So far outside the box you can't even see the box from here.
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Friday, June 7, 2013
Grid and Off-Grid
Take a modern on-grid house and compare it to a modern off-grid house. Day to day life can be almost indistinguishable between the two households. Lights come on at the flick of a switch. Water flows out of faucets. Refrigeration keeps food cold. There's power for music, computers and TVs.
A well designed off-grid house can provide a perfectly normal “modern” life.
Now take the on-grid house and triple the number of people living in it. Perhaps grown children have returned to the old homestead -with their families in tow. It happens all the time. Maybe friends have lost their homes and were taken in. Sure, it's going to be crowded. Everyone will get in each other's way. The electric bill will skyrocket. Fuel use will go up. The water bill will take a big jump. Maybe there's even a sewer fee that has to be paid. All the utilities go up, some by quite a lot.
It's a different story in the off-grid house. Triple the number of people and choices soon become clear. Either drastically reduce personal utility use or run out. Off grid homes are designed and built for their normal load. It's too expensive to built a huge system just on the off chance there might be a later need. Sure, many off-grid houses have backup generators, but they are only supposed to be used occasionally. Constant use quickly wears out even expensive generators, plus they need fuel. That's not free or even always available.
During power outages I've let people stay at my solar electric powered house. We drew more power from the battery bank than the sun was putting in. Hot water use exceeded my wood fired hot water production and a propane fired tank picked up the slack. After 4 days of that, either the grid had to come back on or serious conservation would go in effect. As luck would have it, the grid came back up and our company left.
Here's something critical to remember about an off-grid house. Long term, no mater how many people are living there, they can only use the resources available. It might be tough to get used to, but some energy and resource use is better than none.
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.