Solar House Challenge

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by moonwolf, Jun 8, 2005.

  1. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    Here is the scenario.

    Foundation for the house 28' x 49' to build on....just under 1400 sq. ft.
    One story simple design.
    Climate in zone 3 northern Minnesota latitude
    Limit funds for rebuilding to $50,000 on the prepared foundation.
    Grid power is available within 100ft. to hookup. but the desire is to go solar/wind power or combination thereof.

    Needs for power consumption (minimal):
    deep well pump
    the usual electonics....computer, 27" t.v., small stereo system 200 watts maximum, , kitchen 800 watt microwave, occasional use of kitchen appliances such as power mixer, oven and burner possible propane if power consumption for off-grid is too great
    dishwasher?...maybe not feasable for off-grid?)
    furnace blower motor (hot water tank and heat from outside wood furnace)
    room lighting

    I'm guessing the setup to go off-grid somewhere about $15,000.
    Would you also do a grid hookup? ...which might be about $1000 or less?
    Hydro (electicity) bills average about $150 mo.
    Figure by off grid power use would decrease the hydro bill (or eliminate if if no hydro was hooked in) by about $100/mo. .....that's about $2500/yr.....thus, payback for going off-grid about 7 or 8 years. Batteries warranty of 15 to 20 years before need of replacement.
    Am I missing something, or is this projections out to lunch? :rolleyes:
     

  2. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    yes, I've accessed tons of info on-line and direct from the local solar sales horses mouth. The only thing I'm missing is someone's actual living experience with what they are using and what they actually spent! I am to visit a few local residences both remote off-grid and gridded. There is a lot of seemingly daunting opinions out there, so It'll be some deliberation before I make up my mind on this.
     
  3. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

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    Hi moonwolf

    I was offgrid for 13 years.

    You've got power within a 100'? My advice? Hookup to the grid. Unless you're willing to divorce yourself from modern luxuries...anything that uses 110 motors...iceboxes, freezers, washers, dryers, microwaves, etc. Now you can get a lot of dc appliances that get close to their ac cousins, but they are usually a lot smaller. You can get low usage ac appliances, but you still have to generate a lot of energy to run those babies...

    If all you need is lights and radio, and limited usage on a notebook computer, you could get by with a small system for several thousand. Start adding big toys and you're system has to grow exponetially.

    Remember, with most solar/wind/hydro systems (including inverters and batteries and all the fancy control equipment you'll need) your basically paying for 20 years worth of electricity, all at one time... your solar panels should last 20 years, but I wouldn't bet on your wind and hydro systems making it that long (moving parts wear out :waa: ). Guarantee your batteries won't make it that long, even if you buy the cadillac of battery brands.

    My advice??? Hookup to the grid. When your wiring your home, use the largest wire you can manage, so that in the future if you go offgrid, you can run dc voltage through your wall circuits, to power dc flourescents, computers, radios,tv, whatnot. Add solar panels, in a modular fashion, more batteries,etc. Get a decent size controller, and a medium sized inverter. You might even have dual circuits in your home (I do) so you can utilize your off grid power simultaneously with your grid power.... Use the grid for the energy hogs, the off grid for the low voltage stuff...this way you wont have to oversize your system....

    The guy over at Daycreek went through the process of tying his solar panels into the electrical grid, with the idea of getting paid for his solar electricity...the link is http://www.daycreek.com/ ...

    anything specific, just holler...I've had just about every monkeywrench imaginable thrown at me...off grid wise, anyways...

    texican
     
  4. bgood

    bgood Member

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    Hi moonwolf,

    I don't see you being able to do it with your budget. If you take $15,000 for off-grid power, that leaves $35,000 for construction, or $25 per square foot. Unless your doing all the work yourself, and even if you are, you'll be hard pressed to build much for that. I would build using hay bales for your outer walls, which gives you really great insulation, something like r-60 and hook to the grid. Get a couple of wood burning stoves instead of the solar panels, and that will help keep your utility bills way down. Oh, and in your list of kitchen appliances, you forgot the main one, you refrigerator. Good luck!
     
  5. sisterpine

    sisterpine Goshen Farm Supporter

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    hmmm interesting...we are totally off grid, solar and propane (frige, freezer, cooking , clothes drying, water heating) and wood burning for heat. we totally built our 1100 sq ft house ourselves and i am pretty certain we did the whole banana for less than 40 K. The house is all finished except for some inside trim work and that 40 does not include the well! You gotta be conservative and we sometimes use a gasoline generator to help charge batteries during prolonged cloudy periods. Could also use more solar and will get them eventually. It can be done if you are willing and able.
     
  6. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    thanks for your sharing your experience with solar, sisterpine. It's good to know that you can actually live fairly comfortably off grid and using all those convenient appliences.
    Your situation is probably closer to what I am considering, and to hook up to grid is the best option, though saving energy bills to pay for the solar is what I like better. Also, there are hydro power outages common at the LEAST convenient times around here which use generator power occasionally anyway. That generator power could be used to recharge batteries instead!
    How much generator juice (fuel) do you use doing that as an average?
     
  7. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Too many unknowns here. How many kilowatt hours per month are you using in the $150/month billing? We were totally off grid for 12 years at a former house that we built from scratch, then moved to an existing older farmhouse at the edge of town, 100 miles farther north, and are currently producing about 50% or more of our own power, mostly PVs although we do have a windgenerator (which was built in the 1940s and we have been using since 1977 or so, and it should last another 50 years barring a major accident). Our former site was much windier, and back then PVs were much more expensive.
    The main thing you want to do is build a compact energy efficient house, to minimize your heating/cooling needs and to maximize comfort. I would consider straw bale, if you do the labor yourself. I would also consider a grid tie PV/wind system, if your grid connection is cheap or free, and then gradually add PVs or wind generators as you can afford it.
    Dishwasher, stove and oven probably couldn't be electric with an off grid system that you could afford.
    I have gotten 10+ years of use out of used telephone company batteries, so I think that 20+ years from new batteries properly taken care of should be no problem. It is the "proper care" that is hard to learn, and many people ruin a set or 2 of batteries learning what is critical in battery care.

    Jim, in Wisconsin, using wind and PV generated electricity since 1977
     
  8. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    more info to reiterate.

    Re. the house construcion.....2 x 6 fully insulated and draft free with 2" exterior styrofoam isulation. Heat source again is outside wood buring boiler that heats the water and half the basement portion with radiant heat, so the only consideration is power to drive the small 1/16hp. water pump and the fan forced furnace 1/5 hp. motor. A large south facing sunroom with E Glass triple windows for maximum heat retention...in other words, fitted for the climate here.

    Re: battery capacity via 24 x 2 volt system of the 'cadillac' batteries (Surette KS21) warranted for 15 years usage
    Power Regulator 45 amp

    Re: current usage via grid power is what the usual might expcect...computer, minimal t.v. time, clothes washer, freezer, fridge, microwave, home lighting, oven is electric as is the stove top currently, dishwasher, clothes dryer used minimally ir at all, submersable well pump....
    The system noted above I am looking at has about 55,000 watt storage with use of 8 solar panels of 165 watts each.
     
  9. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    In some areas,having your "offgrid" power system hooked up to the grid can get you a 50% rebate or more from the state.I would grid tie for a thousand bucks.

    BooBoo
     
  10. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    That's not the case in Ontario...at least not yet.
    The best we can get currently is a savings of the 8% provincial sales tax on certified renewable energy products.
    Also, it's an expensive thing to 'tie in' the grid for reversing the meter and 'sell' back power. The equipment and electician code allowing that runs a few thousand. Not the time to do it for me just yet, and maybe never. If you had a multi system (expensive) solar and wind power generation system in place, then maybe would be the time.