Why live off the grid? What exactly is the grid anyway? The grid I am speaking of is the utility electric power company in your area. The one you receive your electricity from and pay for. People often ask me why I would move to a house that is not connected to the grid. Some people can’t even imagine living that way. I never imagined it myself either. It just happened. I had some people tell me it was strange to want to live that way. Especially now in modern times. Other people tell me they think it is great and want to know how they can do it too. To tell you the truth I wasn’t really thinking about being without electricity when we moved here. I was thinking about the thousands of acres of forest around our new house and what might be living in there.
Now that I have lived off the grid for eighteen years, I can give better answers to the question, why live off the grid? One thing I remember about living on the grid was how I felt when I saw that electric bill sitting in my mailbox. It always gave me a sick feeling in my stomach. It was always more than I expected. At times I would get behind on it and they would be calling me demanding bigger payments. I didn’t have enough for the payment I was sending, let alone the back amount. To top it off, I was on the night rate so I had to do my laundry and most other things late at night when most people were sleeping.
Another reason I like living off the grid is because we never lose our power. Only if our system has something that has broke or is impaired in some way. Like recently, our power was limited due to our lead acid batteries getting old and needing to be replaced. For most of the time, we do not have power outages. If our power is being limited, such as due to the batteries, we just plan for it. Now that our batteries have been replaced, we are at full power again with no need to start the generator. Summer time helps with sunny days almost daily now. My husband is able to repair most of our components and he is the one who set up our system, which helps him know each and every part of it. He can fix it better than someone who is not familiar with it.
I remember many years ago, a woman I knew told me they had a power outage and lit candles. She said, she told her husband, “This is how Larry and Kathy live.” I had to laugh at that and tell her, “Nope, that is definitely not how we live!” We have never used candles for lights the whole time we have lived here. In the beginning we used kerosene lamps, but once our system was in and producing our power, we used electric lights. Our electric lights were working well the night she was having a power outage by candlelight! Now we even have lights that come on automatically at dusk and run on DC (direct current) power so they do not need the inverter on to turn on.
Independence is another reason for living off the grid. Yes, even if you have a grid tied system (using solar or wind connected to the power grid), you are not independent unless you have a battery bank connected to your system. If you don’t, then when the power grid is down, you will be too. Another thing is that electric companies are forcing customers to hook up the “Smart Meter” which is the way they can read your meter without having a meter person coming out to read it in person. If you refuse to let them install it, then you have to pay a fine to them which is an added charge on your bill. There are cases of health issues with having one of them in your house, so you may want to check that out before you let them put it in. I just read a book recently written by a doctor who said he had to write letters for his patients to give to their electric companies to excuse them from the “smart meter” program due to their health conditions. It also keeps track of what kind of electric items you use, how often and when you are away. Sounds like a good way to spy on you.
Some people choose to live off the grid without any energy system or generator in place at all. You can do that. It is not that hard. In the beginning when we first moved here, we were like that for awhile. You can add a propane refrigerator for refrigeration and propane can also be used for lighting, cooking and heat. The trouble with that is that you are still dependent on a fuel company. I know, we have been using propane for cooking for years and our goal is to eliminate that need. Now with the new batteries and hopefully the addition of more, we will reach that goal. Propane can be in your control if you use portable tanks and take them to your local convenience store to fill. We had five small gas grill tanks and would take them to the store as soon as we hooked up our last one. Now we have larger tanks and it is delivered. It is cheaper and more convenient and we never run out. Of course, we now have solar refrigeration and only use the propane for cooking.
I am not saying this life is for everyone. We all make our own choices. Just don’t jump into something you don’t understand or that your family doesn’t want. As with all things, study and research, before you make any changes.
Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole