Becoming less dependant on power Co.

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by designer, Sep 27, 2004.

  1. designer

    designer Well-Known Member

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    If looking to moving towards "off grid" or close to it, where would you start in an all electric home? We have a 3 bedroom doublewide with heat pump and electric backup furnice. All electric appliances. We're not in the city so there are no gas lines in the area. My goal is to have a low bill throughout the year and in the winter when our power goes out, always does, we could live comfortably. Now we have a kerosene heater, fireplace and oil lamps for these times. We shut off all the rooms other than the living room and camp out there. But we're limited to eating food that can be heated over the kerosene heater and no running water. Not a pleasent time. Hubby goes crazy without cable. :haha:

    The longest we've been without power was 4 days. Hearing about the hurricane victims having to go so long without power I got to thinking about being in a better position to ride out a long stretch of a blackout. So what's a good place to start to be less dependant on the power company? Any ideas? What would you do first?
    Carol M
     
  2. bare

    bare Head Muderator

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    I'd start of by acquiring a propane stove and getting rid of the electric stove. You can either run it off of portable tanks or lease a big one from your gas company for a reasonable yearly fee. Once you start cooking with gas, you'll wonder why anyone ever invented electric stoves in the first place.

    Then I'd put in a wood stove for heat. We have an electric furnace for backup but our primary heat source is wood...much more economical.

    You can store enough water for emergency uses pretty easily and should.

    Then I guess I'd look for a good generator. I keep two, one 500 watt runs the tv and satelitte stuff, because like you, it gets pretty boring without some form of entertainment...that and we're just flat spoiled. We can also use it to run the computer, but not at the same time. I love that little Honda. It runs a good six hours on a half gallon of fuel and is quiet.

    We also have a bigger Honda that I can use to plug the freezers into one at a time for an hour or so to keep stuff frozen or to cool the refrigerator back down. It's only 1500 watts, so can't run a heck of a lot off it at once, but we don't need to. If we needed 'em more often, I'd look into a bigger generator and try to afford one that would run off propane and start a battery bank.

    After all that, I guess I'd invest in a propane water heater.
     

  3. WanderingOak

    WanderingOak Well-Known Member

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    I'd go with a wood burning stove that vents out the fireplace, then get a LP cookstove. You can cook on either. If you plan on using the oven in a LP stove during a power outage, you will need to get the 'old fashioned' type without a 'glow bar' to regulate the temperature. Replacing an electric water heater with gas can be a PITA, so for now, I would just heat water on the wood stove during an outage. Since it sounds like you have an electric well pump, you could either stash a few gallon containers of tap water somewhere, or invest in a hand powered backup. Lehmans.com has a good overview of the technology and sells complete systems.

    Going completely off the grid for your electric needs requires a complete evaluation of your current lifestyle and a sincere willingness to do without certain modern conveniences such as drip cofee makers, microwaves, big screen TVs etc. I've done it before, I could probably do it again, but it's not for everybody. If you go with solar (for example) you will need to count every single watt that you are using, unless you want to completely drain your batteries at 2 AM during a blizzard.


     
  4. bethlaf

    bethlaf Homegrown Family

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    i am gonna tell you what i would do , over say 6 months with say a budget of 2.5 k. i think thats a reasonable budget to work with ( or translates to roughly 500 per mo.)

    ok carol, as others stated , get rid of the electric stove, i promise you with the newer gas stoves with piezo ignition... you will love it ! 200 lbs of propane will keep that burning for most of the year .

    second, get a wood stove/ fireplace insert, just like others said , even if you burn wood in the fireplace now to heat, you will lose most of the heat up the chimeny , a good soapstone wood stove will help you an awfull lot when it comes to wood heating

    3rd, start acclimatizing self to unplugging items when not in direct use , in other words, tv is off, it gets unplugged, same with coffee pot, etc.
    buy wind up alarm clocks. this soudns stupid, i know ,but each plug in alarm clock adds tyo energy use. reduce use reduce dependance reduce bills

    buy new fridge and or freezer . if either one is 10 or more years old
    get a smaller tv. if you have one over 27 inches , youre using nearly double the power !

    change the thermos stat settings , if its hot , set ac up higher, if its cold, set heat lower, even 3 degrees can change your power bill by as much as 10.00 a month !

    turn down the water heater , and put a water heater blanket on it.... look into useing a solar water heater, or at least a DIY water "pre heater" you could also buy one , either way ! or for about 300.00 you can buy a tankless water heater, also wash laundry in cold water !!!!!!! , i promise it will still get stuff clean !
    are you using a water softener? if you are, stop !, they use electricity, and frankly a good under sink filter does the same thing, for a healthier water supply to boot

    switch to flourecent or halogen lights in long term use rooms . living room and kitchem , mainly , beedrooms, if you spend a lot of time in there switch those bulbs as well if like me , the light is on in the bedroom for about 20 minutes a day, then incandescent is just fine


    invest in a small inverter for your car, this will power a lap top, or smaller tv for an hour or two without killing your car battery .
    if youre thinking a small emergency
    only lighting and tv system ,
    you could get a 2 solar panel and 2 batteries , and a small inverter for around 500-700.00
    it wouldnt supply all your needs, but it would power a lamp or two and the tv for a few hours ( longer in daytime, of course)
    theres tons of baby steps to get used to things before going into solar or wind power, if you first accustome yourself to living iwth less convienvece , then when you transition to a solar or wind system , its not such a shocker !

    you could concievably start looking into a small solar panel system , but from what it sounds like you will need a dual system , solar and air , a family has a lot of needs, and it seems like youre not sure where to go from here ...
    check out the companies, and talk to people who have these types of systems .

    look at your usage on your electric bill, what does it say ? how many KW do you use a month ? 5000? 7000?

    could you routinely get it down to less than 4? less than 3? see what you can do the best solar systems and wind systems will be pretty expensive if you need 6-7kw a month
    sizing your off grid system depends on your needs . and expense and size are directly related .


    personally i lived for nearly 2 years without running water or electric, and im here to tell about it , but i wouldnt want to have to do it again .when we did start buildign a solar panel system it was easier to start with , because we hadnt been using electricity for so long we needed smaller to start with . thats a different situation though


    just a few thoughts
     
  5. simpleman

    simpleman Well-Known Member

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    I am originally from North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and ice storms and winter weather cause much mischief there. Electric bills were usually in the three digits most of the time. Plus the occasional outage from downed wires. What I did was to add a woodstove in our living room for supplemental heating. That helped alot to reduce the bills. Also, we had blown insulation added to the walls and attic.

    If you can, replace your electric stove with a propane or natural gas one. Propane is more logical in my opinion.

    Electrical appliances such as electric frying pans, irons, hair dryers, etc draw a tremdous about of energy and will add kilowatts to your bill quite quckly. Avoid using them as much as possible. A/C turned on and off will also add kilowatts to your bill too. Leaving the A/C set at about 78 degrees all the time keeps the house cool but, also eliminates extra wattage needed to cool down a hot house each time you leave and come back in. Living in Florida taught me this as we never turn off our A/C and the bill is a modest $90 dollars in the hottest months here.

    With a water pump your water heating should not be too much as I believe they heat water on the roof top and then return it to a holding tank to be used with the water heater, I think. But, around here most people use them to heat the water in their swimming pools to help defray electricity cost.

    Old timers just hang clothes on a solar powered dryer (clothesline) and save a bundle as it cost little to wash clothes but, a lot to dry them automatically. We wash our clothes in cold water and its pennies a load.

    Converting everything to "off the grid" status would cost you a whole lot of money and unless you plan on years and years of use it would not pay for itself immediately.

    I know a family that uses windpower to run their generator. But, he keeps gasoline for his other generator on windless days. He built the house this way and is "off the grid" completely. He has woodstoves in several rooms of his house and the electricity that he uses runs two computers for his business. But, the cost of such a feat was more expensive that the cost of the dwelling that he built!

    I would suggest a few minor adjustments instead of an entire conversion to see if you can reduce consumption.

    Ernest
     
  6. designer

    designer Well-Known Member

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    [/QUOTE]look at your usage on your electric bill, what does it say ? how many KW do you use a month ? 5000? 7000?
    could you routinely get it down to less than 4? less than 3? see what you can do the best solar systems and wind systems will be pretty expensive if you need 6-7kw a month sizing your off grid system depends on your needs . and expense and size are directly related .
     
  7. Mitakola

    Mitakola New Member

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    When I got a $150 utility bill, I decided it was time to cut some power somewhere. First thing we cut was the water heater. We turn it on only a few times a week to shower or whatever and keep it off the rest of the time. Just by doing this, my bill went down $40. Then we cut the dryer. My husband built be the best clothesline ever and we have not used the dryer since. If it rains, we wait to wash. If it rains a long time....days on end, I hang them over the shower rod or wherever.

    We also built a simple washer by the clothesline. I do my laundry one day a week and the washer outside is good old muscle powered. Hubby started helping me with the laundry and it is now good quality time together and we love it.

    I pick one day a week to be our non electric day. We have no TV, lights, PC and such for 24 hours. We leave the power on only for the freezer and fridge. On this day we cook outside and use the kerosene lamps. I hand quilt and hubby gets yard work done, or we both read after chores. My granddaughter thinks this is the grandest thing in the world and always wants to spend the night on that 24 hour period.

    We live in a trailer and it gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter. I do my cooking at night in the summer, especially baking the bread. In the winter, I start cooking early. This don't save much on heat and air I am sure, but....every little bit helps. My granddaughter has some serious health problems and we cannot cut the heat and air off completely.

    I cook alot outside on a fire, winter and summer. Make stews in my fire pit with a dutch oven, these last for days. Always cut unused lights off. Light fixtures that use 2-3 light bulbs....only put one it it.

    All of this don't sound like much....but our bill averages $30 a month now....year round. AND.....we still use the electric heat and air.
     
  8. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    'No gas lines in the area'. No choice, propane it is. Talk to the propane company first. They will sometimes cut you a real deal on propane appliances if you rent one of their tanks and have them fill it. But of course you will still want to compare prices with Lowes or whatever store you use.

    Do not get a propane stove with a glow bar in the oven. It pulls a tremendous amt of power and you won't be able to use your oven in a power outage.

    If you are mainly trying to cover yourself for a power outage, the cheapest way to go is to get a battery charger and several deep cycle batteries. Plug the charger into the house current and the batteries will be charged when the lights go out. Get yourself an inexpensive multimeter to check the charge on the batteries. When the charge drops you can hook them to your vehicle and recharge them. This would not be a long term solution, but will work ok for occasional short term usage. I would get hubby a small 12v dc tv or dvd player. My dd has a dvd player that pulls very little power and will run off 12v. You can also hook some 12v flourescent lights to run off your batteries.

    If your power normally only goes down in the winter you can put groceries from the freezer into ice chests and put them into an unheated shed or garage to stay frozen. You can set jugs of water outside to freeze and put them in the fridge to keep it cold.
     
  9. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member

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    How about a power feedbac solar system? Runs about $5k for starters and any surplus you generate is meter charged to your utility company. If you need more power demand it comes off the grid. One family I know who did this paid for the solar system within 5 years and most months recieve about !0 to 15 dollars from the utility company. during real hot or real cold months the family may have to pay 10 to 20 dollars. Not bad for a home that used to have 90 to 200 dollar a month utility bills.
     
  10. daeve

    daeve Well-Known Member

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    Shrek,

    You got any links or company names for the system these folks have? I know I can use Google but am interested in the brand(s) that you have personal experience with.

    TIA
    Dave
     
  11. Leay

    Leay Well-Known Member

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    We also have electric heat. No vents in this house :waa: We have a woodstove that we use all winter. My SO built a small (Approx 3'X3') solar panel and that will keep the blower going on the woodstove and also the TV and lights in the living room for a few hours at night. He's in the process of building another one so we can hook the upstairs lights up to it. He traded an old laptop computer for an inverter and he's lucky as he works for a power company, so he gets all the batteries that he needs free. They change them out every couple of years and there is nothing wrong with them.
    My fridge just sucks the electric as it's pretty old so I'm saving for a new energy efficient one. Our electric runs about $60.00/month in the summer and $90.00/month in the winter. We both work 12 hour days so we have the wall heater set at about 55 degrees for when the wood stove runs out during the day.
    All in all, we're pretty happy with this set-up.
    Leay
     
  12. seraphima

    seraphima Active Member

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    Keeping convenience but cutting down on power usage can be as easy and simple as investing in a manual egg-beater, can opener, a good set of knives, a wood drying rack for clothes (or a clothesline!), or a carpet sweeper. Such simple tools are effective and use only human power to operate. They can be bought new or used, as they are often to be found at thrift stores and garage sales.

    Other useful tools and gadgets include treadle sewing machines (not to mention a good hand-sewing tool box!), hand operated crank washers and laundry wringers, manual lawnmowers, food-drying racks made of screen or basketwork, grain grinders and meat grinders, pressure cookers, canning equipment, etc.

    Insulated window coverings to keep heat in or out, improved building insulation (lots of ways to do this) and how you site your house to take advantage of solar gain and shade are all parts of it.

    One interesting thing to look at is how many objects in your home have those little red lights on which signal that they are 'instant on'. See how many of those you can unplug- they are a big drain! (if you don't use the stereo often, unplug it!)

    Old refrigerators, freezers and washers (But NOT dryers) can be made more efficient by the use of a PowerSaver. Do a web search.
     
  13. peanutgreen

    peanutgreen Well-Known Member

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    Try unplugging everything in your house (except fridge). Then see if there's some other way to accomplish a task without the electronic device. Example: Hair dryer is unplugged so you let hair dry naturally. Stereo is unplugged, sing to yourself. TV is unplugged, play a game with the family. For those things that you do need that take power like alarm clock, try to replace them gradually with things that don't-keywind alarm clock. For those things that can't be easily replaced, try to find a more efficient type; incandescent lighbulbs replaced by compact flourescent bulbs. You will find many more ways to save when you really start looking.
     
  14. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    www.homepower.com
    more systems than you can shake a stick at.
    BooBoo
     
  15. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Samsung makes an LCD computer monitor/tv reciever.Not cheap but 120 volt and 12 volt,very high quality.I dont think there is more efficient tv than LCD,though I may be wrong,dont know anything about plasma.Radio shack has a dvd thats 12v/120 volt also,its the cyberhome 300.
    I have both these items and can vouch for the quality.
    BooBoo
    www.newegg.com
    to see monitors and other electronics.
     
  16. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member

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    Daeve,
    I will try to contact my aquaintence to find the brand name of the system he installed. I do know that it was one sponsored by his electric company as he secured the loan through them to initially purchase the system.
     
  17. designer

    designer Well-Known Member

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    Would this be dangerous? I've heard that people with generators must completely dissconnect from the grid to prevent freeding back into the grid during outages. Because people working on the lines could be killed. If you were on on solar and connected feeding back into it, how would you know there was an outage so you could dissconnect?

    Thanks for the suggestions, I think I will attack the big energy hogs one at a time for replacement over time. I deffinantly have allot of those "red light stays on" when it's off things. Do you all hang out clothes in the winter? Do they get dry or just freeze? I could cut down a bunch if I could get DH to turn off the tV. Woke up this morning and once again he's asleep on the couch with the cable and TV going.
     
  18. Mid Tn Mama

    Mid Tn Mama Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Shrek was that in AL or TN? Were they working with TVA?
     
  19. Janon

    Janon 993cc Geo Metro

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    Auto-Disconnect switch. Basically a device which knows when there is utility power. These same switchs are what is used to automatically start/stop generators when the utility power goes off/on.

    Any way you slice it, alternative energy systems cost a small fortune to implement... and will only work if you're willing to modify your lifestyle to use the absolute minimum amount of electricity.

    cheers,