My husband and I are on a mission. We really, really want to be completely off-grid. We are desperate to break our dependence on outside utilities. Sure, we could just unplug and rough it, but it would be so much nicer if we were set up to have a few basic luxuries, especially since we have little ones in the home. I can do without a lot of stuff, but hot, running water is worth fighting for!
Going off-grid and living comfortably takes a lot of money though. Off-grid equipment is not cheap. And there’s a lot of stuff to get. We will have to achieve our goal gradually, buying a little at a time and building our power supply as we go.
The first thing we have to do before anything else is take an inventory of everything in and around our home which uses electricity. This will give us an idea of how much power we will need to generate. It will also reveal what we can do without, or substitute with a non-electric equivalent. I’ll have to go through each room and write down every single electric item there- every nightlight, hair dryer, appliance, light bulb, and power tool.
The number of watts each item uses will be written on a spreadsheet. Most things have this information on a sticker somewhere. I’ve noticed that some of my appliances don’t measure in watts, but in amps. To convert from amps to watts simply multiply the amps x volts, this will give you the total watts used. You’ll need to know how many watts your household consumes because generators and inverters are rated in watts.
(Some tools and appliances will have two sets of watts listed; one measures how much power is used to start it, and the other tells how much power is needed to keep it running. You only need to consider the larger of the two numbers when logging wattage.)
Once I get this list made I will have a better idea of how many solar panels we’ll need. Man, I’m gonna have a LONG list!! Looking around me now, I’m realizing that we have a bazillion electrical devices in and around our home. We’re gonna have to make some major changes.
We’ve talked about selling our two desktop computers and pairing down to one laptop. I can get rid of the clothes dryer, and only hang dry. I can hand wash all of the clothes if I need to. We have the wood cook stove to cook on, though it isn’t in the house. I’d have to go out to the workshop every time I needed to cook. We are working on an old waterstove; if we can get it working and plumbed into the house it will supply us with our hot water and winter heat using only wood. There are lots of little things here and there that we could do to reduce our electricity consumption. None of this will make life easier, but for us, it would be worth the freedom.
The fridge, the well, and the A/C are going to be the biggest power consumers, I think. We have to have A/C. If it were only me, I could totally deal with not having it. But with the babies here, there’s no way I’m gonna make them sweat it out in the sweltering and humid summer months. I’m afraid the A/C is what’s gonna keep us connected to the power company for a while.
Next, we’ll need to figure out what kind of solar panels to get. What we need are photovoltaic modules, as opposed to solar hot water panels. But there are dozens of styles and brands out there. We’ll really have to do more research. I did find this review to be somewhat helpful.
Will we ever get there? It seems like such a fantasy world, living off-grid. I don’t know how many years it will take, but we will do as much as possible as quickly as possible. We figure, if we can completely disconnect, and put that $200 savings towards paying off our mortgage, it would shave 15 years and over $44,000 in interest off of our loan. That would be an awesome investment. So, this is our goal. I hope we are able to achieve it quickly.
If any of you have solar panels, please offer me some advice!! What are you glad you did? What do you wish you’d done differently? What mistakes can I avoid?