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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.

-Sixbears

10 comments:

  1. I'm sure that a lot of people don't stop to think about that.

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  2. I have 160 watts of pannels.Ikeep all but 2 15 watts stored.THe 2 15 watts charge my camper battery.It is amazing what even a small amount of power will do to make life bearable.Spend a week with no power and i bet a 5w radio a 8w fan and a 15w dvd player,10w floresaunt light will seem like heaven

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  3. On space ship Earth we have much the same problem. Thing is people fail to realize that if ya don't have enough to go around, you must cut back on consumption.
    In our system, we tend to just charge more as the supply runs down.

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    Replies
    1. There's enough for everyone to get by, but distribution is uneven.

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  4. Living off grid is a reality check but people don't cope well with reality...

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    Replies
    1. Of course just because a person can't deal with reality doesn't mean reality won't deal with them.

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  5. With hurricane season right around the corner, I need to line up some alternate power sources.

    Just in case, ya know?

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    Replies
    1. even a small inverter that plugs into your car cigarette lighter can make life easier.

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