My husband and I recently bought a piece of property with some family members in the hope of transitioning to off-grid living. For those who might not be familiar with the concept, going off-grid means creating a lifestyle that does not rely on public utilities (water, electricity, et cetera).
There are many different reasons people choose to go off-grid. Some of the most popular reasons are:
- to decrease environmental impact,
- to prepare for disaster, or
- a desire to be independent and self-sustained.
We jumped into our endeavor with almost no knowledge or experience. We have had to learn some things the hard way. While I would not trade the experience for anything, there are some things that I wish we had known from the start. Here is a list of tips I can offer to help make the transition to off-grid living a bit easier.
EMP Solar Panel
Good day sir. The talk of EMP has greatly increased recently for many reasons you are well aware of. What would happen to either grid tied or non grid tied solar systems in this instance? What would happen to generators as well? – R.C.
Two of our Writing Contest sponsors, Portable Solar LLC and Quantum Harvest, LLC, both specialize in EMP hardened systems. You should check their sites out and also the videos that they have on YouTube. We have several other advertisers that sell Solar equipment and it would be worth your time to check with them as well, though they don’t specifically advertise EMP hardened systems. Generators are more robust (except perhaps for the modern inverter units), but if they are grid tied they are … Continue reading
Although I shouldn’t have been, I was once again amazed at the panic and last minute attempts to prepare, as Hurricane Matthew approached Florida. Florida’s geography dictates that there is only one way to travel to get out of the state, and that is north, unless you own a boat or plane. The interstate freeways and highways get a lot of traffic and the stores get cleaned out, by hurricane refugees. The parking lot of the Walmart that I visited was full of recreational vehicles (RVs). Many of their owners were standing around with nowhere to go. When a nearby gas station had what looked like a fuel resupply truck pull in there was a stampede of people on foot with empty gas cans lining up at the pump and blocking cars from getting in.
Be prepared and top off as soon as you hear the … Continue reading
My preps are in five areas, per the “group think” of SurvivalBlog. I have worked from area to area starting with what is easiest and cheapest up the ladder in each area. As I circle back I am working my way up but also looking back and questioning myself: Where did I store the extra ammo? Exactly what is in that unmarked box on my closet shelf and how might I better package to grab and go should we have to hastily migrate?
Electrical items are on the agenda today. It started up with recharging the AAA-size batteries for some of my flashlights. I noticed that many of my stock of batteries have been raided by my children seeking to power different toys. Next, I checked my inventory of batteries and chargers. I learned: “So that is what the stray seemingly orphaned wall wart goes to!” … Continue reading
Necessity being the mother of invention, I recently stumbled backwards onto an inexpensive and truly totable way to power two-way radios, shortwave, and other receivers; charge smart phones and iPads; provide lighting; quickly purify water on the go; keep night vision functional; enable electronic security systems; and pump rainwater to a gravity tank, while protecting all these functions from EMP in the interim.
I will quietly be turning 50 next month. I joined the survivalist movement in the early 1980’s, at the tail end of that upswing of interest in such things. Vietnam was still fresh in our minds, and the cold war in full gear. There were movies, magazines, and books but not the saturation made possible by the Internet today. I still have issues of Mother Earth News that I saved from the seventies and a survival book copyrighted in 1978. Having endured the Blizzard of ’78 in … Continue reading
Good morning, Hugh,
I thought I might pass along a tip or two about generators. I have several, the most used being one of a pair of Honda EU2000i, which does constant duty as an “unlimited length extension cord” around the property. The other is a much less portable 6500 watt unit, which lives in “hurry up and wait” mode in case power fails and the well pump is needed. I’ve got a homemade kit to couple the 2000s together to double the output, if I find I need some more “portable watts” for a power tool.
The second EU2000 is left oil-filled with the fuel tank empty, and it’s run quarterly; the 6500 watt unit is in the same condition but run monthly. (The two 2000s are swapped semi-annually to equalize wear.) To run them without putting fuel in the tanks, which will eventually go stale, I use a … Continue reading
Back in 2014, my wife and I installed a 9 KW solar system. The system is an off-grid with battery backup. After about 18 months of use we do like the system, despite the cost and complexity of installation.
I spent about a year doing research on which type of system best met our needs and settled on a grid tied system with battery backup, since it would give us the ability to use grid or off-grid power. With most grid tied-only systems, you will be outta luck once SHTF; grid-tied-only systems shut down as a safety precaution. The off grid capability is really valuable. One lesson we learned the hard way with anything grid-tied is to investigate which type of insurance your power company requires and how much (if any) tariff will be charged. Our homeowner’s insurance does not offer the liability protection required by our utility, so we … Continue reading
The largest draw on your power is for the refrigeration of both you and your food. These guys have some interesting solutions that are direct connect DC. They seem to be fine folks, but the solutions are pricey. Danzer makes an interesting refrigerator that runs on 24 volt. I get the idea from numerous articles that you really should not have just one solar system in your house. I have bought components and run my Ham radio off a panel and a couple of deep cycle batteries, but I have a long way to go.
www.wholesalesolar.com has some great products and great prices if your “puzzler” needs something to study. Ready Made Resources, a SurvivalBlog advertiser, has well-priced, quality, turn-key solutions if your “puzzler” is otherwise occupied. – RV
I found KK’s recent letter interesting in that he, as an experienced solar installer, recommends DC coupled systems. In particular, I would like him to expand on how his clients cope with using DC rather than AC on their properties and how and where they buy DC appliances, tools, pumps, et cetera. I understand that battery-powered electronics and tools are ubiquitous and well tested, but in general the batteries have voltages from 1.5 to 18 volts or so and the chargers accommodate that by plugging into 110 volt AC. Do his clients use small point load inverters for this? Where can you easily buy DC-powered clothes washers and other household appliances, for instance? Would they not have different voltage requirements? My understanding is you cannot take power (different voltages) off of different points in a battery bank as that creates long-term difficulties. Do not lower DC voltage systems require … Continue reading
HJL, I believe R.V. and Expat are referring to AC Coupled inverters. I’ve installed hundreds of offgrid solar systems from 300 to 30,000 watts and I have never used an AC coupled system for an offgrid install. Mainly because it requires more fancy equipment and customization. I don’t feel it gives my customers a good value; it is more complex and less durable. That’s not to say there are not scenarios where it may be the better choice, especially if you are grid tied and net metering. If your readers are interested in the technology, search for “AC Coupled Battery Backup” on the Internet. If I had to go AC coupled with batteries, I would choose a combination of Outback, SMA, or Enphase. If you are looking for a durable offgrid system, 99% of the time, DC coupled is the better choice…for now. – … Continue reading
I’ve had a “prepper” mindset for most of my life (I’m in my late 40’s) and find the information contained in your blog to be some of the best on the web. I try to read the blog often but have never submitted a piece based on my experiences. Today I was perusing SurvivalBlog when I realized that I have some information that may be helpful to your readers. It will definitely save anyone considering wiring their home for a back-up genset considerable money as well as simplify its operation. One who is considering this project typically will read that the only safe way to wire a back-up generator to your service is through a transfer switch. There is another way that I contend is safer, much less expensive, and simpler.Continue reading
Welding cable is a fine way to cut amperage loss in your line. However, since it is intended by the manufacturer to be used for welding and not solar system, it is labeled for welding and not labeled for building installation. Code inspectors want to see a certain label. They will not accept deviation. After all, an abundance of engineering went into what is in that code. Welding cable use would make pulling a system when bugging out much easier. (I am assuming there are a range of “bugging out” versions with regard to situational haste.)
Since you cannot defend a fixed position, my preps are done with an eye to rapid transportation. Supplies do not sit on shelves. They sit in bins, buckets, or ammunition cans that sit on shelves.
The introduction to Enphase’s products is very enlightening. I encourage Expat to go read. I found the technological … Continue reading
It seems straightforward to accumulate the beans, bullets, and band aids, and this site has been a tremendous help.
However, solar power seems formidable. Every article I read quickly devolves into talk of how to wire and link things, amps, voltage, et cetera. I am an older professional woman with no mechanical expertise, but I do know that electricity can be dangerous, and I hesitate to do these things myself.
It would be a tremendous help if someone could write an article listing simple plug-and-play systems that could be purchased from reputable companies. If they could do it by price points, it would be even better (e.g., if you have $1,000, buy this – and it will be enough to power these items). In addition, can these systems be left on at an unattended retreat or are they a fire hazard? – prepperdoc
Hugh Replies: Plug-n-play solar systems are … Continue reading
As a full time user of off-grid power I’ve a few quibbles with this article. One is the casual reference to rooftop solar panels. Solar panels get dirty-fast. Solar panels in general are not all that wonderful in generating concentrated energy and dirty panels generate far less than optimal. They need to be cleaned with a soft brush and hose often. In northern parts snow sticks to panels real well and then generate nothing. Unless you have a widows walk installed below the panels, don’t even think about installing them on high roofs. Anything that gets in the way of the sun will have a totally unreasonable negative effect on solar panels. Even that tiny bare twig way up in the top of a tree, so make sure you have a clear path especially in winter when the sun is low in the south (for northern hemisphere).
The author … Continue reading
Batteries can generate, without damage, several hundred amperes of DC current for short periods of time. In fact, you can arc weld using a battery. There are welders designed to run from battery power alone or able to run either from internal batteries and/or supplementing utility power with internal battery power. Though the Hobart Trek 180 welder, which I recommend, may have been discontinued or currently unavailable, it is useful if you wish to achieve higher amps than is possible via a single 120V household outlet. The higher the battery’s amperage, the easier the battery can start a car engine, but this requires large surface area for chemical reaction to take place. Therefore, these batteries tend to have thinner, less durable plates, leading to faster deterioration of battery over time. Batteries more suitable for power backup are the deep cycle variety, which have more … Continue reading