Off grid power Systems....Affordable???

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by fordy, Sep 16, 2004.

  1. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ................I've been looking at living off the grid in whatever state I endup choosing to purchase land . So, it seems to minimize the cost of a land purchase you are compelled to find property that is somewhat remote and therefore the power, water , and phone availability is not readily available.
    ................So , if you minimize the cost of land then , hopefully the money saved should make it possible to setup housekeeping powered by a self sufficient solar , battery system . So , I'm looking for those folks who have already evaluated the feasibility of this situation, who have Installed a ysytem , and how do those that HAVE a system feel it is working out for YOU????thanks , fordy... :eek: :)
     
  2. Nevada

    Nevada Voice of Reason Supporter

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    I've looked at the same idea, but seem to be able to find land near power more inexpensively. Hopefully someone here can change my mind.

    Solar is expensive. Normally you can figure about $3.50 per watt, but I have heard of getting it down to around $2.00 per watt with factory seconds. Since the needs will be 5,000 to 10,000 watts for a normal house, you don't have to be a math genius to know that it will be very expensive, and that is before looking at charger/inverter, batteries, and a backup generator for extended cloudy days.

    I know people who have success with hydro-electric, but I don't have that luxury around where I live. Wind never seems to pan-out for people.

    The least expensive is a generator/battery setup. When the generator runs the batteries are taking a full charge. Hopefully you can keep the generator run time down to 1 to 2 hours per day.
     

  3. 12vman

    12vman Offgridkindaguy

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    Hi Fordy..

    The secret to solar power is to stay as small as possible with your power needs. Forget a.c. powered things except for the ones that make life easier for short periods of time. Like a sweeper or a blender. Fridges should be gas or propane. Lighting for the most part should be kerosene or gas or low voltage-wattage lights.

    I have 256watts of panel with (4) golf cart batteries, a C-40 charge controller, misc. wiring and stuff and my system is under 3k total. I have everything I need to survive. You must downsize your lifestyle to afford solar.

    You would be amazed what you can do with 12v.d.c.... :D
     
  4. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ....................Here are the conclusion(s) that i have arrived at from my research so far......It is TOO costly to TRY to setup a System of say around 10,000 watts and have it powered by a solar, battery bank , wind charger system. So, what to do , Well , My tenative plan is to ...(1)procure a 7.5 kw, Onan Diesel genset that should have a useful service life of arounf 15,000 operational hours if regular maintenance is performed . This will be the Main Source of power for Microwave , washer , dryer , large electric appliances , and any other fairly large wattage requirements . (2) To complement this system you would need a solar , Windgen, battery bank, inverter\controller system of around 4k watts for short term loads like the fridge , microwave , water well . (3), then , there would be the intermediate term (say no longer than 1 hour time frame loads) such as Microwave cooking , washer dryer needs , etc. Then , if you were needing to run a window unit during the summer and maybe some of the other items for short periods the controller would automatically engage the Diesel genset to complement the passive system as well as recharge the batt's whole running . I , believe that a system such as the above , could be setup for around 15k if you didn't have to have new equipment. It, isn't going to be cheap. The ONAN 7.5 kw, genset (new) is 7k. But , it will last for 10 to 15 years if well cared for . ....fordy... :eek: :)
     
  5. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ........................

    .............Yes , I agree. You can see from my above post that I completely leftout , propane. Dumb, dumb , dumb!!!!!Well , back to the drawing board . Have you ...or...do you have any of the Xantrex inverter\controller equipment???It, looks to be the Best , but there maybe others that i don't know about . Do, you know who makes a Controller\Inverter that brings everthing together and manages all the subsystems?????.fordy... :confused: :eek:
     
  6. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    To be solar and not pay 50,000 or so,you need to look at the appliances.A conventional freezer/refer/AC is out of the question.But refer/freezer that can run on just a couple panels are out there,at 1000+ a pop.You eliminate wall warts and phantom loads.Your well is on its own solar pump or windmill.CRT screens are out,its LCD.The trick is to get the equipment and design a house to the specs needed,passive solar and such.

    But to run a home like a tract home of 2000 sq/ft and just switch from grid to solar,50-75 grand.In Ca right now,you can get about half back.If youre a business,with the tax credits you can get 2/3 back,thats IF you are intertied to the grid.Folks may have more current numbers on this than I do.

    Inverters-Xantrex is good and most have some nice features with chargers and start,BIL has one thats flawless,nephews failed twice.Outback and prosine are good too,no chargers though.Pure sine wave is the way to go,mod sine wave will run most computers,TVs and sats,but not work on anything with a digital clock,some small chargers for comps. and such,and no laser printers.

    My small system with 8 L16 batts,a 2000 watt heart inverter,modified sine wave/200 amp charger,a RV solar 20 amp charge controller and just (2) 75 monocrystalline watt panels retailed about 3 GRAND! I got it a couple years old second hand for 1200 bucks or so,got real lucky on that,some fellow moving back to city from an isolated ranch.

    www.homepower.com
    Bimonthly read,follow it a year and you will know enough to get going correctly.
    www.partsonsale.com
    You cant beat the prices there,and Ive been to the store in Victorville,nice folks and sell at the price they quote.HONEST service too.
    BooBoo
     
  7. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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  8. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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  9. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

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    In most cases if you have commerical power availabe to your home, Solar will never be cost effective. When you have NO commerial power near by or have to bear the cost of bringing it to your land, Solar is then a cost effective option.

    In most cases unless you have an unlimited budget. The biggest distractor to having solar power is that YOU as a consumer of power need to change how you use it. Buying appliances and electrical devices that are solar fiendly.
     
  10. 12vman

    12vman Offgridkindaguy

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    My C-40 charge controller is made by Xantrex. I also have a C 12 controller that I used untill I bought my new panels. Never had any problems with either one. Very good products...

    I don't use a controller-charger. I have a 2800w generater and a big battery charger like one used in a auto repair garage. It will dump 40 amps into the batteries when needed. I have $400 in the generater (new) and $100 in the battery charger. That's around the same amount one would spend for a charger/controller but say if the controller side would fail,the whole unit is down for the count. I keep them seperate for that reason..

    A.C. loads..I don't have many. I operate this laptop on a cheap inverter that I bought at Chinamart for $30 and been using it for a couple years now. I also charge battery powered hand tools from it too. I can operate my blender, mixer, any small thing under 400 watts with no problem. I also have a 1200 watt inverter connected at the battery for the larger stuff like the vacume cleaner or the microwave. Beyond that, everything is operated on 12 V.D.C. including water pump, TV, stereos, curling irons and blow drier for the little lady that puts up with me..hehe. I also have an answering machine/cordless phone connected to my battery not using an inverter..

    Sometimes you must think outside of the box. Air condititioning isn't a dead issue either..

    http://mb-soft.com/solar/saving.html

    I plan to increase my panel array this fall. I oversized my charge controller just for this reason. I can add panels and batteries without tearing everything up. I figure with my current power demands and adding to my system, I will almost never use a generator for a back-up...

    Like I said before.. You would be amazed what you can do with 12 volts D.C...
     
  11. tkrabec

    tkrabec Well-Known Member

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    I've been wanting to make the change from grid to solar for a while, but it is very expensive. You either spend a fortune on panels or less by buying efficient appliances (about a grand more each). I've decided to change just lighting and fans and probably the alarm clocks over to solar. Then make the conversion on applicanes like stove, dryer and hot water to LP and Solar(thermal).

    Look for states with solar buy down policies. Florida had a $5/PV watt buydown program awhile ago, they still have a no tax on solar equipment (Currentyl 6%).

    If you are planning on going solar look at getting a large sistern and then a gas pump or elec pump to fill the cistern, a large pressure tank and a small efficient pressure pump for water.

    Also look at earth sheltering your house or geo-thermal heating and cooling. The ground temp/water temp is pretty stable year round. In the summer it's normally quite a bit cooler than the air and in the winter much warmer.

    -- Tim
     
  12. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    The one thing that I really needed ac for in excess of what my small solar system could do, was to run the vacuum. Even a smaller genny has trouble running it. I'd rather just not have carpet and dispense with the need for a vacuum. If you live in a dry climate you can buy (or build) an evaporative cooler that runs on dc. We had dc fans that worked well. I normally had two small ones running, one for DD and one for me.

    The key to using an alternative power system is to reduce the amt of power you need to run your home. A gen set seems to be the cheap way to go, but I've known a number of families that used one exclusively and it turns out to be much more costly than reducing usage and having a solar system.

    You can start where ever you live now to reduce your usage of power. Compact flourescent lights have come way down in price and produce much more light for the amt of power used. Propane is what you should consider for refrigeration unless you are able to make your own super efficient dc refrigerator. For entertainment there are some good stereos and tv/vcr/dvd players that run on dc. A dc pressure pump with a pressure tank and larger cistern tank works well if you haul water and/or do a roof catch or if you have a slow solar dc pump on a well. AC well pumps pull an awful lot of power and need a really good inverter. I stopped using a microwave years ago and really don't miss it. Food doesn't taste all that good cooked in the microwave anyhow. Start making coffee with water boiled on the propane stove and you don't need an electric coffee pot. Laptops run just fine on dc. You can make the best toast in a skillet on the propane stove, don't need a toaster. Nearly everything a blender or food processor does can be done by hand or with a manual processor. Hot water bottle instead of heating pad. If you need the bed heated then you can get a dc bed warmer. Hot water heater should be propane and or solar. Power tools will need either a big system or a gen set. You will want to make sure pipes are protected so you don't need heat tape for them, but if you are in a cold climate you might want to put the tape on any way just in case you need it. You'd prob want to run the genny to thaw the pipes and top up the batteries at the same time.

    Whether you use solar or genny, you will need a good set of batteries and probably an inverter. Solar requires a charge controller.

    You can live quite comfortably on a system that costs much less than 5K.
     
  13. BCR

    BCR Well-Known Member

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    Fordy--Sunelco has a great informative catalog. Course, it costs $5, but I think it would be worth it to you to see what all you can do. There are panels that can manage the whole thing, there are pre-made packages, there is a great deal of info on batteries alone.

    Backwoods solar is having a sale on Xantrex inverters and other stuff. An extensive catalog available online here: http://www.backwoodssolar.com/

    Also, as you probably know, Backwoods Home Magazine has lots of info online and an alternative energy CD. For others who didn't know, check it out here: http://www.backwoodshome.com/energy.html

    Every now and again I price going solar. What with the maintenance, resale issues, my limited abilities, initial costs, etc. we end up staying on the grid. I think some day we will build the little retreat cabin and we will use solar there. If I were looking at your setup for me ($15K for about 15 years use) and factoring in the time and attention solar power will require of the owner, I would stay on grid because our bill is under $100 a month at the most ever.
     
  14. Janon

    Janon 993cc Geo Metro

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    As others have mentioned, you'd really have to live a minimalist type lifestyle to make full-time solar even semi-practical... and it won't be very convenient (or comfortable if you're in a warmer climate). If people on the grid conserved and used as little energy as those who are on solar, their electricity bills would be very small indeed. Yes, there usually are monthly charges for electricity even if you don't use any energy, and yes your land tax will usually be higher on land which has electricity... but in the end, grid usually wins.

    I had a 24' motorhome which I spent lots of time in.. 12vdc (dual batteries), propane, Onan genset. Yes, with the addition of some simple solar power, enough propane and a simple supply of water (spring, etc.)... you could make a go of it, but I think the inconvenience far outweighs the savings. If you're a true minimalist by nature, simple solar in a simple system may work out well. Once you start with the "high efficiency" appliances, diesel generator, large solar systems... you'll needs lots of money.

    Also, "cost of living" is dependant on many things... electricity and maybe land are only a few of those things.

    cheers,
     
  15. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ..................I , just want to Thank everyone for all Your Knowledgeable INput on this Question . I am still several Months away from being able to sell my place here in Taxes(Texas). My Order of Priorities is Thus(1)Land ...hopefully in Wyoming around Thermopolis.The elevation is around 4300 feet which is ideal. The winters are much less severe than in other parts of the state . July is the HOT month during which it can get to the upper 90's , but it drops to the MID 40's at night ...AND...the Humidity is usually in the mid 30's . So , first comes the land . (2)Next . the comes the home structure . I'm thinking of building with PIPE as the basic structural component because it is alot cheaper than Wood and awhole LOT stronger. I'm NOT going to have a Conventional slab which will save me lots of money. Also , I have welder , and I know how to work with pipe so That won't be a problem. Actually , it will be a fairly UGLY super structure prior to the "skin" being installed , but it will be hell for stout when I get finished .
    ..................I , really would prefer to have a hookup to conventional Power but I'm going to have a limited budget so we'll see how this all plays out. And , I would really like to build a Log type home but I would be lucky to get the support structure UP before I ran out of money...I've got to few dollars chasing too many needs . This going to be fun when I can really get started. Thanks to all who contributed their knowledge and idea's , ...fordy... :eek: :)
     
  16. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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  17. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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  18. Allan Mistler

    Allan Mistler Just a simple man

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    Fordy,
    I remebered reading an article in Mother Earth News years ago where a family used an old Ford Pinto engine along with an AC and DC generator to keep the batteries charged up and at the same time heat hot water while providing AC for the well pump and washing machine. I could never find the article again until the memory of the Ford Pinto allowed me to do a search after reading your article. Anyway, for the lowdown on how this family did it...

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/index.php?page=arc&id=3410

    Thanks for jogging my (old) memory and I wish you luck!
     
  19. sisterpine

    sisterpine Goshen Farm Supporter

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    Greetings from Montana! HI Fordy...how exciting that you get to start over in a new place. Wyoming is a beautiful state! Of course not as pretty or as cold as my Montana! We have only solar,small wind and gas generator power. We have installed 4-120 watt kyocira (sp) solar panels, 1 air 403x wind generator, have a 2000 watt heart freedom inverter and a 4000 watt generac gasoline generator. We seem to have all the power we need for this computer, television, cell phones, lights, vacuums, sat dish for tv and computer and lights and wash and dry machine. we do have all propane appliances incl fridge (old servel i got for free and fixed) and we heat with wood. We would maybe be on the grid if we could be, but that is not an option for us. we paid 2000.00 for the solar panels, about 700 for the wind gen incl tower etc, 850 for the inverter, about 600 for batteries, another 500 for wire and odd parts, electrical panel etc. about 200 for charge controller. That adds up to what..about 4800-5000 bucks. quite a bit to spit out all at once, but we did ours over a couple of years. when we lived in town and were very conservative our power bill ran about 100 per month here in montana. So at that rate it will take us 50 months total to recover the cost of the generated power we make. Not bad at all i dont think! good luck on your new exciting adventure! kathleen