Should we just go Off-Grid?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Joy in Eastern WA, Jun 8, 2004.

  1. Joy in Eastern WA

    Joy in Eastern WA Well-Known Member

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    Well, we received a quote yesterday from the power company on the proposed power line to our new house we will be building this summer. The quote came close to $6k. We have also been researching quite a bit on a solar/wind system and we can get a nice set-up for $4k - $5k more than the costs of having the powerline installed. We will have a propane tank for our cooktop, hot water heater and dryer, so we have some of the big energy hogs using propane instead of electricity. The other energy burners will be the oven and the refrigerator.

    We are in a great region for wind and solar power. The sun shines a long time during the summer months and the wind never stops blowing. Would this system be worth taking a risk?????
     
  2. j.r. guerra in s. tx.

    j.r. guerra in s. tx. Well-Known Member

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    I understand electricity is pretty cheap in the Northwest - around here, pretty close to $1000 per year is the cost of our electricity. So a solar setup would pay for itself within four years.

    I know very little of PV electricity systems, but I know you should be able to get at least 10 - 15 years out of your system, probably only switching out battery from storage bank from time to time. To me, it sounds like the cost is worth it. And no unannounced blackouts - thats nice to know.

    Sounds like it is worth it to me.
     

  3. Thumper/inOkla.

    Thumper/inOkla. Well-Known Member

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    Go for it! we have not regreted it a moment, there are low spots for power during storm systems, but only because we have only 8 batteries right now and our wind genny's are not up yet, it has been easy to adjust our power use to the supply, and it is paid for!
     
  4. kabri

    kabri Almst livin the good life

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    We are planning to be off the grid also at our new property on the Oly Peninsula. It would cost us even more than you were quoted Joy, and the thought of never having to pay an electric bill again feels really good! A combo of wind/solar and batteries should be sufficient for you. Good luck with your decision!
     
  5. sisterpine

    sisterpine Goshen Farm Supporter

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    Joy: if you get all appliances to use propane you will find that you need much less power. we have propane fridge, dryer, cook stove , hot water and solar power. we have a battery bank, 2500 watt inverter and 4 kyocera 120 solar panels as well as 2 air 403 wind generators. we also have a gasoline generator for back up but seldom need it unless i am doing a ton and a half of laundry on a cloudy day. why waste money on power lines that will cost you for both installation as well as a monthly bill! and whoever said power was cheap in the northwest did not know the truth! i used to work for the power company here in montana and it is not cheap any longer and neither is natural gas! good luck to you and yours!
     
  6. Torch

    Torch Well-Known Member

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    If the numbers you give are accurate and you plan on living there for more than a couple of years, absolutely, go for it. I wish I could justify it but the initial start up expenses, given my family's size, would be prohibitive. After some of the kids go we might be able to justify it. By then, who knows, fuel cells might be the ticket.

    Good Luck,

    Michael
     
  7. ajoys

    ajoys Well-Known Member

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    You really need to do a cost benefit analysis.

    Find out how much the system will cost and also the cost of maintenance, battery replacement, panel life etc...... cost of any supplimental power with generator and come up with a yearly cost for the life of the system.

    Then find out how much it will cost to hook up to the grid and what is your yearly electrical usage and cost.

    Then compare. Make sure you are using the same KWhrs/month in both setups.

    From what little knowledge I have from reading various websites and books on solar power... and knowing that electricity is pretty cheap in Washington it is most likely not beneficial from an investment/pay back stand point but you also have to remember no one knows what will happen in the future and the benefit of being self sufficient and off the grid is a benefit that is only worth what the owner perceives it to be.

    Solar only becomes a better option, from a strict monetary point of view, when the cost of hooking up to the grid is a very high amount because it costs more on a yearly basis to generate your own electricity through solar then just paying your local utility rate. Solar is becoming more affordable but still has a very long way to go.

    I have a cousin who lives out in the high desert of california who has a complete solar setup and he was all ready hooked up to the grid when he did it. For him, being self sufficient and not relying on the grid was worth the extra cost. Unless electricity rates go sky high he will never get his money back in savings.

    You could also contact some companies on the web and I am sure they could tell you. They might even have some kind of program that you just fill in the blanks and it does all the calculations for you. It wouldn't be that hard to do, you could even just do it on a spreadsheet.
     
  8. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

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    First think you need to do is determine how much power you need. I wasnt sure from your post if you plan on using an electric oven or not. That would be a big no-no with solar/wind power. You said a nice system $10K-11K? Thats a very low end system. Requirements of course vary by personal needs but buying new and installing yourself, $10K is going to be a basic system and I am not sure if it will meet your needs.. Keep in mind that moving to solar is a much about you changing as it is chaining were your power comes from.You also need to figure in maintenace cost as well as your time to maintain the system.

    Some big ticket items. Inverters to convert from battery to 120v that most home devices uses is going to $2k-$5k. You can get under $4/watt on panels, but 4 100watt panels would cost around $1200. A wind system to generate any good amount of power is going to be $1000 and up depending on what it is mounted on. Location and load will determine how much battery reserve you need but figure another $1000 for for batteries. So thats $8 before you get into mounts, hardware and cables.

    Using the MR solar site as an baseline, some good prices some bad. the 1280watt prepacked system comes in just a little over $11K.
    http://www.mrsolar.com/Merchant2/me...RPS-6-AC&Category_Code=remote&Store_Code=MSOS

    Thats 1280 watts. Can you live with that?

    I say go for it if you can. I would love to have an offthe grid home, but just cant justify the cost.



     
  9. ajoys

    ajoys Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget when you are picking appliances to also do an analysis to see which is the right way to go.

    I know people who bought very expensive refrigerators that use very little electricity and after running the numbers it would of been better to just purchase a cheaper refrigerator and take the money they saved and bought more panels. the extra watts they would of produced from the extra panels was more then the difference between the two refrigerators.

    Propane isn't always the way to go either.

    Also if you are building a new house, it might be more beneficial to spend extra money on the shell of the house to lower your heating and cooling requirements.

    Make sure you run the numbers before deciding. The best choice isn't always the obvious one.

    Besides cooking, heating water and producing electricity they also have solar forced air heaters for your house. A lot can be done with the sun.
     
  10. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ..............You've already received excellent recommendations on the cost\benefit analysis. My thoughts are will your off-grid decision affect the permanent financing of your home, as i don't think you mentioned in your initial post if you were paying cash or seeking a loan. Second , would be the Sale ability of your home with a Grid connection and without be the Same ? If, you are planning on being there along time then any difference in value maynot be as AN important factor as it would be otherwise. In texas, where we run our airconditioners about 7 months out of 12, I would almost BET that an OFF Grid home would NOT be worth as much as an exact duplicate that had a standard grid connection. In the NWest this maynot be the case..........fordy...... :eek: :)
     
  11. Blu3duk

    Blu3duk Well-Known Member

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    since you are not to far from Spokane..... go to Interstate battery and get a price quote on the trojan L-16 batteries..... might save a few dollars on shipping them any distance, our cost as a reseller is about half retail cost....

    you will need a bank suffiicient enough to keep you going during the shorter winter days, most wind gensets will not provise a large enough supply to keep you charged alone, so have a backup fossil fuel genset available, propane that is wired ion on standby might be considered as well.

    I personally would get shed of the idea of using an electric oven on battery power.

    On our wireless broadband towers we use 6 6volt, trojan L-16's, an airex wind generator, and 3 120 watt solar panels, backup genset with battery charger for winter use. with no charging at all, one computer tower with a 300 wat power supply lasts just over 3 days running all the time, this is using an invertor, and a couple of 1 watt amplifiers and another couple of self powered radios as well.....

    For a house my neighor put in 10 batteries, and a 3 panels, and a genset, and he figures to expand his battery bank and his solar panels as needed, but it just himself and his wife, both retired. It does take alot of getting used to not just flipping on a switch and leaving the room, you have to force yourself into a conservation mode, not because it is a precious resouce, but becuase you want to vaccum, oruse a power tool that requires a higher startup useage.

    Off grid is great, even if you forget about the extra problems that occur every once in awhile, cause when the power grid goes down, you still have your lights and your neighbors wonder why they did not get it sooner themselves. Plus side is that some of it is deductable off your taxes, and can be help around tax time.

    one other thing, the biggest problem you may encounter is figuring out just what size you need, the answer is you should of goten the next size up, the fixfor it is it is ALL expandable.
    William
     
  12. Joy in Eastern WA

    Joy in Eastern WA Well-Known Member

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    Wow, thanks for all of the very imformative responses! My DH will be speaking with a fella outside of Spokane about a system for us. He's been around the area for a long time and has set up many homes for off-the-grid living. I would love to visit a couple of the places to see how their set-ups work. It's definitely a coin toss with me on this whole thing. I was wanting to splurge a little bit with our kitchen and wanted all Viking appliances put in with the dual fuel range and their built-in refrigerator. Well, Viking doesn't have a propane fridge and I'm not too keen on a gas oven. So, I would have to change my way of thinking a little bit in order to make this happen.

    This place we are building will be our family home for many years. This is the place we want to hand over to the kids when we pass on. Eighty acres that has and will continue to produce a little income would give our children something to look forward to as they mature. Many plans are in the making for increasing our income with a new greenhouse and small orchard.

    I'll keep you all posted!
     
  13. chickflick

    chickflick Well-Known Member

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    FORDY.......???????
    Why NOT and off grid IN TEXAS worth more than on??? Are you saying alternative power (i.e. solar/wind) can't generate the neede a/c comfort???? Just curious.... (I am a solar power dufus... don't get electric science either !! LOL Thank god I have a hubby willing to learn/study!:):) ;)

     
  14. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ....................Well cf, let me put it in an Electrical perspective....5 tons of Refrigeriated Air will have its own 50 amp\240 breaker. 50 amps x 240 volts =12000 watts. And lets say you have an Electricial Strip Heat installed in your unit....100 amps x 240 volts = 24000 watts. Now you will also have washer\dryer which will have another 50 amp x 240 volt circuit =12000 watts. Now...what haven't we left out....OH Stove...50 amp x 240 volts =12000 watts. ...........Refrig.Air (+) Aux. strip heat..........150x240=36,000 watts,
    (*)you won't normally won't use your strip heat except
    if your normal heat source goes down....
    ...................(2)washer\dryer.........................................12000 watts
    ...................(3)stove, electrical.....................................12000 watts
    ...................(4)Microwave,blender,toaster, bigtv,stero.......24000 watts
    ...................(5)houselights,computers,burgular alarm,misc...24000 watts
    .......................................................Total watts...........______
    108,000 watts
    Normal 200 amp service x 240 volts = 48000 watts, TOTAL... the key is you WON'T be using ALL appliances at the SAME time........To install a Solar\Battery\Wind turbine System to Provide the same amount of Watts will be VERY expensive.......I would LIKe to know what a system like that would cost......fordy... :eek: :)
     
  15. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ...................Joy, why don't you show that PIC ;) of you standing in Snow in your bare feet with a Maurgurita(sp) :p ...to chickflick....i.e....cf, they Probably don't need Airconditioning of any size like we DO down Here in the "Pits of Hell"....fordy... :eek: :)
     
  16. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    My vote is for off grid, in a heartbeat!
     
  17. Joy in Eastern WA

    Joy in Eastern WA Well-Known Member

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    LOL, fordy!!! :D Can you believe my DH is contemplating a heating AND cooling system for the place? We'll need to cool it for a couple of hours maybe two to four times a summer, but he insists that we may need it! Then, on his next breath he's grumbling about how cool it is right now and will the wind ever die down!

    We are getting Vermont Casting's Sequoia ( http://www.vermontcastings.com/about/products/productdetails.php?id=94 ) fireplace that will be placed almost directly in the center of the house. It will give us plenty of comfort when we have those handful of days when the gauge doesn't get above zero.

    We won't have to worry too much about financing the place. The land is paid for and the house is being built with savings as well as a line of credit with the local bank. So, if we do go with a system that's off the grid, it wouldn't effect the financing.
     
  18. Janon

    Janon 993cc Geo Metro

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    Definately pay the $6K and get hooked to the grid. Far less hassle, simpler, lasts longer, far more power, far easier to build a house where there is power available and the value of the property will increase. Once you're hooked to the grid, its pretty much forever.

    When you use 'alternative' sources of electricity, you have to learn to conserve every last bit of power. If folks who are connected to the grid conserved electricity like those off grid, their electricity bill would be next to nothing.

    cheers,
     
  19. HarleysMom

    HarleysMom Well-Known Member

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    I went off grid about 7 years ago. Sure, the initial cost was higher and so the actual cost of each kilowatt of electricity is higher and it takes more awareness of how much you are actually using. But I feel so much better about the electricity that I do use now. I know that I am getting it from a non polluting source and that I am being more self sufficient. I wasn't at all sure I was doing the right thing when I did it but I am so glad now that I did. I have about $12,000 into my system and had to make some changes in lifestyle, but it has all been worth it.
     
  20. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

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    I bake and cater for a living, so here's my two cents:
    As long as you have a convection oven, an all-propane model will be sufficient for almost any baking project, and with the money you'll save on the range by not getting dual fuel, you can buy another panel just for your kitchen (in theory ;) ). You really only have to worry about temp. fluctuations in a propane oven when the unit itself is cheapo or when you don't have convection. Otherwise, it's perfectly fine. Besides, with a Viking, you can pretty much count on stellar performance and techs that can actually fix problems if you have defects or other issues.