Living off the grid is living the dream. Enjoy all the comforts without depending on the electricity company. Ignite the imagination. Sunlight shines on gleaming photovoltaic panels, and a gentle breeze powers the near-silent wind generator. Inside the air-conditioned house, they wait for cold drinks. There is an NCAA basketball tournament on the 52 ”plasma television. Time to settle down for another relaxing day on the off-the-grid farm.
The reality, of course, is very different. How to start living off-grid starts with the basics: photovoltaics, wind generators, inverters, and batteries. We get into some of the deeper stuff too, like peak sun hours and those pesky electrical terms: volts, amps, and watts. This is fine for those who plan to network. But for people who intend to live off the grid, there is something even more important.
How to start living off-grid and maintain that lifestyle depends more on your personality and perseverance and less on your off-grid life supplies. You will experience a paradigm shift in the way you perceive energy. Otherwise, you are likely to waste time and money chasing a dream that makes you miserable. Certain characteristics can determine your ability to live the dream.
1. Be willing to learn new skills.
Using a volt / ohm meter will help determine how well your system is working and can diagnose problems. It is important to be willing to learn, because no matter how well your system has been designed and installed, there will be problems. You can't call the power company, you are the power company. Yes, you can call the installer, but they may not be available right away. Meanwhile, the food in the freezer is defrosting, there is no running water, and the wife is angry that the alarm did not go off, and she will be late for work. A $ 10 meter, and knowing how to use it, allows you to solve the problem quickly. You will save time, money and hassle.
2. Be flexible.
After several cloudy and windless days, you will need to reduce your electricity use. This may mean using fewer lights and less time on the computer. You may have to postpone the laundry. In a culture that extols the concept that you can have it all, right now this may mean putting off a pleasure or task until the weather clears. Yes, you can always run the gas generator, but the generators are loud, they smell bad, and they use fossil fuels. Cloudy weather makes for a great time to keep tools, organize your pantry, chop and stack firewood, or clean out your barn. You can use this time to play a board game, cook and enjoy a good stew, or maybe catch up on some reading. Cloudy and windless days can be downright nice!
3.Be an observer.
Ideally, your battery charge status meter is located for easy viewing in the living room or kitchen. Looking at it multiple times a day will become second nature. Be aware of slight variations in voltage, which could indicate a poor performance system or unexpected electrical load. Before you get hit, walk around the house, making sure everything is off. Being observant can prevent system failures. Being observant can save you time and money. Being observant can save you hassle!
4. Be stubborn, in a good way.
Your friends and family may not always accept your lifestyle. Some people feel that anything less than a McMansion, with all the accessories, is a form of spousal and child abuse. You need to be comfortable enough with their existence off the grid to ignore them or gently explain the advantages of your decision. Nothing helps here better than a power outage to the entire area that you weren't even aware of!
Deciding to live off-grid is not just about you. Family members will have to live with their decision. Does the spouse want an all-electric home, with inductive ranges, an electric dryer, and central air conditioning? Will she feel resentful if your dream doesn't include these things? Divorces have turned out to decrease.
Stubbornness in a good way implies persistence to achieve a worthy goal. Stubbornness in a bad way involves being inflexible, selfish, and narrow-minded.
5. be willing to live light
Friends will delight in showing you their new big-screen TV, huge refrigerator, and amazing Blu-ray home theater system. You may feel a bit melancholic, knowing that these things don't fit into your energy budget. The advantage here is that you will feel less pressure to have more things. He will carefully evaluate each new purchase. You may be able to afford it, but do you have enough power to operate it? After thinking about it, you may decide that you really don't need the damn thing in the first place. Living light doesn't mean doing without, it means wearing, appreciating and maintaining the things you have.
6. Be willing to take care of the things you own.
You already routinely change your car oil, change your furnace filter, and clean your boots after you get home from the field. Taking care of your belongings will help you live well in an off-grid home. Batteries require distilled water occasionally and corrosion can develop at the terminals. The main cause of wind generator failure is loose bolts. Maintaining a wind generator involves raising the tower or lowering a tilting platform to check for problems before they become catastrophic. Ultimately, keeping your possessions will save you money. It can also bring you closer to debt free.
Keep in mind that wind turbines and solar panels for home applications need ongoing maintenance to function well.
7. Be able to appreciate nature.
I don't know if this is a real requirement, but it sure seems to be a common thread on "off-net". Is it because we depend so much on the forces of nature that we learn to appreciate it? Wind, clouds, storms, fog, and frost become very relevant. You will become an enthusiastic observer of the quality of sunlight, the speed and direction of the wind. You will have more than a passing interest in weather forecasts. As people have done for thousands of years, you will adjust your lifestyle to the climate. And you will grow to appreciate events that have nothing to do with energy… a beautiful sunrise, the power in a thunderstorm, a full moon, the fury of a north wind.
It is no exaggeration to hear me describe my home as a living being. I maintain and take care of their systems. In return, it keeps me safe and comfortable. Once you learn how to get started living off the grid, you will find that doing so is a wonderful event that will change your life and join a rich family heritage. Can you hack a farm off the grid today?
Dave Stebbins is the author of the book, Relocate! 25 Great Bug Out Communities. Safe places to live if bad things happen… Wonderful places to call home if they don't.