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Choosing The Perfect Off-Grid Power System For You

Image source: Bloomberg

Image source: Bloomberg

Living off the grid gives one a sense of independence and pride. We use our own knowledge and labor to keep our off-the-grid power system up and running. For those who haven’t yet selected an off-the-grid power system, below is a review of some different options available.

What option is best depends on a lot of variables, including location and personal preference. For example, a homestead in the sunny southwest will likely have a different power system than a homestead hidden in a mountain valley. Regardless of your location, there’s a system for you.

Solar power

Solar power is a great choice for many homesteads. A solar power system can provide adequate power even when it’s not sunny all the time. Basically, a solar power system works like this: Solar panels capture energy from the sun, an inverter converts it into a form of energy that can be stored in batteries, and the batteries provide power to the homestead.

World’s Smallest Solar Generator … Priced So Low Anyone Can Afford It!

The key to a good system is battery storage. Batteries are key to the system working because they can be recharged when the sun is shining, and then power the homestead during nights and cloudy days.

Over the past few years, tremendous advances have been made in solar battery storage systems. Whereas in the past, banks of small batteries (that needed a lot of preventive maintenance) were required, today there are self-enclosed, single battery storage systems that can last 15 years with little preventive maintenance.

For most solar power systems, a back-up generator is recommended, because battery systems can store only so much energy. If it’s been cloudy for few days, and you decide to run the dishwasher, washing machine, and vacuum the floor, it won’t take long to drain the battery. Also, usually the biggest energy user on the homestead is a well pump. If it’s not sunny out so that the battery is recharging, the well pump can drain the battery. Therefore, the back-up generator can be designed to turn on and recharge the battery if the energy level sinks to a pre-defined level. This way, power’s always available, even if the solar energy stored in the battery is depleted.

All in all, a well-designed solar power system with a back-up generator is a great option on homesteads where there’s enough room for solar panels. Solar power does require an upfront investment, especially for a high-capacity storage battery, but it pays for itself in a matter of years, and costs are continually decreasing.

Geothermal power

Image source: Flickr

Image source: Flickr

The term “geothermal power” has many definitions. Here, we’re referring to power generated from the heat that is stored in the cracks and fissures in the earth’s crust. Energy can be generated by drilling into these reservoirs of heat. Steam generated from the heat and nearby water in the earth is piped to the surface where it can drive turbines that convert it to electrical power.

While geothermal power is an excellent method to take advantage of the limitless heat energy stored in the earth’s crust, there are a couple of drawbacks that have to be considered.

First, while geothermal energy is present throughout the earth’s crust, it is more concentrated in some areas. Only in these concentrated areas is it feasible to use. So if you’re interested in geothermal power, you should contact a geologist to help you determine an appropriate location. Second, while geothermal power is a tried-and-true technology, most systems are designed for large-scale industrial use. There will be some design and installation expenses associated with a smaller unit suited to the homestead.

Harness The Power Of The Sun When The Electricity Goes Out…

Geothermal power has the advantage that it is going 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Hydroelectric power

The water that is rushing down a river or creek has a tremendous amount of kinetic energy. Hydroelectric power is generated by converting this kinetic energy into electricity. This is done by placing a Pelton wheel or other device in the water. As the water cycles the wheel, the wheel powers a turbine that generates electricity.

Like geothermal power, hydroelectric power is highly localized. Depending on the geography and surface water on your property, it may or may not be feasible. If it is feasible, however, small hydroelectric power systems are a proven technology that can generate power every hour of every day.

The drawback of hydroelectric power is that it is subject to local, state and sometimes federal regulations. Before investing any money in a system, contact your County Engineer to discuss it. The engineer should be able to discuss feasibility and outline the regulatory requirements.

There is another option if the hydroelectric power is planned as an emergency source of energy. Several hydroelectric power kits are available for purchase, sized to provide enough energy for a homestead. If you live in an area where regulations forbid hydroelectric power, you can consider a small hydroelectric power kit for an emergency, or for that time when disaster strikes and society ends as we know it. In a post-apocalyptic society, regulatory bureaucrats will be the least of your worries.

Diesel generators

Diesel generators are designed to run for years with minimal maintenance. They are rugged, reliable, and have proved themselves countless times.

However, while diesel generators are a good power source where municipal power isn’t available (or wanted), they are only reliable in our current society. Diesel generators require a lot of fuel, oil, filters, hoses, replacement batteries, and a host of other minor supplies that are readily available in today’s society. However, if society ends as we know it, there’s no guarantee that diesel fuel will be available. And even if it is for a while, necessary spare parts like filters and hoses may not be.

Therefore, diesel generators are a great supplemental source of power for a homestead, but should not be relied upon for a long-term solution if societal collapse occurs.

Conclusion

Those living the off-the-grid lifestyle work hard to be as self-reliant as possible. With this penchant for hard work and independence, there is an alternative power system right for your homestead.

What is your preferred off-grid power system? Share your tips in the section below:

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5 comments

  1. Seems kinda silly to list geothermal but omit wind turbines? Wind is a lot more prevailant than geothermal vents… I also imagine wind is far less expensive than geothermal

  2. If you live off grid, you need to get used to the idea that your life will be more simplistic. I mean really , a dishwasher, a washing machine and drier? Wash dishes and clothes by hand and hang to dry. Get a back up hand pump for water supply. Use wood to heat and cook. In cooler weather have an outdoor refridgerater and a root cellar for storing certain produce like root vegetables. Realize that trying to live off the grid the same way you did on the grid is ridiculous. Also use composting toilets. There, now you know how to make it if you don’t have enough sun or wind to charge your batteries. Good luck.

  3. Don’t expect off grid living to be the same as on grid. You need to drastially simplify. No dish washer,washing machine or drier. Do both by hand and air dry. Have a backup hand pump for water on well or cistern . use wood heat for warmth and cooking. Use outdoor refridgerator in cool weather and a root cellar for preserving root produce. Also use a composting toilet. Use only safe biodegradable soaps you can pour on ground for grey water. Now your dependence on solar electricity will be reduced, if you can live like this.

  4. My wife and I moved off the grid last summer. It is indeed a different lifestyle. We may or may not watch TV in the evenings, but we do have a well pump, a regular refrigerator and a washing machine that all work well with our 48v battery solar system and a propane generator backup. Even through the lean winter months we have not run out of power. We do have to think about what needs to be done and use the power judiciously. Washing clothes and vacuuming is only done if the sun is on the panels or we make a decision to start the generator. The dryer is only run off our gas generator because it pulls way too much power. Consequently the dryer is not used for most loads, instead we use clotheslines and racks. We reflect often about our previous life and how we took power for granted. TV on, dishwasher, clothes washer, dryer, lights–all used whenever the mood hit us. The little things do add up. We don’t leave lights on unnecessarily and our TV is on a timer to prevent phantom loads such as the satellite dish drawing power in the middle of the night while it updates. It is a different mindset, but I will not go back without a fight.

  5. my family is getting prepared to live off the grid I am so ready for this step to live a simplier life and not depend on all the modern items. we are going to do solar and wind as we always have alot of wind where we are at. Any ideals would be welcomed. thank you

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