Living off the grid doesn’t mean you have to live like in the 15th century, doing everything with your own hands. Much of typical house work is done today by some appliances. If you want to live off-grid, you probably don’t want to get rid of those appliances. So what should you do?
If you’re building a new off-grid capable house, you must be able to supply all the energy and water used for your appliances. If you don’t want to be 100% grid-independent, you may, for example, want to make your electricity and harvest rainwater, but buy natural gas from the supply network. But in every case you need to precisely identify all your energy and water needs to fulfill those needs somehow.
Typical appliances in off-grid house
If you want to make this on-grid → off-grid transition as cheap as possible, you may be tempted with using as many appliances you already have, as possible. Maybe buying a dishwasher or washing mashine is not expensive, but why buy a new one if the one you have still does work great?
I might guess that if you want to live off-grid, you already tried to reduce your fossil-fuel dependency in the past as well. So I presume your appliances are already energy efficient. If so, you can also use them in your off-grid house. With small adjustments or modifications, that would make them even more efficient. I will try to give you some ideas about such tweaks in the articles about specific appliances.
A washing mashine is a good example, as it uses a lot of electrical energy to heat the water it washes your clothes in. Using more expensive detergents might help reducing energy usage, as those detergents work fine in even low water temperatures. But supplying warm water to that washing mashine does the same thing — and you can easily make your own hot water on site using solar energy. But if your washing mashine is not capable of using both cold and hot water, you would have to waste some time to oversee its work.
Off-grid ready appliances
In Poland you won’t find such appliances in stores. You can find ones that are energy-efficient, which in most cases might be enough.
A most important thing you need to remember, that it’s much easier to reduce energy usage, than to supply the same amount of energy. Especially in off-grid cases, when you must rely on expensive devices that harness renewable energy — wind turbines and photovoltaics.
A good off-grid washing mashine would use as little water as possible, and would have two connections for both hot and cold water. I heard that rinsing your laundry in clean water works better if the water is cold, I also heard something that rinsing in hot water makes it more difficult to iron the clothes afterwards. And some fabrics shouldn’t be washed in hot water as they might shrink a lot.
I wrote about one such replacement already. You may replace a large refrigerator with a small one and a root cellar. You may dry the meat instead of freezing it, and since storing vegetables is easy even without a freezer, you might not need one at all!
In every article I will post, I’ll try to suggest ways to upgrade your appliances to off-grid capability, find examples of off-grid capable ones, and some easy to make and use replacements. Stay tuned, or subscribe to my RSS feed.