overall efficiency of my home's energy consumption, and using as many "free" and "green" sources as are economically and physically viable given my home's layout/location.

 

That said - there's a BUNCH of stuff to read, but, I don't know enough to understand what to discount and what to consider.

 

The thoughts of those w/experience would be most appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

AGITC - This technology fascinates me, and I don't have much experience other than my own research and a small panel on the boat. I think the problem is a regular dudes like me, who live around 99.8% of the population that doesn't give two shits because they will be dead long before there is an energy crisis using non-renewable fuel, it is still cost prohibitive...You have to want to do it to make a statement and reduce your own footprint.

 

I can't justify the cost to add a big PV array on the back of the roof (my wife would NEVER let panels be on the road side of the roof, so I am already fighting an uphill battle, even in my own home :( ) to either spin my meter backwards, or heat hot water, etc.. I still gotta make a mortgage payment & get my 20 year old Civic running again that still gets over 30MPG, and stop driving my gas guzzling Jeep Cherokee so much..for me personally, it is about the priorities hitting me in the face today. Those are the contributions to society that I can currently make that will make a bigger difference than dumping $15-20K into PV and slapping it on the roof.

 

My opinion is the cost needs to come down to make ROI a reality for those of us (me anyway) stuck in suburbia & hooked into the status quo. Electricity (& other fossil fuels) are still too convenient, and much like our satellite TV, & high speed internet, and cell phones, we continue to bend over and pay for it.

 

Maybe that is just me giving up, & I dream of a good solar/alternative solution, but I just can't justify it yet & don't personally have the resources, so flame away. <_<

 

Anyway - try this! - http://www.dummies.com/store/product/produ...0470596783.html

 

edit - Guitar, if you'd started this in GA, I never would have seen it. B)

 

That's a very accurate post in all respects, HB. Offgrid living only makes financial sense if utility power isn't available, or with really massive subsidies. Of course, utility companies and the fossil fuel industry get really massive subsidies too, so fair is fair.;) Some people will add solar or wind simply because they want to "Do my part" or "Stick it to Da Man", and those are noble impulses. I like co-generation for lots of reasons, but it will probably forever augment rather than replace centralized power plants and some sort of carbon-fueled economy.

 

We chose offgrid because our nearest power lines were a mile away, and the utility wanted $25k to run the lines. And since I am a home business, they'd require two meters w/ two monthly service charges, taxes, etc. That part of the bill typically cost more than our electrical useage! (It's a perverse truth that the people most suitable for offgrid living are the ones for whom it makes least financial sense, but anyhow....) So I said "$25k for utility power? I could build a super-fly offgrid system for $19k and get a $3k rebate from the state. See ya." The ROI is real short when you pocket the savings up front.:) The break even is now 1/2 mile. Shorter than that, it's more economical to hook up to the grid. Longer than that, it's cheaper over the long haul to go cordless.

 

Solar hot water still makes sense for nearly everyone! Simple tech, cheap buy-in, huge energy savings. Bulky buggers, tho.

 

 

The solar heaters are very cool! First time I really paid any attention to them was during our trip to Tanzania. I was worried my morning shower would be freezing. Man alive was I wrong! First moring shower I just about torched my self. Even with the low early morning temps we had the water was plenty hot. All the places we stayed at were off grid and had generator backups. But from all that we could find out - the generators were not used very often only when the kitchen staff had a major party to set up for and feed seemed to be the answer regarding generator use.

 

The tent camps were even more impressive each tent had a sizable solar panel out back with 1-2 deep cycle batteries. The water in some cases was pressurized via electric pump. Plenty of lights per the safety factor of having wild and large critters cruising through on occasion. But again - they were way off the grid.

 

The best part is seeing just how well it can be done with some research and creative engineering and for the most part resulting in a no compromise solution even for those not accustomed to being off grid.

 

The solar water heater thing by far is the easiest thing anyone could do to reduce their dependance on grid resources.

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I have been tracking my energy consumption for 4 years now and have found ways to reduce my footprint. We have over 100 large oak trees on the property so we do give some back with the trees but I want to reduce my cost prior to retirement that is coming up as fast as I can make it happen. House is nearly paid off so the consumption of energy is one way for me to live inexpensively and go green.

 

I need to crunch the numbers on power saving conversions for lights and stuff first then look at the solar panels. Pretty sure I will still remain attached to the overhead wires and sell back excess voltage.

 

Good discussions, keep it coming.

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I highly encourage as many people (especially my neighbors) to go off grid. I still cause brownouts when my landscaping lighting comes on at night and my server rack that stays on all day doing nothing at all constantly gets the breaker flipped - and I hate it when the UPS starts screaming at me.

 

So please, go off grid. Means more juice for me !!

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Guitar: sounds like you have a good & rational plan. For the heck of it, here's a copy of a screed I wrote some years back on reducing energy consumption in homes. You probably already know this stuff....

 

Cutting Home Energy Use to 12 kWh per Day:

1. Space heating and cooling

 

Represents 20-70% of a typical household's electricity use. Even if you heat with gas or propane or oil, the blower of a forced-air system runs many hours a day and pulls heavy amps. If you have electric resistance heat, such as baseboard radiators, try very hard to lose them. They only make sense in small, infrequently heated spaces like guest bathrooms in Georgia. Those filled with silicone or oil are slightly better and can be straight-swapped, but any electric resistance heater has efficiencies of under 30%.

You can minimize the run times of central or zone heating and cooling thus:

 

a) Ensure good seals on windows and doors. Put tight-fitting storm doors on windward entries; employ cellular shades and insulated reflective curtains to control loss or gain around windows.

 

bee) Use the bloody sun and wind to your advantage. Figure out where they are, seasonally, and employ them. When it's hot, you want to shed sun and invite breeze. Awnings over windows, especially to the south and east; well-placed shade trees; windows with screens. Add a porch to make a shady side on the house. A dark roof in a hot climate is stupid; it drives interior temperatures up ten degrees and destroys both shingles and roof decking. You can paint a shingle roof, instead of replacing it. (A dark roof in a cold climate doesn't help -- in fact, it can cause moisture problems.) A light breeze can replace air conditioning on all but the hottest days. Fans supply breeze at little power use. If you have southern exposure in a cold climate, add a sunroom or at least some big windows. My house normally goes all day in a desperately nasty winter, at sweatshirt temperatures, on a couple hour's sunlight. Our greenhouse this morning was 102 degrees. Outside was 15 degrees and windy.

 

c) Cavity insulation. You should have minimum R-25 in walls and R-40 in ceiling, regardless of climate. You need good sealing around electrical boxes, window and door openings, and any ceiling or wall penetrations (like can lights -- get the kind you can insulate around.) You need insulation to prevent all three types of heat migration: conductive, convective, and radiant. A large amount of heat is lost thru floors and foundations, so try to insulate those. Insulate your heating pipes or ducting. It's not easy to retrofit insulation, and you may find diminishing returns beyond R-20/R-40, but it's a one-time expense with very good returns.

 

d) Update your HVAC. If your furnace, heat pump, or A/C is over 15 years old, it's old school and a energy pig. If replacing a forced-air furnace, see if it's feasible to switch to baseboard hot water or radiant-floor heating. A tiny pump can power these, instead of a 240V squirrel cage blower. New A/C units are much more efficient than old ones; a combination of whole-house and single-room units may be most efficient. Do you have a programmable thermostat? (If no, do you have a brain + forefinger? Use them.) Are your floor and wall outlet vents and return air ducts unobstructed? Do you use a ceiling fan (on low speed) to mix up temperature-stratified air? Have you ever changed the filter cartridge?

 

e) Don't be an idiot. No one needs to cool a house or office to 65 degrees. You can get by fine at eighty. No one needs to heat a house to 75 degrees. You'll be okay at 62. Humans can, and do, flourish across a broad range of temperatures; 'Comfort Zones' are cultural artifacts, not biological ones. Plus we have this great stuff called 'clothing', which permits us to regulate body temperature in a small area -- next to our skin -- rather than force-heating or -cooling 2500 sqft to some perfect temperature. Got a room you don't use often? Close it off, and close or cover the vents or radiators.

 

2. Water Heating

 

Can account for 40% or more of a house's electricity use. Not quite as dumb as trying to heat air via electric resistance, but close. The real problem here is how much power is expended to raise cold water by 80 degrees, then hold it there 23.5 hours so you can use it for 30 minutes. If you can replace an electric hot water heater with gas, do so. It requires venting, however. While you are at it, choose a demand-style (tankless) gas water heater; these are 70% more efficient than tank gas heaters, many times more efficient than electric heaters, and they last 4-6 times longer. If you're really in the mood to lay out cash, you can plump for a system that uses a single boiler for space-heating and domestic hot water. Best of all, add a solar hot water system, aka 'active solar'. These are the 4'x8' panels (or latterly, glass vacuum tubes!) you see here and there. There is no cheaper way to go renewable: full systems can cost under $3k, less if you are willing to scavenge older equipment and sweat some pipe yourself. Typical return on investment is 30-50%: they pay for themselves in 2-3 years. They can be integrated into any hot water system, gas or electric.

If you really are stuck with electric hot water, try these steps to reduce losses:

 

a) Replace your elements. Old ones get calcified and don't heat well. New ones are $10 at the hardware store. You will need to drain the tank partway or else be really really fast with the element wrench. Be damn sure you got the right size and wattage. While you are at it, replace the sacrificial anode screwed into the tank top.

 

bee) Turn down the thermostat. Most people shower at about 105 degrees. If your hot water is set to 150, you are adding cold water to your precious hot. Duh. You are also at risk of serious burns if some bastard flushes a toilet. Use a low-flow shower head and turn the thermostat down to 120 or 125. And take shorter showers. Turn off the water while you soap up and shampoo. If you always run out of hot water, consider replacing the tank with a larger capacity: more water heated to a lower temp is more efficient than a small tank run hotter.

 

c) Insulate your tank and your hot-water supply lines. Use a jacket with foil/bubble liner and gray foam noodles on the pipes.

 

d) Fix leaks. Even a slow drip in a hot water line can waste a lot of heated water.

 

e) Employ a small, electric instant-on heater at the kitchen sink. Rather than drawing hot water away from your distant tank, a small demand heater under your sink can supply this frequently-used tap with spot-heated water. It's the only faucet it really makes sense for, tho.

 

3. Lighting

 

Filimented light bulbs have been described as small, inefficient space heaters that just happen to produce some visible light. They may consume 25% of your power. Many modern houses exhibit the stupidest possible use of lights, and people run too many all the time to compensate for bad design. Some tips to reduce your lighting useage:

 

a) Use daylighting. Light from the sun is healthy, happy-making, and free. Open and close shades, blinds, and curtains. Punch in a couple skylights. Better yet, add ]Solatubes wherever possible. They are incredibly bright -- diffused light equivalent to a 900 watt bulb! -- without adding heat or awkward shadows to a room. Absolutely the best thing ever for hallways, stairwells, bathrooms and kitchens. Intelligent use of paints and floor treatments can project light deeper into the house.

 

bee) Wash the walls. With light, that is. A general rule says, use indirect, diffuse fixtures to illuminate a space, and small focused point lighting to illuminate a task. Wall sconces and intelligently directed track lighting can wash your ceilings and walls with light, which then brightens a room with few shadows. A central overhead light, like a ceiling fixture or chandelier, is horrible for casting shadows while being painful to look directly at. When reading or cooking, use a small task light directed where you need it.

 

c) Change out your bulbs. Except for occasional use, halogen, xenon, or incandescent (tungsten) lighting sucks the watts at an alarming clip. The new compact fluorescents are much improved and competitive in cost. Undercabinet fluorescents are cheaper, cooler, safer, and less hungry than halogens. CFs still don't always thrive in some fully-enclosed or can-light situations, although I use them in both with no issues. They may not fit perfectly in all bases, due to the fat ballast at the base. Some brands may seem blueish or unflattering to eyes trained to tungsten lighting. And they don't quite live up to the luminosity claims -- expect them to seem darker than the equivalent-rated incandescent bulb. But here's the payoff: I can turn on every light in my house & use less power than two old-fashioned bulbs. And in four years, I've had only two bulbs die. Buy em in bulk packs and change out your most-used bulbs first. I like the Sylvanias, meself.

 

d) Don't be an idiot. Turn the lights out when you leave a room. Don't leave outdoor lights going all the time -- it's rude as well as wasteful. Use motion sensors or timers where appropriate. Don't over-light a space, just because you can. And don't think leaving all the lights on when you are away will fool a thief. In another life I dabbled in a bit of light houseburgling, and it was always helpful when the homeowner left all the lights burning. No need to turn on lights or use a torch, which might tip off neighbors.

 

4. Electronics and Appliances

 

A big whack of the electricity budget, and getting bigger. In descending order of importance....

 

a) Refrigeration. Do we really need a 36" fridge/freezer? Do we need a second, separate freezer, plus a couple extra dorm fridges and another under the bar in the basement? No, we really don't. Not unless you are living on the moose you shot last fall, you really don't. The larger the fridge, the older and less healthful the contents thereof: that's axiomatic. We get by with a single fridge 21" wide, 23" deep, and 45" tall. It gets crowded sometimes, but that forces us to eat up leftovers and be disciplined in purchasing and meal planning. The rest of the world manages this -- why can't Americans? Plus, if you have not much stuff in the fridge, you'll always know what's in it -- makes shopping easier and you don't have to gawp or rummage for stuff, letting the cold out. (Nearly) every fridge or freezer has a compressor, and compressors are pigs for power. So, at least,...

 

bee) Get a good fridge. Newer models have better compressors, smarter cycling and defrosting, and much improved insulation and gasketing. They may use 1/3 the power of a ten-year-old unit. Look for a model that uses 1.25 kWh per day or below.

 

c) Dehumidifiers, window A/C units, etc. Basically fridges turned inside out. Use sparingly, get good ones.

 

d) Washers and dryers. Wash full loads only. Wash dirty clothes only. Hang dry when possible -- you'll save energy and prolong the life of your duds. Use cold or warm wash. Use a cooler dry cycle: more air, less heat. Clean the lint filter often.

 

e) Television. Take axe. Hit TV with axe. Go split some wood, which is good hearty exercise and more interesting than television.

 

f) Computers. Set them for maximum energy savings, quick shutdowns. Turn them off when you leave them. Use a modest-sized screen and LED rather than raster. You can put all your peripherals on one power strip/surge protector and turn it off to stop parasitic drains. Graphic-intensive apps burn more watts than text-only, tho I suspect gamers don't care.

 

g) Stereos. The actual receivers or media players use very little power. It's the bleeding amplifiers and massive speakers that can eat you alive. Decide when Dolby Surround with MegaSubwoofer is important -- a screening of "Kill Bill" perhaps -- and when a reduced speaker array or little desktop radio is better suited -- a Terry Gross interview, for instance.

 

^^^^^^^^

Twelve kilowatt hours a day. I can't promise if you tick down this list, you'll get to that level. But it's really all we can sustain, and I'd argue it's all we have an ethical claim to. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Hope this list gives you somewhere to begin. Cheers.

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Damn, I need to cut my usage by 1/2.

 

Starting today.

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In case you haven't already heard, getting consumption down is always the first part of it. Six kWh/day is easy, nine is reasonable, twelve is more or less the upper limit. A system that will supply 12 kWh per day is gonna ding you $36k.

 

This gives interesting perspective to my visit to the car show this weekend in SF. I saw the Nissan Leaf. They said a full charge (100 mile range) was 24kWh.

 

I always thought it would be cool to get PV and an electric car and be good to go, but it appears the math doesn't add up. Oh well, maybe I will just take my sailboat off grid.

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Excellent info, thanks. Would like to shorten down the ROI. Started this project 30 years ago when I built the geodesic dome, wanted to continue to embrace the theory of limited impact on resources with this. I start my calculations.

 

Interesting. I lived in a 10 meter 5/8 geodesic dome 38 years ago. And it was off the grid, although it didn't seem like such a big deal at the time. We had:

  • kerosene lamps

  • propane fridge and stove (25 gal tanks)

  • wood heat

  • windmill / hand pump for water

  • no PV, but we did have a wind generator to watch TV. I remember watching he 6 Millioin Dollar Man and the screen size would be shrinking from low voltage and then a gust of wind would come and increase the viewable size of the TV.

 

Best part was that there were no corners to send me to when I was bad. :-)

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Excellent info, thanks. Would like to shorten down the

Best part was that there were no corners to send me to when I was bad. :-)

 

Sorta reminds me of a dome story. Dome tents are not a good idea for college students doing big party/campouts.

 

Ever try to find the door on a dome tent when the room is spinning after a little too much fun? Trust me it doesn't end well.

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Diarmuid, you mentioned you ran a cabinet making shop off the grid as well.

 

I would be very interested in the tricks you use to save power in a woodworking shop.

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Excellent info, thanks. Would like to shorten down the ROI. Started this project 30 years ago when I built the geodesic dome, wanted to continue to embrace the theory of limited impact on resources with this. I start my calculations.

 

Interesting. I lived in a 10 meter 5/8 geodesic dome 38 years ago. And it was off the grid, although it didn't seem like such a big deal at the time. We had:

  • kerosene lamps

  • propane fridge and stove (25 gal tanks)

  • wood heat

  • windmill / hand pump for water

  • no PV, but we did have a wind generator to watch TV. I remember watching he 6 Millioin Dollar Man and the screen size would be shrinking from low voltage and then a gust of wind would come and increase the viewable size of the TV.

 

Best part was that there were no corners to send me to when I was bad. :-)

 

When I started building I didn't have any power, or generator. Built the foundation to the sub-floor all by hand. Even cutting the plywood sub floor with a hand saw. It was a great way to clear the cobwebs of a divorce. Started in 1978 and still pounding nails whenever I get the urge to add a wall or take one out.

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Why do I have to visit a sailing forum to find a rational discussion about alternative engery options? Maybe I should go visit some wacko tree hugger web forums to see if I can find a rational discussion about sailing.

 

When remodeling my home several years ago I wanted to incorporate solar water to assist with radiant floor and water heating (gas heater backup). But the available information was either hopeless dreamer inventors or over the top expensive installs. I finally gave up and drove to Home Depot for the standard off the rack equipment like every other engery sucking suburbanite has.

 

If only the big box stores would sell hybrid solar water heater systems.

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Diarmuid, you mentioned you ran a cabinet making shop off the grid as well.

 

I would be very interested in the tricks you use to save power in a woodworking shop.

 

;) Werl, partly it's inbuilt in the business structure and places certain natural limits: I work slowly and alone. 5 or 6 kitchens a year, plus some smaller jobs. But since that's my preference and I do strictly high-end work, it's okay. A high-volume shop couldn't pull it off. I run smaller tools than a production shop and spend sufficient bench time that the batts have a chance to recover between demands.

 

Still, the 3hp tablesaw and 2hp dust collector run many hours every day. One secret: most of a tool's time is spent idling. Dust collectors are always under load, but 50-70% of a tablesaw's runtime is waiting for the next board to come thru. Draws trivial amps. I don't do so much handwork these days, tho, so the shop is a power-driven shop. *shrug* Power's never been an issue. The shop employs the same daylighting & passive solar heating tricks as the house, so the overhead lights only turn on at night. Those are carefully-aimed troffers & pull ~250 watts total. The only tool that really doesn't like the offgrid thing is the air compressor. Our inverters (240v nominal) are MSW rather than TSW. Compressors start under high loads and rely on capacitor-stored peak voltages (as high as 300V on utility sine wave) to kick their ass into gear. Our "Aztek pyramid" waveform never reaches that peak, so the compressor struggles to start. I have to get it rolling unloaded, then turn a valve and fill the tank. If the well pump starts when the compressor is running, it may kick an inverter's circuit breaker. Has happened about three times in six years. :)

 

Pic of shop:

 

shop1.jpg

 

and batteries (caulk tube for scale):

 

shop2.jpg

 

It helps that we live in one of the sunniest, windiest places anywhere. But our arrangement works because of efficiency, and efficiency works anywhere. I agree with the poster who said not everyone needs to generate their own electricity. But wouldn't it be nifty if everyone lived as if they did? Especially since efficiency, if it's built in from Square One, goes completely unnoticed. We don't give it much thought around here. Good design and good habits are invisible: they just hum away in the background.

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diarmuid...

 

Nice work B)

 

+1

 

So, is the compressor the only thing you have problems with in the shop and the house on a Modified Sine Wave Inverter, rather than a True Sine Wave Inverter?

 

There is a big cost difference between them, and I often wondered about fridges, fluoros and electronics.

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Thanks, HB. One of my (many) personality defects is a tendency to boast about our house & how easy it is to live with. It's gotta be as interesting to other people as Pictures of Grandchildren. But it IS hard not to snicker a little when you look at your weather station of an evening and it reads thus:

 

shop3.jpg

 

Nothing like a little 80 degree difference between indoors and out. Sunny day: Every one of those BTUs is solar, free and clean. I know, shut up already. :rolleyes:

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Net Metering, by SDG&e

 

Clicky...In San Diego we do THIS...not off the grid, but who can afford batteries

 

My elec bill is about $60.00 a year. We live in a small 2 bedroom house, I beleive we have a 1500 watt system installed by my landlord...........He has a solar bussines in the Montery California area.

 

if you want more info...........let me know

 

hank......out

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So, is the compressor the only thing you have problems with in the shop and the house on a Modified Sine Wave Inverter, rather than a True Sine Wave Inverter?

 

There is a big cost difference between them, and I often wondered about fridges, fluoros and electronics.

 

I chose MSW for the price & because TSWs weren't available at the time in a size that could handle the surge loads of big tools starting.

 

Any compressor or pump that starts under heavy load will struggle under MSW. Fridges have compressors, but they are small enough they manage okay. They may die prematurely, but so far so good. *fingers crossed* Our well pump is fairly deep (130 feet), but it is water cooled and only 3/4hp; so far, so good. It's the 3hp air compressor in the cold garage, trying to stuff air into a tank already at 80psi from a standstill that has trouble.

 

Computers don't care -- they supply their own power at 12 and 5V, some of it square wave. Some raster TVs will show 3 or 4 interference lines across the display, from the "noise" of MSW. LED screen are okay. Microwave ovens run underpowered: they use coils, and like capacitors these don't reach full voltage on MSW. Midrange electronics are the worst: anything with digital displays, timers, etc like ovens, washing machines, or programmable coffee makers. The control units on those devices generally have crap for power scrubbing and can fry from the little surges in amps that accompany MSW voltage steps. Anything with a green LED readout is trouble. :P So our microwave, for example, has an old-school mechanical timer. Also, some (but not all) digital clocks can run fast. Cheap ones take their time from the line frequency, and MSW kinda messes that up. We have two clocks that keep perfect time, but another ran 7 minutes a day fast. It was fine when attached to utility power.

 

Crappy fluoro ballasts can buzz or flicker with MSW, but they seem to suck no matter what the power supply. No wonder so many people dislike CF bulbs -- the bad ones are really bad. :angry:

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Thanks, HB. One of my (many) personality defects is a tendency to boast about our house & how easy it is to live with. It's gotta be as interesting to other people as Pictures of Grandchildren. But it IS hard not to snicker a little when you look at your weather station of an evening and it reads thus:

 

shop3.jpg

 

Nothing like a little 80 degree difference between indoors and out. Sunny day: Every one of those BTUs is solar, free and clean. I know, shut up already. :rolleyes:

 

 

60 degree difference...70-10=60

 

I'm

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Thanks, HB. One of my (many) personality defects is a tendency to boast about our house & how easy it is to live with. It's gotta be as interesting to other people as Pictures of Grandchildren. But it IS hard not to snicker a little when you look at your weather station of an evening and it reads thus:

 

shop3.jpg

 

Nothing like a little 80 degree difference between indoors and out. Sunny day: Every one of those BTUs is solar, free and clean. I know, shut up already. :rolleyes:

 

 

60 degree difference...70-10=60

 

I'm

 

Notice the negative sign before the ten, sir. ;) This is Wyoming, in December.

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Thanks, HB. One of my (many) personality defects is a tendency to boast about our house & how easy it is to live with. It's gotta be as interesting to other people as Pictures of Grandchildren. But it IS hard not to snicker a little when you look at your weather station of an evening and it reads thus:

 

shop3.jpg

 

Nothing like a little 80 degree difference between indoors and out. Sunny day: Every one of those BTUs is solar, free and clean. I know, shut up already. :rolleyes:

 

 

Screw that, keep talking mate! Nice shit you got set up there. Any issues with the batteries?

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Any issues with the batteries?

 

So far, no. Hoping to get 15-25 years out of em, but it's hard to know for sure what kind of life they led before I bought them used on eBay. Telecom backup, so probably 99.99999% float. They are lead calcium rather than the usual lead antimony, which can be problematic unless they are grossly oversized (like ours). They won't survive as many deep discharges as antimony batts (or AGMs, which are brilliant), and they are slower to accept and disburse amps. But there again, charge/discharge rates are measured as a fraction of total capacity; oversizing them takes care of it. Takes care of most things. Most disappointments in offgrid living can be traced to inadequate batteries. Including my neighbors, who blew their whole wad on TWO small wind turbines (twice the breakages! Yay!) and skimped on batts; they had to run a portable gasoline generator in summer, then they ran it indoors, then the generator burned their hacienda to the ground and they moved back to Texas. Small batteries suck.

 

Big antimony batts can be trouble tho, because of their high self-discharge. Counts as a sort of inefficiency. Flooded lead calciums have s-d rates comparable to AGMs -- roughly 1% per month IIRC. And calciums just don't boil off water like antimonies do: I marked their H2O levels during install, and it hasn't budged in 6 years. Gotta watch antimony L-16s and T-105s like a hawk.

 

Just in case, I built a broom closet with removable floor -- directly over the batteries and under a 12" steel I-beam. If the day ever comes, we can get the batts out of the cellar with a chain hoist. Tho it might be easier to backfill the basement with baking soda and dig a new one. :lol:

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Wow Diarmuid, great stuff.

 

Guitar, do you really want to go off the grid? I'm not sure the California state incentive is available for off grid systems, and that incentive is good, although I may be wrong and will look into it. It is a stepped program too, so the sooner you act the more money you get. It was $1.55/Watt and recently went down to $1.10/Watt and will decrease as each step is claimed. Also, I read recently of a feed-in tariff in California, which would pay you for any extra energy produced. (This is why Germany leads the world in solar.) Feed-in tariffs have begun with huge success in Gainesville, Florida. Also, I would second the suggestion about the PG&E classes, they are excellent. PM me if you'd like, I'm listed on the Go Solar California website.

 

http://www.gosolarcalifornia.ca.gov

http://www.pge.com/pec

 

Best of luck, everybody, you're doing the right thing!

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Well, I went off grid for the last three days. Storm knocked out all power and phone lines. No back up heat. Overnight lows 22°, in house temps were 54° Monday, 44° Tuesday and 38° yesterday. Brrrrr.

 

Getting backup generator right away.

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don't care, it's interesting so STFU !!

when are you gonna figure whats what round here

 

go to Gay An. like the other non sailing shyte

 

 

if interesting is what you want i'll buy you a New Idea magazine for xmas, no sailing in it i promise

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GS

Take it to PA. :lol:

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Well, I went off grid for the last three days. Storm knocked out all power and phone lines. No back up heat. Overnight lows 22°, in house temps were 54° Monday, 44° Tuesday and 38° yesterday. Brrrrr.

 

Getting backup generator right away.

 

 

Go natural gas - wife's dad had a very nice gas unit in Michigan very clean - simple and low maint. He ends up using it for a week or more every winter. He has the heat blower fan - fridge - office and a few key lights on it. Works great!

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Going off the grid eh? Wouldn't have anything to do with powering a bunch of lamps and fans? And keeping their 12 hour cycles from showing up as daily spikes on your power usage?

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Thanks, I'll look into the PG&E class. Have had solar water since I built the house, closed loop. Twin honeycombed panels with high end IG glass units.

 

Propane is not that expensive ($1.90 gal) if purchased during the summer months. I need to find a 500 gal. tank which would carry me through the winter months.

 

My brother was one of the first to put a home wind generator in. He is in Tracy and you can see it on the 100 foot tower north of 205 near Grant Line Road. County shut him down after it was installed for noise (46 db). I was trying to get it from him but have not pursued it once I heard how noisy it is.

 

He now has solar panels and feeds the excess back to the grid like you mentioned.

 

I just saw they tested solar panels for longevity and found they last 10 years more than expected. Reason for my pursuing this.

 

Rick

46 db is not loud at all. The trees moving in the wind probably make 46db+.

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Well, I went off grid for the last three days. Storm knocked out all power and phone lines. No back up heat. Overnight lows 22°, in house temps were 54° Monday, 44° Tuesday and 38° yesterday. Brrrrr.

 

Getting backup generator right away.

 

 

Go natural gas - wife's dad had a very nice gas unit in Michigan very clean - simple and low maint. He ends up using it for a week or more every winter. He has the heat blower fan - fridge - office and a few key lights on it. Works great!

 

 

Only problem with natural gas...your modern blower assisted furnace wants power to run!

 

With a wood burner you can heat your house, boil water, bake bread, cook etc...If I was going to live off the land, a high efficiency wood stove would be my 1st purchase.

 

http://www.wiseheat.com/wood-stoves/Jotul_F_602_CB

 

The main draw on the natural gas generator is the house heater fan. The minor electrics needed to control the gas heater is very minimal. Which case if he has a fire going in the fire place he can run the "fan" and circulate air through the house to help keep it above freezing he's in Ann Arbor MI. The second largest draw on the generator is the sub zero in the kitchen.

 

I can't remember what rating his natural gas generator is but its a fairly good size given his house is around 4000sqft. He was a engineer at the Nuke plant in Detroit for many years and discovered a purchase program for this gas generator the year before he retired. Till then they would simply book a hotel room when the power went out given the house would be unlivable during the ice storms sans power etc. Now he stays home cozy and fully functional and in his case no worries about fuel issues given its piped in via the gas line to the house. He has it serviced in the summer simple oil change and inspection and he's good to go for another winter.

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Well, I went off grid for the last three days. Storm knocked out all power and phone lines. No back up heat. Overnight lows 22°, in house temps were 54° Monday, 44° Tuesday and 38° yesterday. Brrrrr.

 

Getting backup generator right away.

 

 

Go natural gas - wife's dad had a very nice gas unit in Michigan very clean - simple and low maint. He ends up using it for a week or more every winter. He has the heat blower fan - fridge - office and a few key lights on it. Works great!

 

 

Only problem with natural gas...your modern blower assisted furnace wants power to run!

 

With a wood burner you can heat your house, boil water, bake bread, cook etc...If I was going to live off the land, a high efficiency wood stove would be my 1st purchase.

 

http://www.wiseheat.com/wood-stoves/Jotul_F_602_CB

I think he is talking about the natural gas back up generators. They run off of natural gas and automatically kick on when you have a power outage.

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Well, I went off grid for the last three days. Storm knocked out all power and phone lines. No back up heat. Overnight lows 22°, in house temps were 54° Monday, 44° Tuesday and 38° yesterday. Brrrrr.

 

Getting backup generator right away.

 

 

Go natural gas - wife's dad had a very nice gas unit in Michigan very clean - simple and low maint. He ends up using it for a week or more every winter. He has the heat blower fan - fridge - office and a few key lights on it. Works great!

 

 

Only problem with natural gas...your modern blower assisted furnace wants power to run!

 

With a wood burner you can heat your house, boil water, bake bread, cook etc...If I was going to live off the land, a high efficiency wood stove would be my 1st purchase.

 

http://www.wiseheat.com/wood-stoves/Jotul_F_602_CB

I think he is talking about the natural gas back up generators. They run off of natural gas and automatically kick on when you have a power outage.

 

 

YES -- as Guitar mentioned he wants a generator for the times when the power lines come down. Like his current situation with the cold weather not fun.

 

The gas fired generator my father inlaw has is around 3ft tall - sits on a 5X7 ft cement pad - looks like a big metal box at the corner of the house behind some shrubs. Very simple unit it kicks in when the city power drops off - runs off the natural gas line from the house. I think it cost him around $4000 to buy and install - its not your honda portable you buy at Home cheapo

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YES -- as Guitar mentioned he wants a generator for the times when the power lines come down. Like his current situation with the cold weather not fun.

 

The gas fired generator my father inlaw has is around 3ft tall - sits on a 5X7 ft cement pad - looks like a big metal box at the corner of the house behind some shrubs. Very simple unit it kicks in when the city power drops off - runs off the natural gas line from the house. I think it cost him around $4000 to buy and install - its not your honda portable you buy at Home cheapo

 

That makes more sense....those little honda things, while quieter than in years past are still noisy, have little capacity and burn through fuel like mad...

 

However if you have a wood burning stove, you'll save bundles in natural gas, especially if you have all the wood you could ever burn right there on your property...

 

And if your going off the grid entirely, as many sources of power and heat, the better...

 

Still blowing offshore 15-20 knots with 34-38 degree air here....brrrrrrrrr

 

Your fire place - won't run your bathroom lights - so you don't miss the can in the dark, or keep your bison meat frozen. Hence the talk about generator. As for heat - in a large two story with a full basement a single fire place even with a nice stove set up the only way to keep other parts of the house above freezing is using the house fan and venting to circulate what little heat you get from the fire place. In guitars case of a pretty efficient dome home - the fire place is nice and all but after a while one would like to have basic power to address other things even use an electric blanket if one chooses etc.

 

The home store generators are crap! The only purpose they are good for is very basic very temporary power. A proper back up generator will need to have good out put have a secure and safe location and proper hard wire system tied to the house to make it worth the trouble and functional for extended run times over a several day period.

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The main draw on the natural gas generator is the house heater fan. The second largest draw on the generator is the sub zero in the kitchen.

 

Back in the day, someone I read in the Whole Earth Catalog (yeah, I'm that old) called this the butterbox principal, meaning the heating coil inside the butterbox in your refrigerator keeping butter warm in a cold environment. Here you are with your two biggest draws heating the house and then trying to keep a portion of it cold. Add the butterbox and you have a third layer.

 

Just sayin'. I understand that your sub zero provides heat to the house, but there must be waste there. I've always liked the home cooling systems that use air sent underground to chill it, has anyone worked on a refrigerator that modulates the temperature of outside air when it is cold enough outside?

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Mu buddy John Wilson has a great blog about building an energy efficient house (straw bales insulation, green roof, etc), solar and wind power, etc. He chose not to go off grid for reasons he explains on his web site. Lots of vids and pics on the site: Clicky here

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I highly encourage as many people (especially my neighbors) to go off grid. I still cause brownouts when my landscaping lighting comes on at night and my server rack that stays on all day doing nothing at all constantly gets the breaker flipped - and I hate it when the UPS starts screaming at me.

 

So please, go off grid. Means more juice for me !!

 

At first I thought you must be an Asshole P'Boater who snuck into our forum,

then I remembered you're a Multi Hull'er and

it's well known that some MH'ers have split personalities!

As far as your juice goes, keep your jizz to yourself!

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This is a great thread!

Who cares that it's not in it's "proper" arena, it's anarchy!

 

+1

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Well, I went off grid for the last three days. Storm knocked out all power and phone lines. No back up heat. Overnight lows 22°, in house temps were 54° Monday, 44° Tuesday and 38° yesterday. Brrrrr.

 

Getting backup generator right away.

 

 

Guitar,

 

Yer surrounded by oak and you don't have a nice woodburning stove? :huh:

 

 

I got tired of touching each piece of fucking wood 8 times prior to putting it into the stove, plus cleaning the fucking stove. Cut, split, stack, load, unload, stack, bring into house, put in fire. Clicky thing on the wall is great until the power goes. Just got back from getting out of the house. This fucking place is a mess, trees down everywhere. Don't know why there was such damage other than the snow was really sticky and the trees still had some leaves on them.

 

PG&E rocks.

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Going off the grid eh? Wouldn't have anything to do with powering a bunch of lamps and fans? And keeping their 12 hour cycles from showing up as daily spikes on your power usage?

 

 

Got my card, Can grow in public if I want. :lol:

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Well, I went off grid for the last three days. Storm knocked out all power and phone lines. No back up heat. Overnight lows 22°, in house temps were 54° Monday, 44° Tuesday and 38° yesterday. Brrrrr.

 

Getting backup generator right away.

 

 

Go natural gas - wife's dad had a very nice gas unit in Michigan very clean - simple and low maint. He ends up using it for a week or more every winter. He has the heat blower fan - fridge - office and a few key lights on it. Works great!

 

 

Only problem with natural gas...your modern blower assisted furnace wants power to run!

 

With a wood burner you can heat your house, boil water, bake bread, cook etc...If I was going to live off the land, a high efficiency wood stove would be my 1st purchase.

 

http://www.wiseheat.com/wood-stoves/Jotul_F_602_CB

I think he is talking about the natural gas back up generators. They run off of natural gas and automatically kick on when you have a power outage.

 

NEWEmPowerGenOnly4-6-09.jpg

Briggs & Stratton EmPower 7kW NG/LP Standby Generator

Part#: 40301

Briggs & Stratton EmPower 7kW NG/LP Standby Generator

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Briggs & Stratton EmPower 7kW NG/LP Standby Generator

Model 40301

 

FEATURES:

• Briggs & Stratton Commercial Engine Application-engineered to stringent commercial specifications, these premium engines will provide years of long lasting, reliable standby power. • Durable, Compact Outdoor Enclosure: Unique design provides the smallest footprint in its class and blends in with any home style or yard. Features premium storm grey automotive paint for durability.

• Remote System Status Transmits advanced diagnostic reporting on 8 different system functions (twice the protection of the leading competitor) to a safe location inside your home. Available on automatic units only.

• Limited 2 Year Warranty The best in the industry and your guarantee of quality and performance.

 

• Battery Required - Not Included 12 Volt DC 33 Amp-Hour, 350 cold cranking amps (CCA)

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I got tired of touching each piece of fucking wood 8 times prior to putting it into the stove, plus cleaning the fucking stove. Cut, split, stack, load, unload, stack, bring into house, put in fire. Clicky thing on the wall is great until the power goes. Just got back from getting out of the house. This fucking place is a mess, trees down everywhere. Don't know why there was such damage other than the snow was really sticky and the trees still had some leaves on them.

 

PG&E rocks.

 

Well make a brick fired oven and you can host us at the casa d'guitar with brick oven pizza, some homegrown and some of that hootch you going in the moonshine shed...it's on the way to the Yuba innit?

 

CNN just had a quick note that Placerville has been out of power since the first storm early this week. Guitar thats up your way you up 50 or 80? Kinda sounds like they aren't expecting much progress on the power situation any time soon and this next storm blowing in is expected to compound the issues. Might be time to head to SF and crash on someone's boat for a few days. - Man it looks like a mess up there.

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Messy, very messy.

 

Next round coming in this weekend but the snow level is up to 5k. Wish I had time to go skiing right now. Great powder.

 

Finally taking Saturday off and coming down to the City for a recharge and lunch with friends.

 

Been way too long.

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I got tired of touching each piece of fucking wood 8 times prior to putting it into the stove, plus cleaning the fucking stove. Cut, split, stack, load, unload, stack, bring into house, put in fire. Clicky thing on the wall is great until the power goes. Just got back from getting out of the house. This fucking place is a mess, trees down everywhere. Don't know why there was such damage other than the snow was really sticky and the trees still had some leaves on them.

 

PG&E rocks.

 

Well make a brick fired oven and you can host us at the casa d'guitar with brick oven pizza, some homegrown and some of that hootch you going in the moonshine shed...it's on the way to the Yuba innit?

 

Photoboy, you don't get it even though Guitar explained it pretty well above. Let me try...having trees and having wood for a fireplace, excuse me, a wood burning stove are two different things. Even if you have the trees, the wood isn't free, you need a chainsaw, a splitter a truck and gasoline to haul it from the woods to your house. Don't forget how long it takes to cut, split and haul the wood. I have a couple of friends that heat with wood and they spend about half of their free time in the summer filling their basements with enough wood to last through the winter. Add to that the fact that quite a few people that want to live off grid have a bit of an environmental bent and wood burning stoves spew air pollution, I think the idea is a non starter.

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A system that will supply 12 kWh per day is gonna ding you $36k.

 

If you need 9 kWh per day (so ~14 kWh generated): at an average of 5 hours insolation per day in winter (worst case), you'll need roughly sixteen 200W panels (mono or polycrystalline). Figure $800 per, plus mounts, plus balance of systems and batteries (see below) ... minimum $25k. Is California still paying half the cost of residential renewable systems, including offgrid? That will make all the difference. (See this site for all incentives and tax stuff.) If so, you're only on the hook for $12,500. Deduct federal credits as applicable. Now you are cooking with gas!:) At $0.15 per kWh typical electric rate in CA, a net-to-you $10k system would pay for itself in twenty years. If you have a good wind resource, you could reduce that to fifteen years, easily -- but then small wind turbines have very limited service lives.:(

 

Okay, batteries: the make or break part of an offgrid setup. Our are massive telecom tearouts: we estimate them between 7000 and 10,000 AH to 80%DoD at the hundred hour rate. Which applies, with batts this huge. Twelve 2.1V cells in series, 700 lbs each. Holy shit. (BTW, most new PV systems are opting for 48V, which is better if you can make the battery thing work.) We carry 45 days of storage capacity. But that's why our system works so well: batts live forever cuz they rarely drop below 20%DoD; when sun and wind are good, we always have space to put the amps; when no sun or wind, we can coast thru the bad days. Six years now without having to run a generator. Big batts are the key.

 

Two final thoughts: If you can't upsize your batts or don't have the space or dough for 16 panels, you can supplement/back up your RE system with a small generator. A pad-based, hard-wired gasoline or propane genset can fill in around the edges & eliminate the need to oversize your PV system. And if grid-tie is an option, you can do away with the the headaches, cost, and replacement issues of batteries: the grid becomes your battery. California generally has the friendliest net-metering laws in the country, paying full retail for the electricity you put on the grid. Seriously shortens your ROI time, down to ~12 years for a grid tied system. Wyoming, in contrast, merely credits you avoided cost -- the wholesale cost of generating those watts w/ coal. Take a long time to pay down PV at 2.5 cents/kWh, man.;)

 

Cheers, and PM me if you have detailed questions. Or we can hash em out here.:)

 

So, the OP is using 700 kWH/month at $0.11/kwh or a $77/month electric bill. 700 kWH/month = 23 kwh/day. Assume he cuts consumption in half with conservation measures, he's paying $36K to dodge a $77/month bill? That's a 39 year payout.

 

That's about the cash flow payout I've calculated at the BP Solar website when I've priced solar panels for our home in the past. With subsidies you can get it down to less than 1/2 that time, but still not something you do as an investment. You get to go off grid, but you're not really saving any energy. If this was efficient, it would save you money. It doesn't. You are, in essence, taking the energy you will use over the next 30 years and using it all today to buy and install solar panels. Then you get that energy back in small amounts monthly over the next 30 years.

 

If this is just something you want to do, then do it. But an investment that recovers it's cost in 20-40 years is not an investment.

 

Wind and solar work really well in applications which must be offgrid - like very remote locations or sailboats. For most people, it's a money disposal project.

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Someone up there talked about propane fridges, I looked into that at my cabin but found this http://www.conservrefrigerators.com/conserv.html and at less then 1Kwh per day found my solar power was plenty to run it and my other loads. I do have propane, for running the tank less hot water heater and cooking.

 

I have now been running the cabin, this fridge and the whole system up there for 8.5 years. The Geltec 4D batteries are still looking good, the fridge is working fine, the solar panels appear to still put out most of the rated power. I did have an issue with the fridge not liking to start when the MSW inverter was in sleep mode, I finally turned off the sleep mode and that solved the problem. Someone asked about the wind gen - I had an air403 wind turbine, the blades came off in a reported 115MPH wind storm we had blow by a few winters ago so I took it down and have not missed it.

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