Living off the grid is living the dream. Enjoy all the comforts without depending on the electric company. Ignite the imagination. Sunlight shines on gleaming photovoltaic panels, and a gentle breeze feeds the almost silent wind generator. Inside the air-conditioned house, cold drinks await. There’s an NCAA basketball tournament on 52 “plasma TV. It’s time to settle down for another relaxing day at the off-grid farm.
The reality, of course, is very different. How to start living off the grid starts with the basics: photovoltaics, wind generators, inverters and batteries. We also get into some of the deeper things, like peak hours of sunshine and those annoying electrical terms: volts, amps and watts. This is fine for those who plan to be linked to the 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’re likely to waste time and money chasing a dream that makes you miserable. Certain characteristics may 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’re the power company. Yes, you can call the installer, but it may not be available right away. Meanwhile, the food in the freezer is thawing, there is no running water and the wife is angry because 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 soon. It will save time, money and hassle.
After several cloudy and windless days, you will need to reduce your electricity usage. This may mean using fewer lights and less time on the computer. I may have to postpone laundry. In a culture that extols the concept that you can have it all, right now, this can mean postponing a pleasure or a task until the weather improves. Yes, you can always run the gas generator, but the generators are noisy, smelly and use fossil fuels. Cloudy weather becomes a good time to maintain tools, organize the pantry, cut and stack firewood or clean the barn. You can use this time to play a board game, cook and enjoy a good stew, or maybe catch up with some reading. Cloudy and windless days can be downright pleasant!
Ideally, your battery charge status meter is located for easy viewing in the living room or kitchen. Looking at it several times a day will become second nature. Be aware of slight variations in voltage, which could indicate a low-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 trouble!
4.Be stubborn, in a good way.
Your friends and family may not always accept your lifestyle. Some people feel that something less than a McMansion, with all the props, is a form of spousal and child abuse. You must be comfortable enough with their off-grid existence to ignore them or gently explain the advantages of your decision. Nothing helps better here than a power outage in the whole area I wasn’t even aware of!
Deciding to live off the grid isn’t just about you. Family members will have to live with their decision. Does the spouse want an all-electric home, with inductive stoves, electric dryer, and central air conditioning? Will she feel resentful if your dream doesn’t include these things? Divorces have been reduced.
Stubbornness in a good way implies persistence to achieve a worthy goal. Stubbornness in the wrong way implies being inflexible, selfish, and narrow-minded.
5.Be willing to live light
Friends will be delighted to show you their new big screen TV, a huge refrigerator and an amazing home theater system with Blu-ray. You may feel a little melancholic, knowing that these things don’t fit your energy budget. The advantage here is that you will feel less pressure to have more things. Carefully evaluate each new purchase. You may be able to afford it, but do you have enough energy to operate on it? After you think about it, you can decide that you don’t really need the damn thing in the first place. Living light does not mean to do without, it means to use, appreciate and maintain the things you have.
6.Be willing to take care of the things you own.
You already change your car oil routinely, change your oven 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 need distilled water occasionally and corrosion may develop in 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 being debt-free.
Keep in mind that wind turbines and solar panels for home applications need ongoing maintenance to function well.
7.Being able to appreciate nature.
I do not know if this is a real requirement, but surely it seems to be a common thread in the “off-grid”. 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, speed and wind direction. You’ll have more than a passing interest in weather forecasts. As people have for thousands of years, it will adjust its lifestyle to the climate. And you will grow to appreciate events that have nothing to do with energy … a beautiful sunrise, power in a thunderstorm, a full moon, the fury of a north wind.
It’s 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 start living off the grid, you’ll find that doing so is a wonderful event that will change your life and join a rich family heritage. Can you hack an off-grid farm today?
Dave Stebbins is the author of the book, Relocate! 25 big Bug Out communities. Safe places to live if bad things happen … wonderful places to call home if they don’t.