Author Topic: Living off the grid?  (Read 5843 times)

P938LVR

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Living off the grid?
« on: August 04, 2014, 05:47:44 PM »
I'm just curious if anyone here lives off the grid part time, full time or plans to in the future once they are FIRE? I have thought about doing it in the past but it seems like a plan that would be a long ways off for my DH and I.

Prepube

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2014, 06:20:10 PM »
If by 'off the grid' you mean as an ex-pat in another country or in a place that is away from 'the grid' (the traditional US way of doing things), then I would consider myself headed in that direction.  Hoping to be living in Central America (Nica or Costa Rica or Belize) in the next 5 years.  Was there a question you wanted to ask about that?

Rural

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2014, 06:50:58 PM »
We talked about it, but our utility pays so much for reverse metered power that it would be leaving a lot on the table.

Nords

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2014, 07:03:26 PM »
We talked about it, but our utility pays so much for reverse metered power that it would be leaving a lot on the table.
Yeah, I thought "off the grid" was a photovoltaic reference too.  But I don't understand the "part time, full time" aspect.

gimp

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2014, 07:11:35 PM »
Are you talking... living in your own little house, with no electricity, no plumbing, no roads, no services? Somewhere out of the way where nobody knows you exist? That sort of off the grid?

MoneyCat

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2014, 07:59:33 PM »
Off-the-grid is totally possible in this day and age without changing that much about your lifestyle.  You would need a house in a rural area with a solar setup, a well for clean water supply, a wood stove for heating in the winter (if in a cold winter area) and a large enough area to sustainably harvest firewood, and a septic tank for sewage.  When I was growing up, I knew some people who lived close to an off-the-grid lifestyle, but photovoltaics weren't advanced enough for complete energy independence at the time.

MsRichLife

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2014, 08:40:29 PM »
I'm just curious if anyone here lives off the grid part time, full time or plans to in the future once they are FIRE? I have thought about doing it in the past but it seems like a plan that would be a long ways off for my DH and I.

We are considering it, but it will really depend on finding the right location/property. DH just bought himself an off-grid magazine yesterday actually. It inspires him to think about an off-grid homestead in our future, but we don't have concrete plans either way yet.

BlueHouse

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2014, 09:34:49 PM »
I came pretty close to it for a few years.  (or at least as close as I'll probably ever be)
I sold my house and traveled out of the country for six months.  I had no debt and no recurring bills like utilities. I discontinued my cell phone and had a prepaid plan.  When I returned from overseas, I moved in with friends in another state and just paid them rent.  I let my car registration expire and stored my car in a friend's garage and kept my old out-of-state drivers license until I had a permanent place of residence.  It was the most freeing feeling in the world to not owe anybody anything and to be almost untraceable.  I did keep bank accounts, but for everything else, it was like I didn't exist in the mad world anymore.   Then I reentered the regular workforce and bought back into consumption-based living.   
Gosh, that felt great.

Catbert

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2014, 12:05:59 PM »
I have friends that live off the grid in Mexico - partly because the grid ends about 12 miles north of where they are.  Water and propane is trucked in, septic tank, solar power with a wall of storage batteries, back up generator, sporadic cell phone service, and  decent  internet service.

Depending on what you mean by "off the grid" electricity is probably the biggest difficulty.  In Baja California you can pretty much count of the sun every day so the batteries get fully charged up by 11:00 every day.  But there are very few places in the US where you can count on that consistent sun.  But that's where the definition of off-the-grid comes into play.  To me being attached to the electric company (even if you have solar) isn't off the grid. 

Rural

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2014, 07:30:56 PM »
We talked about it, but our utility pays so much for reverse metered power that it would be leaving a lot on the table.
Yeah, I thought "off the grid" was a photovoltaic reference too.  But I don't understand the "part time, full time" aspect.


I guess I'd assumed the OP was thinking someone might have a homestead off the grid but also a place "in town"?

Paul der Krake

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2014, 07:38:49 PM »
I have Time Warner Cable, does that count?

lysistrata

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2014, 08:04:36 PM »
We live "off-grid" in rural NZ, apart from our internet, which I needed for my work. So we're not fully off-grid, I guess.

We run PV panels for our power, have rainwater collection and a worm tank septic system. We run two fridge/freezers, computers, TV, musical equipment, tools from the solar no worries. We raise lambs for meat and are getting our gardens started in the next year or two. There are a lot of power cuts where we are (just had a 45 hour power cut - we had all our lights on while our neighbours' houses were pitch black!) and it is wonderful to have the security of managing our own power. I wouldn't trade it for anything. The only crap thing is the amount of money / gas we use getting to and from our jobs in the city, but with FIRE that will change, too.

uniFI

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2014, 06:54:50 AM »
I've been curious about solar power in the past.  But every time I looked into it, it seemed prohibitively expensive to set up.  There was not even the potential to break even on investment before I died.

Has cost come down enough these days that you could supply your own power and recoup your solar grid investment within 3-5 yrs?

mrsggrowsveg

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2014, 07:20:53 AM »
We would like to live mostly off grid in the future.  I have looked into solar and I think even if we do it we will stay on grid.  Since we live in a state that is not sunny in the winter, we could build up credit with the electric company during the sunny months and use it during the cloudy months.  We have well water on our property that we use along with rainwater for plants and livestock.  I would like to get the well water tested in the future to see if it is safe for us to consume.  We raise our own pork and chicken and have a vegetable garden and orchard.

uniFI

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2014, 08:21:17 AM »
FWIW,

I did a quick search on solar systems.  Apparently we are power hogs because it would take this particular company's largest system for us to go off grid.  We have a 2500 sq ft house with several extras drawing power (pool pump, etc).

Assuming I need the battery storage too, I would be looking at $37k to go totally off grid.  Assuming the power bill increases w/inflation (will it?), I'd be looking at about 11-12 years to break even on bill elimination vs initial investment.  But it would take 22 years to overcome the earning potential of that $37k yielding 4% annually.

I also would need a nice spot for 54 solar panels!  I guess this is a reminder for me to look at ways to reduce power consumption at least.

Your mileage may vary....


Grid

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2014, 08:29:33 AM »
No one will be getting any money from me any time soon.  B(

lysistrata

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2014, 08:15:23 PM »
I've been curious about solar power in the past.  But every time I looked into it, it seemed prohibitively expensive to set up.  There was not even the potential to break even on investment before I died.

Has cost come down enough these days that you could supply your own power and recoup your solar grid investment within 3-5 yrs?

It really depends on your situation. Off-grid solar rarely makes sense for existing homes. We built our home from scratch, which is different, because you have the establishment costs to consider. It was going to cost us $12k to connect to the grid. We spent $27k on our solar system all up, so an extra $17k, about ten years to break even, less if power bills continue to rise. With care, our batteries will last 20 years, and thatís not including the convenience of not losing power regularly. It was mostly a philosophical decision for us, but I crunched the numbers and was happy with the result.

Nords

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #17 on: August 06, 2014, 08:40:06 PM »
Hijack alert:
... and a worm tank septic system.
Does this imply that it processes human waste (toilets) as well as gray water (showers & sinks, soaps & hairballs) as well as kitchen scraps and food waste?  We've been vermiposting for at least eight years but I didn't realize that these little guys would slurp sewage.

I've done a little Google searching, but I'm curious about requirements for a leach field and whether there's any long-term maintenance like pumping out the tank.  Do you have any links to your system, or comments about how it's working?

uniFI

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #18 on: August 07, 2014, 06:24:27 AM »
I've been curious about solar power in the past.  But every time I looked into it, it seemed prohibitively expensive to set up.  There was not even the potential to break even on investment before I died.

Has cost come down enough these days that you could supply your own power and recoup your solar grid investment within 3-5 yrs?

It really depends on your situation. Off-grid solar rarely makes sense for existing homes. We built our home from scratch, which is different, because you have the establishment costs to consider. It was going to cost us $12k to connect to the grid. We spent $27k on our solar system all up, so an extra $17k, about ten years to break even, less if power bills continue to rise. With care, our batteries will last 20 years, and thatís not including the convenience of not losing power regularly. It was mostly a philosophical decision for us, but I crunched the numbers and was happy with the result.

That's awesome.  I love the idea of being off grid.  The battery aspect is what it is I guess.  You just have to assume you'll have replacement cost somewhere down the road.  Hopefully battery tech continues to improve.  Maybe you'll get some trickle down technology (no pun intended) from Tesla and other companies.

lysistrata

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2014, 05:25:02 PM »
Hijack alert:
... and a worm tank septic system.
Does this imply that it processes human waste (toilets) as well as gray water (showers & sinks, soaps & hairballs) as well as kitchen scraps and food waste?  We've been vermiposting for at least eight years but I didn't realize that these little guys would slurp sewage.

I've done a little Google searching, but I'm curious about requirements for a leach field and whether there's any long-term maintenance like pumping out the tank.  Do you have any links to your system, or comments about how it's working?

Oh, just came on and found the link to show me people who've replied to threads I've commented on, and found this! Apologies for lateness of reply.

This is our system: http://www.naturalflow.co.nz/. It has a greywater tank and a blackwater tank. The worms munch away in the blackwater tank, and in about ten years time we need to clear out the tailings, which we can add to the compost heap. It requires little maintenance - we just check it every month or so, make sure the worms are still happy. You have to be careful which cleaning products you use. It has a drainage field, and we've planted native shrubs in that area. In ten years or so we will need to shift the drainage field to another area of our property, but we've already got that decided on. I've been very happy with it so far - no smell, no fuss, very little maintenance. We chose it originally because we wanted something eco-friendly that didn't have a pump (pumps = more power needs).

lysistrata

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #20 on: September 15, 2014, 05:27:57 PM »
I've been curious about solar power in the past.  But every time I looked into it, it seemed prohibitively expensive to set up.  There was not even the potential to break even on investment before I died.

Has cost come down enough these days that you could supply your own power and recoup your solar grid investment within 3-5 yrs?

It really depends on your situation. Off-grid solar rarely makes sense for existing homes. We built our home from scratch, which is different, because you have the establishment costs to consider. It was going to cost us $12k to connect to the grid. We spent $27k on our solar system all up, so an extra $17k, about ten years to break even, less if power bills continue to rise. With care, our batteries will last 20 years, and thatís not including the convenience of not losing power regularly. It was mostly a philosophical decision for us, but I crunched the numbers and was happy with the result.

That's awesome.  I love the idea of being off grid.  The battery aspect is what it is I guess.  You just have to assume you'll have replacement cost somewhere down the road.  Hopefully battery tech continues to improve.  Maybe you'll get some trickle down technology (no pun intended) from Tesla and other companies.

Hahaha, my fondest wish! The truth is, we've got no idea what technology will be like in 15-20 years time when we need to replace. I'm remaining optimistic, but we've easily got the money to replace the batteries if need be. We get a lot of power cuts where we are, and we admit we feel a bit smug with all our lights on and our TV going while everyone else in the valley is in total darkness!

Nords

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Re: Living off the grid?
« Reply #21 on: September 15, 2014, 05:29:24 PM »
Hijack alert:
... and a worm tank septic system.
Does this imply that it processes human waste (toilets) as well as gray water (showers & sinks, soaps & hairballs) as well as kitchen scraps and food waste?  We've been vermiposting for at least eight years but I didn't realize that these little guys would slurp sewage.

I've done a little Google searching, but I'm curious about requirements for a leach field and whether there's any long-term maintenance like pumping out the tank.  Do you have any links to your system, or comments about how it's working?

Oh, just came on and found the link to show me people who've replied to threads I've commented on, and found this! Apologies for lateness of reply.

This is our system: http://www.naturalflow.co.nz/. It has a greywater tank and a blackwater tank. The worms munch away in the blackwater tank, and in about ten years time we need to clear out the tailings, which we can add to the compost heap. It requires little maintenance - we just check it every month or so, make sure the worms are still happy. You have to be careful which cleaning products you use. It has a drainage field, and we've planted native shrubs in that area. In ten years or so we will need to shift the drainage field to another area of our property, but we've already got that decided on. I've been very happy with it so far - no smell, no fuss, very little maintenance. We chose it originally because we wanted something eco-friendly that didn't have a pump (pumps = more power needs).
Interesting.  Thanks.  I like the whole concept and the engineering.

Our sewer bill is our highest utility bill... I wish I could disconnect for something like that.