The Essential Checklist for Living Off the Grid
Living off the grid and being energy independent offers a reprieve from many of society’s undesirable stressors. Done properly you can have all the comforts of home and more. For some, locking down a steady job for 40 years and retiring in a big community is ideal. However, there are those who see that lifestyle as more of a prison sentence than a life goal. For these people, falling in with society and joining the rat race seems pointless. Energy independence is a powerful thing. It liberates you. Living off-grid means that you are able to produce your own renewable energy to cover your unique needs and establish complete freedom. There is no feeling like it. You are able to power your entire lifestyle from natural sources.
Here are eight steps to an elevated lifestyle of complete energy independence!
- Find that perfect property on acreage. Consider what is important to you based on age and other independence goals. IE if you are a gardener and plan a root cellar; so you can increase your own food independence, and you seldom like to go out for dinner or to other amenities, then being close to a town for convenience may not be as important to you. On the other hand you may want to be sure you are in short distance to a doctor, hospital or other professional services. Clarify your needs and find the property that suits.
- Find a home design or hire a building technologist to assist in the design of your off grid home. The extent of choices will be budget dependent. EX a passive house will be more costly than a log home and a log home will be more costly than a stick home etc. Know that your solar will be going on the ground and not the rooftop. During winter months you will need to adjust the angle of the solar array to 60 degrees from their summer angle of 30 degrees. This helps with snow shedding off the solar panels and increases solar production as solar cells produce optimally when the sun is at 90 degrees to the cell. For clarity the sun in the winter is a 23 degrees above the horizon whereas in the summer it is at 73 degrees above the horizon.
- Consider where the off grid equipment will go in the house. There will be batteries, an inverter and charge controllers and they all have to have a 36” area of separation between you and the front of the equipment in order to conform to the Electrical Safety Authority. Typically an 8’X 10’ utility room will work based on the balance of home equipment you will require (HRV, Load Panel, In Floor Heating, Furnace etc) but check with your provider to be sure you are planning well and there are no surprises.
- Determine your electrical profile. This is the most important thing you will do. Off Grid systems provide electricity as the product. As such, you need to know what you will be consuming in kWh per day, what is 120V verse 240V, what has a duty cycle (fridge, freezers, anything with a compressor) and what are the potential surge loads (power tools, pumps etc.). You do this through a simple spreadsheet wherein you list all the elements in the home that will use electricity and list their running watts, duration of use each day and how many days per week will it be used. Pumps are a big load so be sure to oversize your pressure tank so the pump runs less frequently. If you need a sewage pump for example always look for slow start pumps so the surge is not as impulsive. Don’t forget things that run 24/7 like your internet router or your PVR etc. If you have in floor heating get the number of circulation pumps from your designer and make sure they list slow start pumps for the contractor. This is a great list to develop your home from. You will have many decision points that are intersections in the home design. Always being conscious of your electrical load and means to diminish it by making good choices can save you money in the long run and provide a more reliable system.
- Once the load analysis is completed you can start shaping your system. Your battery bank comes first as it has to store enough energy for 1.5 days. The size, type and cost of your battery storage is dependent on the kWh of energy you need per day. This number is sourced from your load analysis. With the battery bank size and type determined you now turn your attention to what could you be running all at the same time. EX – a typical morning has Mom having a shower and the pump comes on and daughter number one is blow drying her hair while daughter number two is using the hair straightener and Dad is putting coffee on and firing up the pancake grill. This is called continuous watts and your inverter has to be sized to accommodate it.
- How hands on do you want to be with your Off Grid system. You may be the type of people that want to be hands on – monitoring the system and making power choices based on battery voltage and the weather forecast. Or perhaps you want to live with your Off Grid system as though you were on the grid – doing what you want when you want with a power system that is fully automated to accommodate you.
- Perhaps you have exceptional loads like a large shop that you work in from time to time or you have a hobby business that needs compressors etc. You can be off grid and remain connected to the grid in the background. Your Off Grid system will open the valve (sic) to the grid to get that extra energy for those exceptional loads from time to time. You can have the best of both worlds.
- Assessing the site for solar access is critical. You need sun directly on the panels so having an area that is 180’ across and 120’ out as an arc from the center of the solar array is ideal. Other configurations work – you may need to add more panels so you capture what you need in a shorter time. Alternatively you can change battery chemistry to a battery that charges faster and may require less solar. Perhaps you have a good source of water power. Each site is different and the assessment of it for alternative energy production is an important factor.
Going Off Grid and incorporating energy independence into your lifestyle is incredibly liberating. You run anything off grid – from steam baths to induction stoves to the Man Shop. It all works – but only if it is well planned.
Looking for Information and Advice About Renewable Energy?
Are you thinking about transitioning to an off-grid lifestyle? If so, please make sure you hit every item on our checklist for living off the grid. There’s a lot to consider if you’re going to disconnect from the rest of society and live remotely.
Just remember to prioritize your health and safety above all else. Check out some of our other informative articles before you go. And if you’re ready to look into solar and/or wind energy, contact us today to get started!