Why Live Off The Grid?

 

In the forest

In the forest.

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.

The Power Grid

The Power Grid

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.

Lead Acid Batteries

Lead Acid Batteries

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.

Kerosene Lamp

Kerosene Lamp

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

Independence

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.

Wind Turbine

Wind turbine even works in a storm!

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.

 

Through the woods

Through the woods

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.

 

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole

I write this blog based on my experience living an off-the-grid life as a modern homesteader. Some of the links you may click or products I recommend may or may not compensate me for including them in my post. Be sure to read my disclosure page if you are concerned about that.

 

 

 


Snow is Everywhere

backyard in snow

Our backyard

Snow is everywhere this winter. The cold weather and snow of winter is hard to handle here on our homestead. We don’t use snow blowers or tractors. Not yet anyway! Their time is coming. I see in the future we really need a tractor here to clean up the snow. As we get older, those jobs are harder. It will free my husband up from a job that takes him hours to complete. Then it snows again! Every winter we say this is the worst winter we have had. That is not true though. Winter is always cold and snowy. Always. The only thing to do is to find easier ways to deal with it. Paying someone fifty bucks to come to our house to plow is crazy. The next day the snow would be back. We’d go broke in a month!

Solar Panels and snow

Cleared Solar Panels

Snow has to be removed from the solar panels so the sun will hit them. Snow has to be shoveled from the driveway to be able to use the car or the truck. They have to be cleared off too. If you want to go somewhere, you don’t want to clean them off then. Keeping the snow cleared from the driveway and the vehicles makes life a lot easier. We have paths to our compost pile, so after the barn is cleaned the dirty bedding can be taken there in a wheelbarrow. The area around the well needs to be clear so we can use the pump for our water and the horses’ water (of which, they drink a lot in the winter). The path to the generator has to be cleared so that can be used too. It is used often at this time of year. The path to our satellite dish must be cleared in case the snow accumulates on it. Not to mention the path to the firewood. That must be cleared and kept cleared. We go through a lot of wood with two wood stoves going, one for cooking and one for heating. 

Paths Shoveled

Path shoveled to generator

A long time ago, in my previous life, living in cities was so very different than living in the country. Winter meant worrying about being able to get to work on bad roads. I could always take a cab if I had to, so it wasn’t that big of a worry. When I lived in apartments, the landlords took care of the sidewalks and driveways. Then when I lived in a house, I didn’t live right downtown, so our house didn’t have sidewalks on our street. I believe we paid someone to plow or shovel the driveway back then. It was cheap or sometimes it was a high school student who shoveled it for a few bucks.Times have changed since then. 

Driveway Shoveled Out

Driveway shoveled out

My husband has kept our driveway and paths cleared. It is  hard work, but he pushes himself to do it. He does a wonderful job. I hope we can get that tractor to make it easier soon! 

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Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2015 Kathleen G. Lupole


A Small Affordable Solar System

Solar Panels on Barn Roof

If you would like to live “off-the-grid” there are many ways to get started. Moving to a home that does not have the power companies’ electric lines coming to it makes it much easier. It is already done for you. All you have to do is to move in. That is when the fun starts. At first you can live with no power, but nobody wants to live that way for very long. Everyone eventually, grows older, gets tired of the work involved with doing all those chores using their physical energy. So what to do next?

 

Meter and Charge Controller


Set up your own solar system of course! Everyone has some sun sometime. Free power from the sun is nice. But there are somethings you need to know first. A solar system does not have to cost a lot of money. At least not to get started. In the beginning, when we first moved here we started with one 50 watt solar panel, a tiny charge controller, two fork-lift truck batteries and an automotive inverter bought from a truck stop. When the batteries needed to be charged and there was no sun, (after all, we live in NY state which is the state with the least amount of sun!), we pulled our vehicle up to the house and charged the batteries that way. It is not the most efficient way to do it, but it works.

Cleaning Snow Off Panels

 

Over the years our system has grown. It still is not a big system like you see on all the fancy houses, but it keeps us happy. Truthfully, as long as I can use my computer that is all I care about powering. Our system now has five solar panels and they are on the barn roof. My husband studied our sunlight over the years as to where the best place to move the panels to would be. On the barn roof, they get the most sun for the longest periods of the day. During all seasons. There are periods that the sun moves and there are periods where they get the sun longer in the afternoon than real early in the morning.

 

Xantrex inverter

 

Our inverter is where the DC power is converted to AC for use. A charge controller controls how much power comes into the batteries. Overcharging the batteries ruins them. The meter is another important component of our system It tells where our power is at and whether we need to charge the batteries, or how much power the sun is bringing in. The meter is also used to check how much power electric gadgets or appliances use.

 

Solar Panels

 

You do not have to be “off-the-grid” to use an alternative energy system though. One way you can learn to use one is to set up the small system and power just your lights, televisons and computers. Then add to the system as you can afford it. It is a good way to learn how to use one as well as keeping your house powered during power outages in your area. My blog, Solar Baby is full of information on how to do this.

 

katlupe

Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole