Is off grid practical for me

Hello, newguy here.

We are building our first home in Northern California. We are thinking about going off-grid. The main reason is cost, now and later. It will be around $20K just to have PG&E bring power and gas to the meters, another $5K plus to bring it from the meter to the house.

I will run my cookstove, clothes dryer, and boiler (domestic hot water and hydronic radiant heat) off propane. We will be using town water and sewer.

In our current rental, I guesstimate we use around 30 KWh a day. We will be working to bring that down on the new house. We will use CF and LED lighting where possible. We will purchase a energy efficient fridge. We will replace our electric clothes dryer with a propane. We have no AC. Most important, our above ground turtle pond (500 gallons) will be going in a greenhouse that will be heated by propane, we currently have a tiny inefficient greenhouse and we heat the water with electric heaters.

I would like to use a solar array, diesel generator, and plenty of batteries.

Would going off grid be practical financially?

I have heard figures that it will cost me $0.25-0.50 per KWh in wear-n-tear on my batteries and generator. That seems real high to me and seems like it would make off grid not practical.


  • niel
    niel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Is off grid practical for me

    many that have to pay huge sums of money to get the utility power to their homes do spend it on renewables to be more self sufficient. looking at it from a purely monetary perspective, both ways there will be a high initial cost and with renewables you will have maintenance costs, but so what as you will have a big monthly bill with your utility otherwise. don't forget about wind and hydro power as well if your new place can accomodate it. also note that there are incentives available to help with the costs in california. the site is
  • Solar Guppy
    Solar Guppy Solar Expert Posts: 1,989 ✭✭✭
    Re: Is off grid practical for me

    For 30K, your looking at best case having about 2500 watts of solar with batteries, inverter ect ... or figure about 10kWh day ... This assumes you shop around for the lowest prices and assemble it yourself

    Battery prices have gone up almost 80% this year, I bought AGMS 3 months ago for 120.00 battery, its 200.00 last week .. I assume the cheaper price was due to they were older stock ... Panels can be had for 3.00 watt if you buy seconds

    I think your real challenge will be financing ... you won't be able to get a conventional home loan without grid power ... or so I have read

    For your Turtle pond, that can be done MUCH cheaper using a pool-thermal type solar heater ... of if its a cold climate ... domestic solar hot water heater type collectors.
  • hillbilly
    hillbilly Solar Expert Posts: 334 ✭✭
    Re: Is off grid practical for me

    My wife and I had pretty much the same issue, for us we looked at it as an opportunity to do something that we had always sort of wanted anyways. We have a very small humble little set up that grows each year, but we have continually strived to keep our energy use down. Usually my first course of action when shopping for any appliance or electronic device is to look at the energy specs and see how much it's going to cost us to use it (even the damn telephones these days!). So we've cut here and there, and all in all we use very little...we're comfortable, and VERY happy to be living "off grid": no bills, no rate hikes, no "rolling blackouts", etc...
    That said, it has been quite a learning experience, and I would probably do a few things different next time around. One thing for sure is that I wish that I had found this weath of information here long ago before we started even thinking about building our house or designing a pv system to power it. There is lots to consider, and I think that if you have the time to really plan ahead (as it sounds like you already are), being "off grid" aint so bad. The mention of issues with obtaining a loan can be real, the other issue we've had is that we've been turned down for home owener's insurrance by several companies due to no "real power" (even had one send us a letter in writing stating the reason for refusal, said "due to solar power"). VERY frustrating!!!
    I would also second the idea of looking at wind and/or hydro options at your place, as having a second source of energy production can be a really good thing durring those winter storms.
    Good luck
  • Telco
    Telco Solar Expert Posts: 201 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Is off grid practical for me

    For water heating, this is what I want to do. I like the idea of solar water heat, but would never even consider putting the wherewithal on the roof, because of the potential damage to the house or expense to repair if something broke. But this guy showed real Yankee ingenuity, built a shed using one wall as the solar collector. With this setup you can build a huge, heavily insulated tank, add more solar collectors than you really need, and be able to keep the water hot day and night even in winter. With the weather in CA, this would be very ideal for you. I'd suggest using it to heat the household water using a heat exchanger, so that you don't have to make the whole system safe for drinking. You can also use this water for a radiant heating system in the house, and run a tap for the turtle pond (couple of loops at the bottom of the pond, controlled with a thermostat). This could also be set up with a wood-fired boiler for emergency heat. I'm wanting to use baseboard water heaters for my own place, but am also considering in-floor radiant heat. Not to mention the shed can also be used to store the lawn mower and stuff.

    Be nice if they made a water heated clothes dryer, if they did this would be ideal for that too, if enough heat could be extracted from the water to actually dry the clothes.