Right the First Time
LIVING OFF the GRID
Counting ourselves blessed
that our installation and system
were right for us from the start.
"The most common problem I observed was, inadequate systems being installed'"
The off grid lifestyle is a unique adventure and this includes selecting the power system that is right for you. If you have followed some of Farming Off the Grid articles you may already know that the project at Root Cellar Farm hit a major financial set back at the start. It took over 2 years to install the permanent power system. Two years that were worth the wait.
Initially our plan included a wind turbine. After 2 years of seeing wind turbines break down and sometimes squeal for hours day and night, I was dead set against having a wind turbines. Ten years later I still feel the same way.
During those 2 years it was necessary to start up the generator every time we needed electricity. Not only was it expensive to run, it was noisy. You learn quickly to manage your time well when you are paying for it by the gallon of fuel. Managing generator time was crucial. Showers, oven baking, laundry, watering gardens and trees, and filling the water tank all needed to be accomplished on a strict schedule. Combining electrical appliances that would not overload the generator.
During those 2 years my husband did a tremendous amount of researched about the power systems available. He talked to installers and residents in our community about the power systems they installed. I paid very close attention to homes in our area and asked questions. I found the following situations to be a constant pattern.
- Systems that had components from different manufactures did not seem to be as reliable. It may have had nothing to do with mixing the components, but this was my observation.
- People hired to install and work on the systems were not always reliable or competent.
- Warranties were not always honored.
- Inefficiency was the most common problem with the majority of systems installed. The systems did not produce enough electricity to meet the needs of the home and family. If you cut corners on power, life will be complicated, difficult, miserable and it may be dangerous.
- Wind Turbines broke down often in this high wind area.
SELECTING, PURCHASING AND INSTALLING an Off Grid Power System.
Based on our observations and our experience we offer these recommendations for selecting, purchasing and installing an off grid power system.
1) Electricity can KILL YOU. Use an electrician for installation.
2) GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING, EVERYTHING
3) Verify any business person credentials before handing over money.
4) Try to find people living in the area that are happy with a system they have had for at least a full year. ASK these people QUESTIONS, over and over again. LISTEN and be observant. The bachelor who works longs hours away from home will NOT have the same power requirement as, a family with a stay at home mom and 3 little children.
5) Listen to what people DO NOT like about their systems. This is key to success.
6) And ask these questions: How often does your backup generator go on?
What time of the day does it go on?
Have you serviced your generator?
What is the best thing about your system?
What don't you like about your system?
7) TAKE NOTES FROM THE START.
8) I would not pay an installer for labor until the system was up and running properly.
Remember, there is no one size fits all when it comes to a power system. Some people do not mind getting up in the middle of the night to start up the back up generator, or waiting for the sun to come up to have power. These people consider it part of living off the grid. Other folks need power 24/7, they need to wake up to a hot shower at 5:00 am before going to work and they do not want to trek out to the power shed in the dark. There are many things to consider before making the leap to living off the grid. Like us, after you move to your off grid location your original plans may change.
Right the First Time
After following the recommendations above our decision was easy to make. It was expensive and we were concerned that we may have offended business people in the area. But we stayed focused on our family's best interest and did not experiment.
No wind turbine. Not only because I observed people having problems with wind turbines. I moved here for peace and quiet and wind turbines are not quiet.
We choose to go with one company for all of the components, with a good reputation and offering a good warranty.
- We asked the representatives for recommendations for compatible system products and used the products they recommended (and still do today).
9 years and counting
To this day we are very pleased with the performance of our system, the tech support and the customer service.
We are thankful for the many people that answered questions and shared their experiences with us. And to our neighbors, now friends Bob and Donna thank you for your time and hospitality during this process. You all have been a part of helping us to get our off grid system right the first time.