This is the first post in a series of how to live off the electrical grid. In the series I will answer the following questions:
- how to make electric energy from various sources (photovoltaics, wind turbines, internal combustion engines, fuel cells, etc.),
- how to store electricity to use it later,
- how to save electricity, in order to reduce the home energy usage and reduce your off-grid power plant operating and investment cost.
As I mentioned before, we are addicted to electricity as it’s the easiest way of supplying energy to different home appliances. You can easily turn electricity into heat (in simple heaters), torque and motion (in engines), cold (in refrigerators), light (in lightbulbs), etc. You can easily transfer that power from one place to another. And it is not very difficult to make.
So what to do, if you can’t or won’t use electricity from the grid? Should you make it on site, or forget about electricity and live without it?
Okay, here’s something you might not believe at first sight: it is possible to live comfortably without using a single kWh of electricity. And you wouldn’t have to give up anything more sophisticated than television or computer / internet. Everything else you can have without buying any electric device. You can have running water pumped with a large windmill. Your fridge may be gas-powered (so called absorption fridge), you can cool your home using water evaporation, you can heat it with furnaces or boilers or even solar energy. You can light your rooms with a lantern or read a book using a candle. You can ventilate your home with solar energy or natural ventilation. Living without the electricity may only require some more work from you.
As I said earlier, it is relatively easy to produce electricity at home. So you don’t have to give up electricity if you cant buy it from the grid. You just need a reliable source of energy to power your appliances.
To produce and use your own energy, you of course must balance the supply and demand. You need to make at least as much electricity as you need, but not necessarily at the same time you need it. If you use photovoltaic panel to light your house, you probably need the light when there’s no sun — i.e. when there’s no solar electricity. So you need to store it in batteries. If you need power on demand, buy a small engine powered genset. 😉
Fuel for your electricity (for the genset) is not cheap and must be supplied somehow. If you want to purchase it from time to time at your local gas station and carry it in a can to your off-grid house, it’s cool. If not, try to make your energy from some free and renewable resource, like solar energy or wind. But the device to make your free electricity is not cheap either. That’s the off-grid life. 😉 The only cheap way to make your energy in a cheap device is a genset fueled with wood gas, but that’s a subject for at least one separate post.