Reasons We Live Off-Grid

24

Comments

  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Flax seed, or rice sewed into flannel bags, heated on top of the stove, or in the oven are pretty good at taking the chill out of the bed!

    There is a 12vdc electric mattress pad available,, but for a couple of nights a year, it hardly seems worth it.

    Tony
  • EcnerwalEcnerwal Solar Expert Posts: 101 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    The classic soapstone (wrap it in a towel after heating it on the stove) and/or hot water bottle (though it's getting hard to find a decent one - have had several "Made in China" leak catastrophically in short order, and it is really hard to find one that is not from there) also work well, without electric input.

    Of course, if the batteries were full, there was sun, so I'd be scheming to get some solar thermal going to keep the house from getting quite so cold if the sun chose to shine - but time and sun-exposed real estate are limited...
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Our house is pretty good on the passive solar. All south facing glass. In fact right now we haven't had a fire in three days, with 15f nights and 35f days, as there is so much sun. In fact we have the doors open in the afternoons.

    We shutter the windows when we go for more than a few days. It keeps the errant tree branch from coming through the glass, and indeed keeps other curious visitors at bay as well,,, especially the ruffed grouse from flying into the glass as well.

    Tony
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    it isn't just the birds that do that as deer have been known to take flying leaps through windows too. they see the reflection of the area in the glass like a mirror and go right through it. the deer that traverse my backyard aren't likely to access any of my windows. i have seen them easily jump hedges of about 10-15ft in height from where i was standing about 50ft away. something spooked them and so they were in full stride approaching me, but they took a different path as they had seen me, thank goodness, for they are so fast that i would not have had time to react to seek cover or get out of their way.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Few deer here,,, mercifully. We are in moose country. We tend to think of deer as hoofed rats! They are however migrating north with climate change,, bringing with them brain wasting disease that infects the moose with them. As we say,,, bring on the wolves,,, and the deep snow!

    Tony
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Az Public Service wants 425000 bucks to string 8 miles of juice to my desert home. This is minimum as permits, mountains, adverse terrain will up the price. outrageous
  • bentherebenthere Solar Expert Posts: 109 ✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    We're only two miles from power but won't run lines because we like having the closest neighbor a mile away.

    Not that we could afford it anyway... But I never asked the Co-Op for a quote.

    Of course - we haven't lived it yet. Ask me again in a year! :blush:
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid
    Az Public Service wants 425000 bucks to string 8 miles of juice to my desert home. This is minimum as permits, mountains, adverse terrain will up the price. outrageous


    now thinking out loud here, this brings an interesting question to my mind. if you were to pay this outrageous price for power to your place, it would seem to mean that you own all of the wires and poles that you paid for. if that is the case it would mean that they couldn't legally allow any other taps to the lines without your permission and compensation even though you may not own the properties the wires and poles run through. utilities are allowed to string power by eminent domain, but the twist is you would seem to own that part of the distribution.
    i am probably, without much doubt, wrong on the ownership thing as they most likely are just designating that as a connection fee for something they own. this could be one reason why they don't allow customers the option of putting in the wires and poles themselves as ownership comes into play.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    At popular request,,, here are few more picts,,,

    Fall, winter,, Inside pictures are before the interior was finished,,, as finished as it ever will be.

    The exterior is all locally found, hand cut and hand split eastern white cedar shakes,, with no finish,, I'm just letting them weather naturally so that the house disappears from the water.

    The inside is bandsawn local cedar,, un-planed cedar boards. I found a stash of cedar that had been abandoned in the bush many years ago. I hauled out a bunch of blocks for the shakes,, and then a bunch to a guy who has a band mill who milled the boards for me. You can see that the walls are very low,, especially on the back of the house,,6' to the plate in the back, 7' in the front. The idea was to keep the profile as low as possible and to keep the heated volume down as much as possible. The place heats very easily with a good wood stove.
    T
  • quid_nonquid_non Solar Expert Posts: 48
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Tony - What a GREAT Place!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Best
    Wayne
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    I finally remembered that I had these picts,,


    From left,, The Xantrex TC 20,, AC load centre, 30 amp transfer switch, DC load centre, ammeter and shunt measuring array current, BS 2512ix and the Trimetric, and the TS300 inverter. All the wiring is hidden in the walls,, but with a couple of hidden screws I can take a couple of pieces of cedar off,, and it is all exposed.

    Middle, Battery cart,, looks a bit like spaghetti,, but I can roll the cart out from under the bench to check cables and water. The biggest headache are the battery temp monitor cables that are quite long,, and I don't want to cut them so I just have them coiled up. The Zepher fan is controlled by a home made voltage controller that turns it on a predetermined voltage. Also the BlueSky charger has an Aux charging system that shunts excess current to a second battery. I keep a 12vdc car battery under the bench just for emergencies to crank something that may have died. I also store battery watering tools,, distilled water etc under there. There is 1 1/2" styro-foam sides and front to the battery enclosure, both to insulate for sound as the Zepher fan does make some noise,, and to keep the batteries warm(er) if we go away for extended periods in the winter. These were taken as the system was being built. I have cleaned up the wiring a bit since then,,, some day I will take some new picture.

    Next. Siemens M55 panels,, mounted on hinges on the wall. If we leave for extended periods in the winter,, we fold these panels flat against the wall to keep the snow off them. That way two of them can keep the batteries in float even if the 63 watt BP/Solarex's that are on the roof get covered with snow. I have a couple of different props I use to prop them to the proper angle depending on the season. I then run the extra Sun 90 as a "floater" sometimes on the roof,, sometimes on the wall depending on the season and the shading.

    Next right,,, A nice summer afternoon!

    Finally,, can anybody guess why I am wading in the still frozen water?
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    One more self indulgence,,,

    The new house may seem small to some,, but it is huge compared to where we used to live. We have reconfigured this small "shack" as a guest room,, so it is in effect way bigger than when we were living in it. It is ~10'X 16' with a 8x16 kitchen addition. No wall insulation,, just rough board covered with tar paper,, and then siding. I did add 1.5" of stryofoam under the steel roofing when I re-roofed,, as well as 1.5" under the floor. Water buckets would freeze to the floor over night in the winter sometimes.

    The other problem was that the stove would keep one side of the bed hotter than a Sauna,, while the other side might be 0c! We solved it somewhat by packing the stove with stones to add some thermal mass. Then when we would go to bed, we would put 4 3 gallon buckets of ice water on the stove. By morning the water was warm,, and the ice water kept the house from getting too hot before the stove burned out.

    So the new house is like living in the Ritz,,, hot and cold running water winter and summer,, even heat,, 24/7 electric light etc.

    Tony
  • _OS__OS_ Solar Expert Posts: 203 ✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Hi Tony!

    I newer saw this thread until today! I have always wanted to see pictures of your cabin and setup. Wow what a nice place you have! I will read through all the posts now.

    Regards,
    Ole
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Why I live off grid:

    Because this is my backyard: http://kaleidopsyche.deviantart.com/art/Mountain-in-Daylight-127833070

    And this is my front yard: http://kaleidopsyche.deviantart.com/art/Day-s-End-61958968

    And these are the neighbors: http://kaleidopsyche.deviantart.com/art/The-Little-Dears-126994752

    Unfortunately, this is the cabin: http://kaleidopsyche.deviantart.com/art/Cabin-in-the-Woods-107188509 :p

    (I have no idea how to attach thumbnails and anyway the pics are too big.)

    Cheers! :D
  • _OS__OS_ Solar Expert Posts: 203 ✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    What a nice place! Thanks for sharing! I am glad you, Tony and others have shared pictures of your cabins. I will post more pictures of mine later...
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Marc,,

    Get rid of those damn deer! They are bringing brain wasting disease to our moose,,, along with ticks!

    I came home the other afternoon to scare a moose walking down the rock in front of the house,, jumped into the lake and swam off.

    Nice cabin,,, I like your avatar,,,Pileated!

    Tony

    PS If you scroll down when you are posting,, there is a manage attachments line that allows you to upload PDFs to thumbnails. (I don't know what I am doing either,, but I'm getting better)

    Couldn't resist playing dueling sunsets!

    T
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    hey, i like your neighborhood and you've got good neighbors.
    so, do you cut the grass in your backyard or do you leave that for the neighbors?:p
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    I mow a bit of it - they do the rest. :D

    Tony; our deer are different from your deer! So far no problem with deer tick or anything else. Don't ask me about pine bark beetle!:cry:
    Dueling sunsets, eh? I'll give it a try! :p
  • mountaintopmountaintop Registered Users Posts: 16
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    I wanted to go off grid since I was a 13. I found my partner when I was in college and every date I took her up on the parkway to sit in the grass under the clear sky and the stars. I ended up buying 570 acres of mountain side for the cost of the taxes that they owned, $38,000 and some change. It took me 7 years to put in 10 miles of driveway and to build a shop / workshop / carport building. We had twins during this time and it set us way back in the work.

    The closest power lines with “eyes of a bird” are about 12 miles to where we wanted to build. With being that far out the power quality sucks as it is and I’m not pulling the power out that far so others will build.

    In March we put our house on the market and started working on our house. The first of April some made an offer and 17 days latter we were in an apartment and it sucks. Our house is livable but the county will not give us a residency permit until we can prove that there is a “livable amount of power” with comes down to; we must run the HVAC system, 10 lights, run the water, and have a cold fridge for 15 minutes with out the generator running. We pickup up our new batteries this week and should pass there test on Monday. The cabinet makers will be doing custom work for the next or so but there in and out all the time.
  • mikeomikeo Solar Expert Posts: 385 ✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid
    Our house is livable but the county will not give us a residency permit until we can prove that there is a “livable amount of power” with comes down to; we must run the HVAC system, 10 lights, run the water, and have a cold fridge for 15 minutes with out the generator running.
    Jeez, what is the US coming to. I live in a third world county in Arkansas. Every one I know built their own homes. No permits, no inspections and no one telling you how to live. Also no bank loans and no debts. REA concessions to the local power company's allow them to put up to two poles in for free, with an $8 a month connect fee. No body cares at the power company if your house burns down, they just want their connect fee and .12 cents a KW. That being said, almost no house burn down here due to electrical fires, almost all burn down due to improperly installed and maintained wood stoves. I am so glad I don't live where you can't be free to do what you can do.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    There should be a special award for those members of government who think it is necessary to use whopping great amounts of electricity to survive: The Electric Booby Prize.

    Sometimes I wonder how much of the NEC is actually about safety and how much is about selling product. I grew up in a house with an 80 Amp service; four 15 Watt fuses handled everything for eight rooms. And in those days the TV/Stereo/Radio all used valves (vacuum tubes) and sucked up enormous amounts of power compared to today's modern equipment. There wasn't one grounded outlet in that house, much less GFCI or Arc-Fault protection, and there was never any electrical problem. The only time the fuses got replaced was from fatigue.

    Now a 200 Amp service is minimum, and we are quietly lulled into buying electric everything that drains tiny amounts of power all day long. Since this is how utility companies make their money, you have to wonder. When you're off-grid, you become hyper-sensitive to wasting power because you don't want the 'frige going warm at night after someone stayed on the computer too long.

    If "on-gridders" became more sensitive to how much they use we'd make some headway on this energy crisis. And we just might find out that houses don't really need 48 kWatts of service. But so far, it seems only those going for solar grid-tie seem to understand this.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Nice job Mountain top.

    My wife and I just completed a drive up the Blue Ridge from end to end,, and then on to Maine. You live in a magic part of the world,,,the county rules not with standing. I have never heard of such a thing for a occupancy permit. I have heard of it as a condition of mortgage however. I would as someone at the county to cite chapter and verse of what code that has been adopted by which agency that issues what permit. I suspect that this may be some building official's idea that indeed has no basis in any code that has been adopted by the code enforcement agency.

    When I was building,, the municipality or county adopted a very specific building code (In that case the UBC) and then adopted other specific codes. Then it is not up to much interpreration.

    Good luck,

    Tony
  • mountaintopmountaintop Registered Users Posts: 16
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    We have to get a permit to build or make any major changes. Every year we have to get our flue cleaned and inspected to send that to our insurance company. Our septic tank has to get pumped and inspected every 5.5 years to send that paperwork to the county.

    Right now there is one grid tie person in the county and I’m the first one that will be off grid. Last year when we installed the beginnings of our system they had to send an inspector to a class for a few days so he would have a better idea of how to inspect it and how they should be wired.

    They have questioned everything that we have done with building out house. Most of the inspectors have given us a hard time but a few of them have been cool. So far we have failed 10 inspections and 7 of them they were unable to tell us what codes we broke. The other 3 we had to fight the inspector for miss interpreting the code. One inspector red tagged us and shut down all construction for putting 3 layers of 1” insulation under wire mesh and rebar for the basement floor; he told me I had to cover the insulation with 2” of gravel so the concrete would set.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Personally,, I would set up a meeting with the building official. The building official is a the chief code officer in any jurisdiction and in many he may be the inspector as well,, but in larger one he has inspectors under him.

    If you go in without a chip on ones shoulder,, and look for chapter and verse perhaps the water can be oiled. I worked as a contract building inspector for a short while after getting ICBO certified. I found that if I was confronted with how wrong I was I would tend to get my dander up. But if someone came to me with a problem,, knew the issue(s) and came with an attitude of "how can we work together to work this out" life was much easier to handle. The inverse was also true as a builder. The worst people either builder or inspectors who didn't know how to read the code book.

    Good luck,

    T
  • mikeomikeo Solar Expert Posts: 385 ✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    I just finished an outhouse for my wifes 22 anniversary. Natural solar convection, temperature controlled stained glass window. I hope to add a solar powered fan to control oder. What about a ground sourced heat pump for cooling and heating? No building permits, roof load analysis, no architects, no body cares.
  • mountaintopmountaintop Registered Users Posts: 16
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Icarus
    I have talked with the head county inspector a few times. There was one issue I took all the way to the state building department after they would not budge for 3 days and they could not sight what rules I broke. I understand that I have done a lot of stuff that they have not seen or dealt with before, so there’s a learning curve for them.
    The BS on a “livable amount of power” and it’s not there fight. This should be up to the child welfare department to look into because of our kids; you could push it all the way to the health department but that would be a stretch. This one’s just making me get my batteries a week sooner then planed.

    Mikeo
    I love the outhouse.
  • Ralph DayRalph Day Solar Expert Posts: 873 ✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Before your test make sure your batteries are fully charged, not just out of the store fully charged. And of course, once your permitted to live in your house the HVAC can be unplugged and the windows opened!

    Do inspectors never go camping? Just how much power is acceptable?

    Ralph
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Not only that,, but borrow as many batteries as needed from any source,, charge them up and string them together to make sure you pass this silly test! Pre cool the fridge,, pump as much water as you can,, even to the point of borrowing a second pressure tank! Question is,, can you run the HVAC in fan only mode? Will anyone know the difference?

    Good luck,

    Tony
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Marc,,

    How, bout dueling sunrises?

    T

    PS Our neighbour's have bigger teeth than yours!
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Tony -

    Our sunrise here is around 4:00 AM and I make it a point to never get up at that hour! Besides, it rises behind the mountain.

    We supposedly have wolves too, but I've never seen any evidence. Grizzlies, black & brown bears, and cougars on the other hand ... But they're quick and wary so I've never got a shot. Even had a cinnamon bear once!

    It's usually birds around here. Bald eagle, osprey, and a raven this year. Lots of hummingbirds too. :D

    I could show you pictures of my cat. He's pretty furr-ocious. :p
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