Off grid or on grid

2 Posts
Jan 2, 2007 08:34 pm
Off grid or on grid

I am building a new house and it is near the grid in the country (3 poles out) question is, if you are close to the grid is it best to connect and not go off the grid (just buying efficient appliances and perhaps net metering to off set costs?  Or, do people go off grid when it is near their house? Is this a dumb thing to do
578 Posts
Jan 3, 2007 10:50 am
Re: Off grid or on grid

Off grid is great, but if you are not ready to make the sacrifices to do it, it can be a rude awakening.  Unless there is a large budget ready, if you would use over 500kwh per month, being off grid may be unrealistic. 

On the other hand, some people insist on being off grid.  Instead of huge sums of money spent on solar and wind, they put modest hunks into a big generator and renewable energy sources and batteries.

This question comes up often and the key is to make sure that this is something you want to do and are committed to.  It is a lifestyle change.  Many folks do not have the time or the patience to make the changes necessary to live off grid.  Grid-tie which can be out of sight and out of mind is a great fit for those folks.  For those who know what they are getting into and are stoked to do it, living off grid can be very rewarding.

I bet some folks on the forum have opinions, hopefully we hear from off grid folks.

 james -Alt-E staff

"Making Renewable Do-able"

Tel: 877.878.4060 x107  or +1.978.562.5858 x107
Fax: 877.242.6718  or +1.978.562.5854
2 Posts
Jan 3, 2007 02:15 pm
Re: Off grid or on grid

Thanks James,

I also wrote to William Kemp who authored the "Renewable Energy Handbook" and his advice was to connect as it is more economical but, use efficient appliances, use less of the energy as possible and then net meter to offset the costs.  I am single so I will no use much power but my work has me away months at a time and heating is an issue...propane is expensive (1 litre per hour on efficient models).  Finally, do you know if Air exchangers are needed and if they use alot of power?  thanks for your reply.
Jan 12, 2007 04:12 pm
Re: Off grid or on grid

One of may favorite things to say when folks ask me such questions is...
Mankind had lived on our Earth without the utilization of electricity and fossil fuels for over 7,000 years but in only the last 100 years mankind has gotten to the point that it cannot live without them!
The real problem here is not that there isn't enough energy but that there are just to many humans.
An acquaintance of mine once compared mankind to rats in a gage. He said, "Four rats OK. Maybe ten or twelve. After a while those rats beget rats, which beget more rats, and more and more. Then they start to kill each other, rape each other and so on and so forth." Sound familiar at all?
For the most part we humans consider ourselves of a higher order, but are we really? Or is it all just a delusion?

If your seeking votes my vote would be to live without electricity and fossil fuels altogether. What doesn't kill you will make you stronger. Faith is a verb.
Have a nice day!
2 Posts
Jan 28, 2007 08:09 am
Re: Off grid or on grid

If you are going to be away for extended periods of time and not using their electricity, you still have to pay $35 or more a month for the privilege of being hooked up to their grid.

Having a reliable source of heat that you feel confident about is key though if you will be absent depending on where you live. I'm in Northeast Vermont, totally off the grid and it's difficult for me to leave the house in the winter.
3 Posts
Feb 15, 2007 03:30 pm
Re: Off grid or on grid

There are sveral conditons  to consider.  How often do you lose power? are you planning a  gnerator in the hook up?
What grants are available? what state tax deductions are available.
For intance In Monatna there has been  a grant program for people on the grid but a very mediocre deduction for people on the grid.
Your energy consumption, How many people in the family. your choice of appliances  Do you pump your own water from a well. Get several opions and estimates from pros in your area.  There are some  really good battery sources in your area
Lots of questions.  As a general rule of thumb  you will spend   at least $20-25k to do a good system yourself. MOre if someone else installs it.
2 Posts
Apr 10, 2007 10:29 am
Re: Off grid or on grid

Hi Karl,

I'm a student at Middlebury College and I'm researching people's motivations for going off the grid in this region, and the implications of this lifestyle-changing decision. I would love to talk to you about why you chose to go off grid and what alternative energy technologies or passive strategies you rely on in your home. I'm curious as to whether it was difficult to make this transition, and, in retrospect, how you feel about your choice. Is it rewarding, either personally or economically? What advice would you have for other Vermonters considering such a change?

You would be a great resource for me in this research because of your firsthand experience. If you are willing, we could talk either on the phone or via email, whichever is more convenient. I hope I can learn more about your off the grid lifestyle.

Thank you!

2 Posts
Apr 10, 2007 10:31 am
Re: Off grid or on grid

PS: If any other off the grid folks, especially in the Northeast or a similar climactic region, have any input or would be willing to share their off-grid experiences with me, I would be very appreciative!
Apr 15, 2007 08:18 am
Re: Off grid or on grid

To Willa Kammerer,

Willa, take a moment and try to imagine that what we are in this, seemingly infinite universe, at the same instant in time, is a larger part of a being much smaller than we could ever "see" and a smaller part of a being much larger than we could ever "see."
For perspective; an elderly person is feeling "run down" low on energy, tired all the time. They take a trip to the doctor whom after an examination and tests diagnoses a blood condition, low iron, and perscribes a dietary iron supplement. This elderly person then begins a regime of eating more foods high in iron and consuming an iron supplement. The iron makes its way through the digestive tract, into the blood stream, breaking down farther and farther to a point that we cannot see it even with a microscope.
Now, shift your focus, look out towards space, there! Do you see it? Nearly five miles across, moving faster than a bullet, a solid hunk of iron hurling through space and if it where to strike the planet Earth?

If we humans could capture light and stick it under a powerful enough microscope I imagine what we would see is a universe just like the one we see through telescopes. A continuum of microscopy to macroscopy through time.

With all this in mind, I fear that what we human being here on the planet Earth have done is create something of a cancer within our host.
What happens next? What would a human being on the planet Earth do? Could we assume that, if I am correct, our host would do anything differently than we would?

What we are doing it is called progress, correct?
Is not old age and death a progression?
Why is ever one in such a hurry to die?
Fossil fuels and electricity are not keeping us alive, we are keeping them alive! All we have to do is stop using them.
Faith is a verb.
Pass it on.
2 Posts
Apr 20, 2007 12:54 pm
Re: Off grid or on grid

Sorry, haven't been online for awhile. I'd be happy to answer questions you may have, maybe write down your e-mail address if you dare and I'll get in touch?
1 Posts
Apr 21, 2007 02:29 pm
Re: Off grid or on grid

 I live in Ripton, Vermont and on April 15th I sat without power on and off then finally without until earlier am of April 16th. Which started out with power and again constantly flickering until finally I had no power for 2 days. I have only lived in Vermont for 2 years and have been amazed at the normality of not having power in Ripton has been. I even come home to find that the power did flicker or go out at some point in the day and with no apparent reason. I have a 3 children and being without flushing toilets or running water is hard but is manageable. Fortunately my husband has an outdoor wood burning stove for our heat and hot water so along with a noise generator we were able to have heat and a lamp (the rest of the house had candles were needed). The worst part was that we had a tree across our driveway on powerlines making it so we couldn't even leave to get to civilization for basic needs. Eventually we cut the tree ourselves since CVPS was busy. My first motivation to be off-grid is self-reliance and to become less of the problem that we humans create. The second is CVPS, PSB and VELCO!!!! Since I have been here in Vermont they have been my driving force to be away from "big brother". As you know from living in Middlebury, you have seen the devastation VELCO has created by the monsterous poles they have chose to erect ALL across Addison County. I have taken personal interest in this from the start which was over 5 years ago, when they proposed to put the poles through the middle of my grandparents house in Middlebury, on Haplin Rd, if you haven't seen this it is worth taking a drive down there. Both pole lines exist and will continue to exist. But that is another story for another time. My blood boils and my emotions run high on this subject, bottom line what they (VELCO) did is and will forever be wrong. So to be completely free of CVPS would mean my self respect to doing the right thing and not be a cause or apart of something that is wrong. I have been looking into alternative energy for awhile now and after this nor'easter I have been doing a lot of research to figure what we can afford to do and how we should go about it. Electricity and propane are not going to get any cheaper. So cost in the short and long run are also a driving factor. I come from farm families on both sides of my family, one from Vermont and one from Massachusetts. I have seen too much change in Massachusetts that it drove me to want to leave my only home I knew. Like I said earlier to live differently for 2+ days we had no power
was a challenge but anything that is different at first is that way. I hear all sorts of things about being off-grid and the costs and benefits and drawbacks, but I know in my heart it is the right choice. I watched the 20/20 show last night about planet earth and was amazed that people are not already using recycled products on a daily basis, or using energy efficient light bulbs (which have been around for 20 years)- maybe now people will realize that the little things they do daily will make a huge impact on the earth overall. Small steps lead to big accomplishments. I know you were looking for people off-grid but I just wanted to put my 2 cents in. There is a family (and probably several others) here in Ripton that built a green house and are completely off-grid. They are having an open-house again in May. I will mention this website and post to them and I am sure they would be excited to talk with you. They are as passionate about this as I am, even about the VELCO issue. Good Luck with your research and if I can be of any help let me know.
« Last Edit: Apr 21, 2007 02:31 pm by Lisa Whitman »
26 Posts
May 14, 2007 07:25 am
Re: Off grid or on grid

PS: If any other off the grid folks, especially in the Northeast or a similar climactic region, have any input or would be willing to share their off-grid experiences with me, I would be very appreciative!

We built our home in 1988, about 3 poles away from the grid, and went off grid. Several reasons were involved but the main one at the time was that we were actively protesting nuclear power and it seemed disingenuous at best to get our electricity from that source at the same time.
   It also seemed like fun.
   We remain off the nearby grid, and our expenses have increased over the years as our needs increased (primarily for irrigation as we started our CSA farm project). But our initial expense was probably about the same as an underground line from the grid would have been (we would have gone underground without any doubt, so that is the cost we needed to consider, if we considered it at all).
   We started solar onnly, added wind within a few years.
   And it was - and remains - fun.

Jim Sluyter
Bear Lkae, Michigan (NW lower MI, one of the cloudiest places in the US)
1 Posts
May 15, 2007 11:33 am
Re: Off grid or on grid

My wife and I bought some property that had power "on-site", which made the loan app. more feasible.  However the "on-site" power was (is) quite a ways away from our house site, it would probably cost us somewhere in the 5-10k$ range for the transformer and to run cable to our home.  We've thus far spent about $7,000 on a small humble solar system, and we have a modest generator back up ($1,100).  While it is not the biggest of systems, it has been quite adequate for our needs (which we've made small adjustments to, here and there).  I still get frustrated when I see prices like: "20-25k$ minimum"; that's probably true if you have a larger house and use a lot of power, but there are plenty of us out there who live in small homes and have made small adjustments to maximize efficient use of electricity that will never spend anywhere near that much.  For off grid in particular, one of the nice things is that most of the system (excepting the batteries) is quite modular and can be built piece by piece, adding as your budget allows, or your needs grow.  With a generator to fill in as a back up, you don't need to size your system for a "worst case scenario", but rather try to size it to a more optimal and Conservative power usage; every time that you have to fire up the generator for an hour or two it can be some what of a warning bell that you are using excess power.  We are still looking at adding some to our system, in the form of a larger inverter, and a few more PV panels, but we still will probably NOT spend more than another 3-5k$ total.  As it stands now we run the generator once a month in the spring/summer/fall months to help with our battery EQ'ing, and maybe a couple of hours a week in the winter to make up for lower solar production (we could eliminate this extra usage with a few more PV's). 
I suppose that our main area's of conservation have been:
tankless water heater
all CF lights
extra insulation, and super insulated windows, etc...
passive cooling (wish that we'd done a better job at creating passive heat gain for winter, but we're just learning)
just plain ol' turning lights and stuff off when not using them.
So there you have my vote for "off grid"  : )
good luck, and enjoy the learning experience
12 Posts
May 16, 2007 10:00 pm
Re: Off grid or on grid

I've been off that grid for several years and I ain't never gonna hook up to it!

I survive in the Buckeye on a smokin' 512 watts and run everything on 12 v.d.c. "A.C." is a bad word around these parts. I don't use it unless I haveta..

I collect rain water and use a composting toilet system. I even have a shower and a cordless phone like them city slickers! Life is good..

I use propane to heat my water and to run my fridges and stuff. I only use the pilot light on the w/h and it keeps me and the 'ol lady in warm showers all year long. If I need hotter water, I just put some in a pot, Put 'er on the stove and heat 'er up. Luggin' them #100 tanks around can be a pain sometimes. Those sissy propane folks say I live too far out to bring me one of those torpedo lookin' tanks out here.. Grrr..

I'm gonna put a corn burner in this summer. That bugger only needs 2-3 amps @ 12 v.d.c. to run! I might be needn' to add a panel or two to cover it but I guess I'll find out this next winter. I gots me a back up generator.. No worries..

I found this company called Thinlite on my 'puter one day. I thought they sold diet stuff 'till I started readin'. They sell these things called ballasts that fire up 4' flourescent bulbs real nice straight from the battery! I got me a bunch of 'um! Built all of my own lites and momma was real proud of me! She made me some dumplin's and I went to the truck stop and got her a 12 volt curlin' iron..

Uncle Willie has a real nice camper he won in a card game. It's got a tank that he can fill up with water and a little pump comes on when he turns on a spigot. I check'd that pump out real good. It runs on 12 volts too! I had to have me one! Now I gots 2 of 'um! Boy, What they won't come up with..

Anyhow, I have 'round 6K in my system. I figgered $45/month as an average 'lectric bill. My calculator tells me that it'll pay for itself in around 11 yrs. I'm in year 8 right now. Won't be long 'till it paid for! I'm just as happy as a gopher in soft dirt!

Smiles Ya'll..  Wink

Aug 10, 2007 08:56 am
Re: Off grid or on grid

When did written history begin for human beings? Maybe with drawings on cave walls and such. Drawings, telling the story of a hunt for fresh meat. Maybe a crude written language of hand prints. Each hand print being slightly different and having a different meaning.
One does not have to look that far back into human history to know how humans lived without electricity.

It was during the 1890's decade; Benjaminn Harrison was our 23rd president,
 Dwight D. Eisenhower was born, Grover Cleveland was president when the Hawaiian Kingdom was (illegally) being occupied by U.S. troops, Theodore Roosevelt was Governor of New York. The United States declared war on Spain.
I could go on and on, but its all there! Written down somewhere just prior to the decade I mention above. how human beings, people just like you and I lived without electricity, Not that long ago, at least I don't think its become ancient history yet.
A long way from the drawings of the hunt for fresh meat though!
578 Posts
Aug 10, 2007 11:40 am
Re: Off grid or on grid

good point tom,

ben G. and i have staff competitions for lowest electric bill.  both of us rent and are stuck with older fridges.  i did 177kWh last month and did not live like a cave man.  that being said, off grid is a big leap for most folks who have not wrapped their head around their massive energy usage.  even for me, living without ANY electricity would be a big jump.  Because of what i do, i would be scheming to get a small module and battery to get my fix of electricity.

chris on our staff is totally into renewables, yet he gets the shakes when broadband internet goes down.

- james   Alt-E staff

"Making Renewable Do-able"

Tel: 877.878.4060 x107  or +1.978.562.5858 x107
Fax: 877.242.6718  or +1.978.562.5854
1 Posts
Sep 29, 2007 09:02 pm
Re: Off grid or on grid

I have just joined the group and havent yet read all the posts.
My advice is to build the right house.
Then it really doesnt make much difference how you power up.
Like my Scot ancestors always told me when I was growing up, "If you dont spend it you dont have to earn it!"
Same with energy as money.
My house is concrete block, filled with sand, 10 foot wall height. Outside that is foam core insulation with the shiny side out because I do more cooling than heat.  If its the other way around, turn the foil inside.
Then southern yellow pine strips, vertically. Then expanded stucco lath. Then three coats of white portland stucco.
I have NO heat gain from the walls.
I have virtually no heat loss either and such a flywheel effect from the mass the temps dont swing rapidly.
Windows are placed so no lighting is needed in the daytime.
The roof is rafters with sheathing with tarpaper. Then the same foam with shiny side out. Then an airspace created by southern yellow pine with a tin roof.  No heat gain from the roof either....the heat creates such a breeze it takes all the heat away.
Only reason I need any insulation inside at all is for the heating mode.
Heating is by a conservatory, connected to the house. Transom window at the top and two operating side windows which ar raised 2" in winter when the transom is open. It heats the house and grows citrus all year round.  Bannanas, kiwi, oranges, grapefruit, date palm, avacodos, limes, etc.
You wont use much power...mine is about $600. for a year.
Use a d/c pump with a built in pressure switch for your washing machine if you have a well.  Battery is always being trickle charged, runs the pump which fills the washer with well water from a 250 gallon fiberglass storage tank. Anytime the power/water goes off from the well, switch a three way valve and the water goes to every fixture including the water heater.
Use a pv powered pump on your solar water heater. That way you dont require any power for heating your water.
This all makes life so simple.
I would have 1/2 the bill I have now except for pumping in summer for my organic garden outside.
Any questions, let me know.

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