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Off The Grid

I'm going to live off-grid. Read my blog and learn how to do it yourself!

Off-grid heating, ventilation and cooling

Off-grid house should not get any energy input from outside. It should use only energy generated on-site. Because of that, in my opinion a house that’s powered by propane (for genset, cooking and heating) is not off the grid.

But in cool climates most of the energy is required for heating and domestic hot water. How can an autonomous house get large amounts of energy needed for those two uses?

In this article I will get you a short review of off-grid HVAC, or off-grid heating, ventillation and air conditioning. (more…)

My original idea and goal was to build an autonomous house (or to be more precise — an autonomous homestead) on the property we bought in 2007. But for the last year my wife and I we visited several buildings for sale, and even once or twice wanted to buy the house we saw. Every time I am wondering if it’s better to build your own autonomous house from the scratch, or to build a typical house and to upgrade it and retrofit to the autonomous house standard.

And I am still confused.

In the terms of energy efficiency, it’s much better to build a new house. The buildings we saw for sale this year were mostly built in 1970s, during the time when Poland was a communist country and it was very difficult to get cement, concrete, bricks, windows and roofing materials. Back then people built their houses with what they could get their hands on, and since the coal was very cheap and plentiful, noone cared to insulate walls or install airtight windows. People simply used a lot of energy to keep their houses warm. They didn’t care about getting maximum amount of sunlight for passive solar heating, nor they did care about having efficient ventillation systems. (more…)

Using propane is not off-grid!

Couple of days ago I heard that many people who want to live off-grid simply move away from the gas supply network and get their gas from another source. They substitute their natural gas (used in furnaces, hot water heaters and kitchen stoves) with propane or buthane (or LPG). That’s weird, ’cause if you use propane, you shouldn’t consider yourself as someone who lives off-grid.

Of course, you’re off the natural gas supply network. But you still get the most of the energy you use in your home (in the form of heat) from a supply network. You don’t get compressed natural gas from the pipeline, but you get compressed propane from a tank that’s shipped to you by a truck.

What’s the difference? (more…)

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History of Solar Energy Usage

We often think that modern societies were the first to use solar energy. Not true! Early cave dwellers preferred caves that had openings facing southeasterly that allowed the morning sun to warm them up without overheating in the warm months.  Native Americans in the Southwest oriented their pueblo dwellings.  So the low winter sun would keep the buildings by direct solar radiation, cliffs and overhangs blocked the sun during the summer months, helping to keep the dwellings cooler when the sun was high in the sky.

The ancient Greeks, with a climate that was sunny almost year-round, built their houses to take advantage of the sun’s rays during the moderately cool winters and to avoid the sun’s heat during the summer.  Modern excavations of many classic Greek cities show that individual homes were oriented towards the South and entire cities were planned to allow equal access to the winter sun.  It is interesting to note that by 500 B.C., when the Greeks had almost completely deforested their whole country and needed to find a reliable alternative fuel source, they chose solar energy. (more…)

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