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Alternative Fuels An energy source alternative to using fossil fuels. Materials or substances that can be used as a fuel, other than conventional fuels. Waste oils, vegetable oils or animal fats, which can be used alone, or blended with fossil fuels.

Alternative Fuels

Can you really live off grid?

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Old 05-08-2014, 01:23:07 AM
dkamp dkamp is online now
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

I'd like to visit a bunch of guys who're up along the Alaska coastline, and see all that they do. There's a guy up in Palmer, Alaska (about 50 miles up the river from Anchorage) that's in a situation similar to Bruce, and he IS the utility... and he knows VERY WELL where his energy comes from, and where it goes.

We had an extended outage due to a mid-January ice storm about seven years ago. Took down half the spans over our 4-mile line, we had toppled poles buried under 7' ice-drifts. That wasn't an extremely cold winter by any measure, but we had extreme winds, and the house leaked like a seive. We burned 4500 gallons of propane that winter... and lucky for us, our contract price was under a dollar a gallon.

I ran a gasoline-fueld air-cooled Onan 5CCK to keep the furnace and well operational, and towards the end of that timeframe, I was gettin' really danged worried, on account that I STARTED with plenty of gasoline reserves, and when we got towards the end of that week, many of the local stations were still out of power, and our road was still impassable, so I took advantage of a source I hadn't previously anticipated... I had the 17' and 23' Sea Rays, as well as my dad's '53 Century Resorter in storage in the pole barn, and we always store boats with full tanks of winter formulation to keep condensation at bay... well, I wound up using all the 23'er's 75 gallons, and was getting ready to pull from the 17' (high-octane!) and the Resorter when the crews finally managed to get the roads clear enough to get through to a station.

We did a major rehab/addition that 'wrapped' around this old four-square, and in the process, took advantage of access up through the second story exterior walls, blew insulation all throughout, wrapped it in 2" EPS and Tyvek, and poured PEX tubing into the basement and south porch floors. That south porch's windows were calculated for solar gain during the winter solar elevation, and I had the concrete in that floor dyed black throughout, so that it'd absorb more winter sunshine. I ran extensions to my PEX out to the generator shed, and since then replaced the CCK with three dual-fuel liquid cooled generators, with heat exchangers, so that when I'm burning propane to generate electricity, I'm capturing all the waste heat and sending it to the house. Co-Generation really boosts the cost effectiveness of a gallon burned..

The other thing I've done, is systematically replaced all the incandescent, Long-tube and CFLs with LEDs. This knocked a major chunk out of the resistive loads, and has allowed me to run the one-size smaller generating plant that I would've run before, and when I'm not in need of a major load, I can shut the engine down and run off battery-inverter to save fuel. It's really no different from the setup in a houseboat or cabin-cruiser, except for we don't need an anchor.

The cost of LED'ing the house was pretty high, but I did it a few lamps at-a-time, started with the ones that got the most burn-time in a day... and just worked my way along. The boon of it, is that there's so much less waste heat in the house, that on a really hot day, my air-conditioning isn't working HALF as hard as it was before.

If there's nothing else to be said for it, having outages, and having my own backup systems on-the-ready, it HAS given me very good incentive to eliminate waste and increase the efficiency of our lives. I think everyone would be better off in many ways once blessed with such an experience, but alas, many never will.
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Old 09-27-2015, 09:51:54 PM
t6299fm t6299fm is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Yes you can !! BUT>>>>You have to choose your location. You need a natural energy source. Gas well, Oil well, coal, wood, River, wind, sun. But, "you gotta love it" if you know what I mean. It takes machines to convert these natural gifts into modern electricity and they must be understood, installed and MAINTAINED (that means talent and sweat). I chose water and bought an old mill sight. I have more power than I will ever use, I Leave the doors open in winter, use resistance heat and melt iron with an induction furnace. Normal things like: Welding, shop tools, Water pumps and Hot water heaters don't even get noticed by this generator. My normal source is a 125 KW turbine generator (state of the art 1929) that runs 24/7 at 164 RPM making 3 phase at 2400 Volts. After an initial rebuild with stainless in 1994, I have been running this thing 21 years and after the annual inspection today, very little adjustment was needed. Yea, I could sell the excess..... but They discourage it with BS; so I run a governor and am happy with 58 to 62 cycles all year......No grid for me.
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Old 09-27-2015, 11:01:04 PM
Ramey Ramey is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

iT'S good to see things from the past can be still used today. some of the old technology worked well. I myself would like to get of the gird and have put a lot of thought into it. I grew up with a wood stove and a propane fridge with a deisel power plant for the winter and when we needed power. It cost about 20000 to put the hydro in because we had to pay for the polls, to have telephone come in would have bein 17000 because hydro charges to hang the line on our polls. go figure! My family farm is in northern british Columbia. Canada
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Old 10-07-2015, 07:39:46 AM
George Andreasen George Andreasen is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

I'm going to answer based on my 5 year experience of living without commercial power or water in northern California.

In the early eighties, my wife (at that time) and I built a small barn on our 80 acre parcel near MacArthur, California. The first thing we did was to have a well drilled and set up a windmill. A pump jack, powered by a an Ottawa flywheel engine, pushed water to an elevated 1100 gallon poly tank on a nearby hill.

The house we built was a two story replica of a Victorian farm house, designed by me, and ended up at 1800 square feet. The roof peak was 32 feet above ground level and was equipped with eight Arco photovoltaic panels capable of 35 amps each at 12 volts (bear in mind this was early eighties panels are much better). The house was wired with ordinary 12 gauge Romex and all light fixtures were 12 volt. The only 110 volt appliance we used was a color t.v. set and that had a 200 watt inverter. Worked kids watched cartoons without problems.

Our routine was to pump water about every three days or so. I checked the storage batteries......big stationary lighting cells.......each morning, verifying their state of charge, adding water if needed, etc.

The only real mistake I made was to have the poly water tank exposed. It never froze, but the sunlight promoted algae growth. Nothing like a big glob of green snot coming out of the faucet when you're brushing your teeth! Next time I would have used a black tank enclosed in a tank house.

We were quite comfortable for the five years and only got commercial power when my son's medical condition required a humidifier that had to run all night. The commercial power made life a little easier, but I can understand how farmers in the thirties weren't all that thrilled with giving up their private Delco lightplants. Everything worked well and I didn't have a monthly bill!

It was a very interesting and instructive period in my life. Then came the divorce...........................

---------- Post added at 04:39 AM ---------- Previous post was at 04:09 AM ----------

I have to add a new post, since my computer is giving me fits and I can't edit for some reason....

I gained a wealth of experience on my self sufficient homestead. I made mistakes, but many things were thought out well in advance so those mistakes were minor. If I can help with any questions regarding off grid living, just PM me and I'd be happy to share.

Regarding your home generated power with photovoltaic panels: Don't mount them on the roof. Looks cool but are a nightmare to service. Put them in a rack at ground level for easy repair/modification. Arrange your battery bank to be close. Ours was under the stairway in the house with a vent to exhaust any gasses.

A massive battery storage bank is NOT the answer to everything. Charging capability more panels for a quick recharge instead. Buy good quality lead acid batteries. Golf cart batteries offer good storage and performance in a small package. Fork lift batteries? Come on......the things weigh a ton and are overkill for your needs.

Use D.C. for everything you can think of. Inverters are great but they use a tremendous amount of amperage (current) in order to produce 110 volts and will drain your batteries quickly. Rather than spend money on an inverter, just use the 12 volt D.C. There are many appliances available from the RV industry.

The new 12 volt LED light bulbs are FAR better than the ordinary bulbs and florescent fixtures I used. They use virtually no power and produce good light. Stay away from kerosene lamps....very bucolic and nostalgic, but they stink and are a fire hazard.

A gasoline engine will pump your water nicely, but as an experiment I rigged up a Ford truck generator as a motor on my pump jack and wired it directly to the panels on my roof. It pumped water beautifully all day long until the sun went down and as a result, the Ottawa engine ended up being used on a standby basis. There are 12 volt permanent magnet motors available now that are very efficient.

Plan your entire homestead to take advantage of natural features well in advance of building. Once you realize that you should have built that shed over there, it's too late!
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Old 10-07-2015, 01:40:03 PM
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Forrest A Forrest A is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Most of the commercial-scale turbines installed today are 2 MW in size and cost roughly $3-$4 million installed.

So to answer the question "Can you really live off grid?" is YES! All you need up front is $3-4 million. After installation you can sell your unused power back to the local utility and use the new found money to buy food and anything else needed to survive. Maybe have enough to buy some rusty iron to restore with your new found free time as you wont have to work any more. I am surprised that more people whom have that money to invest have not done just that.
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Old 04-03-2017, 10:20:52 AM
csareb csareb is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Yes you can live off grid. Quite comfortably with as little as 5000 w though If you don't have a gas Maytag washer and l.p. dryer then you really need around 7.5-10 kw continuous rating. Either old iron or a good low rpm diesel is the way to go cause the New gas screamers just won't last in this type of setup not to mention being inaccurately rated.

Had a guy give me a New EPA generator that was supposedly 8500--6500 w but woyldnt even start my window a.c. so sold it. That same a.c. unit runs like a champ off my 5kw homelite climatic with briggs 23d. My little 3 kw onan will start it too if all other loads are off.
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Old 05-29-2017, 09:44:33 AM
Tracy T Tracy T is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Old thread and a long interesting read. I have no terrible desire to go off grid but have been preparing for it if the need occurs. From my own observation the best thing to look at is lowering your demand of electricity, example a gas stove uses no electricity, same for gas water heaters, gas clothes dryer's use very little electricity compared to a electric dryer. Just got a kerosene fridge from the Thirty's and it gets plenty cold. Bottom line though is it is work and not quiet as care free.
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Old 08-17-2017, 11:45:56 PM
dkamp dkamp is online now
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Lowering the amount of energy used is ONE THIRD of the challenge.
The next third, is EVENING OUT the load... reducing the peaks, and bringing up the valleys, so that it's more 'constant'... more gentle and predictable.

Finally... the last part is realizing that nothing is lossless, but recapturing loss is a very beneficial task. The more lost energy you recapture, the less total energy you'll need.

Example- when my power lines go down, I start a liquid cooled generator to provide power to run necessary electrical loads. IN the wintertime, those liquid cooled generators have coolant that circulate through the garage floor and the house... so I don't have to burn propane in the furnace... hot water does most of the heating, recapturing waste heat as a massive side-burden
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Old 08-18-2017, 06:10:10 AM
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Elden DuRand Elden DuRand is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

I've finally gotten around to reading this thread again. Here's our story.

After getting out of the Air Force and getting established in a good job, I met and married a wonderful gal. In the meantime, I'd invested in seventeen acres of hillside on a gravel road.

She loved the place so, instead of a long term investment, we built a house on the land. Power was expensive but we both decided that it was worth the cost in convenience. I also bought an Onan 5CW and wired it to the house with a manual transfer switch. It came in very handy at times.

We got our water from the sky and it kept a twenty thousand gallon cistern filled. The only time we had to have water hauled was a couple of times when I couldn't depend on rain for a refill after cleaning.

For most of the time we lived there (almost forty years), we heated with wood harvested on the place with an oil furnace for backup.

Living away from the bulk of civilization made us think of how we'd survive if some disaster occurred (EMP, anarchy, revolution) and we came to the realization as we got "more life experienced" that if things really went to hell for a long period or permanently, we wouldn't survive.

Incidentally, I grew up with grandparents who had lived on their own by necessity. When I was very young, I can remember the chickens and hogs we used for eggs and meat and remember Granddad and Dad doing the slaughtering. Although I could do it, I never enjoyed the chore and really like being able to go to the store and buy groceries.

Finally, with enough "life experience", my Trophy Wife* of nearly forty years decided that I was getting too long in the tooth to keep up with everything so we eventually sold the place (we both miss it) and moved to Florida where the winters are mild and the summers don't seem any hotter than Kentucky.

Down here, we are more dependent on the grid and services and truly wouldn't survive for long if the bottom fell out but me and my Trophy Wife* of 45 years feel that we've had a good life and the party will be over soon enough.

*: Having a Trophy Wife makes me her Sugar Daddy, a title I'm proud to hold!

Take care - Elden
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Old 10-23-2017, 11:47:22 PM
akuna akuna is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Just talked to a saddle maker friend. He lives off grid and runs his shop including having internet. Seems very happy and prosperous.

So yes you can live "off grid" if you want to.
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