A friday thought dump ( NO POLITICS! Huzzah!)
I have talked about my goals in building, at least hinting at my designs here, in detail in person with some. I know of a couple of people within this great country, that have done what I intend, at least to some extent, and are doing so successfully. One even wrote a book detailing his ideas for building his “Cabina” as well as some other ideas for getting off grid and independent of ‘the system’. I may not hold all the ideas he presents with the same rigor or exuberance he does, but the intent of getting independent and self reliant are the same. A lot of my desire, is not in prepping in general, but in getting off-grid specifically. I don’t think we “Need” the grid. I think a family should be able to generate all they need, as needed, instead of having huge surpluses floating around on a grid that is fallible at best, inefficient on its best day, and decades behind the curve of technology. (yes, our current grid is nearly a hundred years old, and the ‘updates’ are mere band-aids to keep it going.)
Here is my plan, and some of the reasoning behind my choices. The advantages of going off grid are beyond the scope of this writing, as well as the difficulties of doing so. The pro’s and con’s are each there, but I think in the end, off-grid is much more sustainable than our current power scenario.
So, this is my plan for one person with a technical lifestyle.
Small Cabin in the woods. Small footprint for efficiency, not just in power use, but heating and cooling, maintenance and for some other not so tangible reasons (no space to accumulate ‘stuff’ means less money spent accumulating ‘stuff’ means more money for other more important things or even less need of money in general.)
For power, I have already started accumulating (and am using) the needed materials for solar, and am working on my wind system. The system in house will be a hybrid one of DC/AC, with lighting on DC and some other minor stuff on AC as needed. This makes the whole thing more efficient without the need for continual inversion (read: inefficient process) I will add to the storage/inverter system as my needs grow, as well as incorporating some other projects to reduce my need for electricity as I can. I won’t be able to get rid of it completely as there are tools that are not easily replaced for non electric versions (like the laptop I am using, Analog calculators and typewriters work, but they don’t publish information on the web! I am not going full Cro-magnon until the grid fails utterly, and even then, why fall back to stone-age times when I generate all I really need without reliance on a system prone to failures)
Now my shop is a completely different story, at least at the beginning. I have tools that are very specifically high draw use. My current system is not capable of handling those without retiring quickly. (it could start and run my welder, but for only a few minutes and likely damage to the batteries. No thanks. Next plan) Even my machine tools are not really oriented for anything except electricity at this stage. (that is a simple but expensive transition to make, the only real trick being ‘power source’ at this stage, Options abound!) While I may eventually be able to come up with an off-grid electric system that could handle them, I think my money would be better utilized in changing over to a system that would use the old “line shaft” system. I will still need electric for my MIG welder but that could be as simple as making an engine generator/welder setup as can be purchased. (I would rather make my own thank you, tempting as those units are. The advantage of making my own is I get to choose what makes the revolving parts go round-n-round. Gasoline, Diesel, NG, Steam? Any guess right now is likely )
Other considerations: Using solar in ways NOT making electricity. IE heating of water, using that to store heat in items (flooring?) Using the same process at night to cool things off and storing that heat difference for use during the day? Using solar heat to draw air OUT of the house (through a tunnel under the house) to cool it during the summer. Another one is solar in form, though not outright function: Heating with wood. The trees use sunlight to grow (storage of energy) and I cut and burn them to heat (release of energy) Inefficient in the grand scheme of things, but completely renewable and not dependent on a grid system to function. Complicated in thought, but simple and efficient once worked out correctly. My intent is to remove as much of my ‘footprint’ from the systems everyone takes for granted. I realize that it means more work for myself, but the payback is confidence, lack of ‘indebtedness’, and some other aspects I am finding myself at lack of words for. Make no mistake, I do understand that I am still reliant on some aspects of our current world and its functions. I know that I won’t be able to make a PMA from scratch without utilizing at least some materials outside of my current realm of craftsmanship. I can’t make wire of either sort, I can’t produce resin-ed blades for my wind generator ( I want PEAK performance, something I would NOT get with homemade blades, Not yet anyway Even the PVC blades aren’t as efficient as some designs.) (Keep in mind, I do know how they make them, I just don’t have all the tools or materials to do so. No dies, no resin, no carbon-fiber cloth or even glass-cloth. Cheaper to purchase outright than outfit my shop to produce them one-off)
Realizing that many of the ideas I have make my home more expensive in all actuality than a commercially built home now (by cost/ft2 ratios) (BLEH! I hate those cookie cutter homes!) I am taking my time in getting it right FIRST. I don’t want an experiment in action. Some of the ideas I brought up, are either experiments done elsewhere, OR stuff that I am playing with now while in hiatus of build. It may only take me a hour to set up a small experiment and let it run all day to see what results I achieve. Scaling of the idea is done empirically at this stage, at least for the most part, but the results are very tangible.
Funny thing is, I was approached about doing these very things as a business model in the recent past. I am still tempted by that idea, but I really want to push into my own world FIRST before I go and start trying to sell these things to others. Greedy? Nope, I just don’t want to try and sell a potentially defective product. I want the bugs worked out first. (scaling to other needs is easy if the product works!)
The upside, as I see it right now. I have been off grid for over a year now. I have not had one utility bill arrive in the mail. That is not to say I have not had a bill, I do: the difference is, I pay up front, not later after usage. My generator uses gasoline. I don’t run it very often unless the sun is not on my side that week. That is an upfront cost, including maintenance. My solar panels and battery storage were up front costs. Maintaining them is work, though it doesn’t cost me anything other than my time. My charge controller was an upfront cost as well. Those upfront costs must be weighed and measured very carefully; you don’t want to be caught on the down by a cheap unit failing when needed most. (ask me how I know THAT one!) Take the time, buy the good stuff as best you can, and figure out what works best. (BTW, Harbor Freight panels may not put out as much wattage per ft2, but they DO put out voltage when the others are gasping for air. I have even seen 1 amp on a full moon night! Pay what you can, but don’t discredit all of the cheap stuff off the bat either.) Hybrid systems are more resilient than straight forward systems. I recommend a hybrid solar/wind or solar/micro-hydro or even a hybrid of all three if you are fortunate enough to have that ability (location location location) I do NOT recommend a grid tie system. The idea is to get away from the grid, not just “ease” the dependency. Cold turkey is the only way to go in my opinion when it comes to this monkey on our backs. (and it really pisses off the corporate types that have been selling that dependency. ROFL)