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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 02-20-2012, 09:11:59 PM
Avery22x36 Avery22x36 is offline
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Default Can you really live off grid?

OK, let me rephrase that, I am single, yes, I could live off grid but assuming someday I find some gal that can put up with my, er, collections, is it really possible to live in normal house offgrid? The location I am building my house is a mile from the powerline, its going to cost me about $20,000 to get a line put in plus its going to ruin the looks of the turn of the century farm, I am building on part of my family's original homestead and there was never any roads put in so now power yet. I have moving in an 95 year old barn and am building the house and other outbuildings to look old.

I have read a lot about windpower but to set up the inverters and replace the batteries every 5 years or so I will be in the red if I could put up the windcharged for nothing. I have even looked at gas or carbide lighting and that might be neat in an outbuilding but the fire hazard bothers me and the fire dept is the better part of an hour away. Any thoughts on this or should I just call the power company and let them charge me for a line that in the end really doesn't even belong to me (that is what buggs me most)? Thanks
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Old 02-20-2012, 10:11:49 PM
Andrew Mackey Andrew Mackey is offline
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Exclamation Re: Can you really live off grid?

Wind power (if the town allows you to put up a tower), Solar cell and heating, Geothermal heating and cooling. Wood heat and stove, the list goes on! Stand by gen not a bad idea either, diesel preferred. If you plan propane heat or cooking gas, fuel source for gen as well. If you have to go on grid, you can have underground service, so you won't see the poles and wires exposed. You can rent a ditch witch, and have an electrician install the wires to the road.

Andrew
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Old 02-20-2012, 10:13:41 PM
Ronald E. McClellan Ronald E. McClellan is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

No problem! Propane for heat frig. and range. LED lights don't need much power. Then find yourself a nice Amish girl. Ron
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Old 02-20-2012, 10:37:01 PM
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FWurth FWurth is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Your doing what I had always dreamed of doing. It will cost a good bit to set up for off line but the amish do it all the time. But the difficult part will be getting used to the non convience of modern appliances, never ran across any LP powered computers, just can't get by without the Stak. F.J.W.
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Old 02-20-2012, 11:06:27 PM
Kevin O. Pulver Kevin O. Pulver is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

My understanding is yes it can be done, but no, you're not gonna be living like you're living now. You don't just fire up a 15 amp Skil Saw, and several KW of electric water heater and clothes dryer off a few PV solar panels. It is also expensive as you noted with the batteries. A few years ago, our central Nebraska town lost our power lines for 30 DAYS (!) due to a ice storm of historic proportions. Folks realized that running generators was very expensive compared to normal utility rates.
Having said all that, all jokes aside, an Amish or Mennonite girl would not have any trouble at all living without what we think are necessities. In fact ALL our relatives in the not too distant past lived pretty much like the Amish live now.
We have some good friends to moved to an Old Order Mennonite Community for 6 years. Horse and buggy, no indoor plumbing or electricity, etc...
The whole notion kinda appeals to me, but then again, I'm pretty used to that refrigerator and air conditioner. I can tell you that as far as solar goes, you'll get about 5 times more bang for the buck with solar thermal collectors/panels than with solar electric collectors/panels. You can do your space heating and domestic hot water with it. Also the technology is there to run steam turbines and produce electricity with solar thermal, (HUGE fields of that near Vegas) but you can't afford it for home use. Your huge Kansas windmills can power about 16 electric houses each as I remember, but you can't afford one of those either. (unless you're Bill Gates, in which case you'd have better investments with much quicker payback than a personal wind generator of the scale that would run 100% of what houses usually have.)
I don't want to discourage you, just want you to go into this with both eyes wide open. I think Kansas is God's Country, and you're a blessed individual to have this opportunity. Enjoy it. Kevin
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Old 02-21-2012, 12:12:32 AM
ehpower2 ehpower2 is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

if you really wanted to be accurate to the home stead may i recommend a few delco light plants in the basement.
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Old 02-21-2012, 01:33:59 AM
pjjms pjjms is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

My father in law went off the grid when he built for the same reason, cost of connecting. He had some solar panels that failed (frost damage), a wind turbine that also failed, a diesel generator that wore out. In the end he would run a petrol generator every day for a couple of hours to charge the batteries that were also past their best (and they start at $500 each x 24). He did this for 19 years until he passed away. He did spend a lot setting up with the goal of not having a power bill but just had a lot of running costs that came in big lumps. Without doubt he spent many times the cost of connecting and also had to put up with a noisey generator and the limitations of a limited power supply. From what I saw the whole setup was a pain in the butt.

I have gone to what I think is a better alternative. I run a wood burning stove which also has 17Kw of water heating, and a gas stove. This takes the heating elements off the grid reducing the power bill to a fraction of what it would be if fully connected. The savings from this offset the connection costs in under 10 years. I have access to all the power I need for high load short run time items like a washing machine, vacuum cleaner and microwave.

Peter
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Old 02-21-2012, 02:39:23 AM
dalmatiangirl61 dalmatiangirl61 is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

You don't need an Amish girl, you just need a bigger generator, a bigger wind turbine, more PV panels, and more batteries

I've been planning my off-grid home for years, first off you have to design the home for ultimate efficiency, from what I've seen strawbale or papercrete are the ways to go. Next, every appliance needs to be the most efficient available, of course none of those are cheap. Lighting needs to be LED, maybe a few CFL's. A combination of solar and wind is essential, hydro is a plus. And finally a good diesel or propane generator to take up the slack, like when I decide to fire up the compressor, welder, and lathe at the same time, maybe the AC too
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Old 02-21-2012, 02:40:17 AM
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ehpower2 View Post
if you really wanted to be accurate to the home stead may i recommend a few delco light plants in the basement.
By far the best option!!
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Old 02-21-2012, 02:42:30 AM
Power Power is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Any thoughts on this or should I just call the power company and let them charge me for a line that in the end really doesn't even belong to me (that is what buggs me most)? Thanks
Who says? I knew a farmer in Missouri who ran over 2000 feet of wire & poles himself. He already had tractors and auger. Set poles and strung them. Util hooked pole transformer to his wires.As previously mentioned, you can trench and run UF.
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Old 02-21-2012, 06:02:32 AM
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

sure it can be done, but certainly you will have to adjust your lifestyle. Don't spend all the money to upt your power needs. Work on the passive options to save energy. Angle your house to make the most out of harvesting solar energy, cross ventilation may reduce the need for constant A/C usage. Insulation and window placement will help also when it comes to lighting and heating (tile or earthen floor to upsorb heat during the day). Agree with the diesel backup with a possible veggie oil conversion. How do you deal with the water issue, well or rain water harvesting.Personally I like the straw bale buildings (no, not the 3 little piggies version), fun and easy to build and very efficient.
Tom
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Old 02-21-2012, 07:11:11 AM
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Power lines will ruin the looks of the farm, but you are talking about a wind generator? You can always run the lines underground. Solar panels and wind generators look more out of place on a barn than a couple of lines.

The costs you are talking about are a lot more than what the power company is going to charge. And you still aren't completely self sufficient. You are still going to have to buy batterys or gasoline occasionally.
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Old 02-21-2012, 09:53:06 AM
Culy Culy is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

How about having a wind power co. lease a spot on the farm and set up a windmill. They pay you for the lease option and you get free power from them. Seems thats what the next county over from us is doing. Only thing is...just the farmers or large land owners benefit from this set up, not the home owners living close by, unless they get flicker pay for being close to the mill.
http://www.indianasnewscenter.com/ne...139730733.html
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Old 02-21-2012, 10:30:35 AM
Grape Grape is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Hi, if it was me I'd compromise and have the power company run the line part way and run your own line underground the rest of the way and then like everyone else says, Wood heat, maybe a little solar or wind that will feed back to the grid when you aren't using it all. (if your electricity supplier allows this).
You mentioned your distance from the fire dept. That would be a big concern for me. Consider building a decorative pond near by with a cooling loop for help with air conditioning. Install a dry hydrant and buy a used pump and fire hose. You can then handle a small fire and also have a place for the fire dept. to get water in an emergency. Some insurance companies will give a nice discount for this also.
Good luck and have fun.
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Old 02-21-2012, 04:30:20 PM
K-Tron K-Tron is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Go get yourself a Lister CS 12-1 and a 10Kw generator and some A123 Lithium Phosphate batteries which are designed to last 25 years and you will be set.

I plan on doing a performing a very similar operation one day, but it definitely helps to have a brother who manufactures batteries, and the power inverters. All of the final prototypes made by the hundreds are disposed of, and somehow end up at my parents house

Chris
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Old 02-21-2012, 05:54:04 PM
Power Power is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Avery, some members live off grid, I have been waiting for them to respond. I think BT post is totally off grid, and has been for a long time - perhaps you should PM him.
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Old 02-21-2012, 08:32:07 PM
Avery22x36 Avery22x36 is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Power View Post
Any thoughts on this or should I just call the power company and let them charge me for a line that in the end really doesn't even belong to me (that is what buggs me most)? Thanks
Who says? I knew a farmer in Missouri who ran over 2000 feet of wire & poles himself. He already had tractors and auger. Set poles and strung them. Util hooked pole transformer to his wires.As previously mentioned, you can trench and run UF.
I am trying to absorb all of this, thanks everyone! I guess different areas have different problems. The above post was my first thought, however, the local electric coop absolutely will not allow anyone (unless a line outfit under contract by them) to put up a line with a transformer on the end. To put up a line after the transformer is not realistic at this distance because of the loss. Same thing with underground, I have my own trencher and all but the underground cable would have to be huge to keep the loss at managable levels. The electric company will put in underground service but the cost is more than double of powerlines. If I can hook up for $20,000, it appears to be the best bargan at the moment because every other means I have investigated will cost way more than that in 20 years or before and I really hope to live longer than that!

I would just rather invest $20,000 in somthing that has lugs and a boiler.
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Old 02-22-2012, 12:00:50 AM
Rod Fielder Rod Fielder is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

i have a friend that has free natural gas on his property and a natural gas generator. don't know if that's off grid, but he doesn't have any utility bills
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Old 02-22-2012, 12:48:18 AM
theamishland theamishland is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald E. McClellan View Post
No problem! Propane for heat frig. and range. LED lights don't need much power. Then find yourself a nice Amish girl. Ron
LOVE IT. Find me one too while you're at it.
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Old 02-22-2012, 01:15:02 AM
Power Power is offline
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Default Re: Can you really live off grid?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Avery22x36 View Post
local electric coop absolutely will not allow anyone (unless a line outfit under contract by them) to put up a line with a transformer on the end
Correct - you can't put up hi line, but you may be able to put the poles up, and they install the hi line. That should cut the cost. If the distance is so long that you need hi line and a can at your end, then there is more ugly.
Try thinking out of the box a bit. Maybe they will allow you to come in with 480 and drop it to 120/240 at your house. That halves the drop, and the cans have taps on them, so you can go to a higher tap - say 125/250 to keep full load drop within acceptable limits. We did an installation where they designed for 130/260 once. 130 volt bulbs are readily available.
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