Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why It Might Be Time to Ready to Go Off Grid

This is actually a 2.8 kW solar tied system, but it looks very similar to the generator tied back up whole house inverter system that we operate.  (

                   One of our sons (the one who came to us through adoption a couple of years ago, as a young teen) is occasionally frustrated by one thing or another. His latest annoyance is how frequently we have power outages here. He grew up in a Group Home, where I suppose the facility was a priority site for electricity, and he has no real memories of power outages, or how to cope in them.  At first I listened to him and gave him some positive strategies for coping, as I told him how everywhere in the US is experiencing more outages as repairs and upgrades to utility infrastructures are not being done.  Then, I listened to how often he said they were occurring. He was right.  In the last six weeks, we have lost power once a week during thunderstorms, high winds, or no discernible reason at all.  These outages have not been brief.  One was four hours, another eight, and two have been overnight.   Yesterday, we lost power in the morning when we were doing important internet business. It came back at lunchtime.  We lost it again around five, and when I reported it, the recording told me that "this address had already been reported as having an outage today, and that the power has since been restored".   They are apparently not set up for two reports of an outage at one address, in one day. It eventually came back at 3 am.
                   The biggest frustration is that without electricity, we cannot pump water from the deep well.  We do have a large military village generator, but this takes time to switch over and does involve a combination of going outside, and switching some things in our basement mechanical room.  Traditionally, my husband does this, and occasionally my eldest son does as well.  We also for a time, had a whole house inverter system which powered the house, sans well pump, during outages, but the incredibly lightning here in Virginia damaged it, and it requires replacement.

This is not our battery array, but you get the idea.   We have ours in a clean dry basement area.

                  Our plan here to overcome the perennially disappearing electricity which plagues the entire sparsely populated region, follows.

     1. Send for the hand pump well and have welldriller install it.  At least, we would still have water.
         This alone is a complex matter, and the subject of other posts as well.

The upper portion of the hand pump which will prime our indoor water tank for use during outages. This is what we settled upon:

     2. Repair and move the other whole house inverter down to one of the outbuildings where it can provide lighting on a regular basis to that building.

     3. Reorient each adult family member on the activation and safe use, and the maintenance of the large diesel generator.   Produce a guide manual and place it, in the mechanical room, so that any questions about the order in which things need to be done is quickly answered.  It seems that the two people best qualified to manage the military generator, are the people who aren't here during the outages !

     4. The lightning abatement is complete on the main house and the outbuildings, so we HOPE no additional lightning strikes will damage future whole house inverters.

   5.  This is the tough one....    Save enough money and order a new whole house inverter, of sufficient size to power the entire house during frequent outages, and BEFORE the marine battery array ages to the point of no longer being useful !

  6.  Then, have the whole house inverter installed, and assess the practicality of powering the farm exclusively ourselves.    The system would work by using a brief run of diesel fuel to charge the marine battery array.  (These marine batteries come from Sam's Club)   Then, the whole house inverter provides power to the entire house, including refrigeration.   Water would be pumped to a holding tank for the day either through the generator cycle itself, or primed by hand using the new hand pump.  We don't yet know if this is practical for every day.  We still cook using gas, which we bring to the site ourselves via the farm truck, in a tank.

           We do use solar for the gate opening systems here,  for one area of electric fence to protect certain types of animals for predators, and to heat a section of the kennel when needed.  In a forested farm, we cannot get enough light to implement this furthur.   We have also explored wind, but other than March here, we don't have sufficient wind for this to be a major source of power for us.

           In any event, we will let you know as we move toward being much less grid dependent versus being off the grid entirely, as we move forward. I suspect that going off grid may still be too expensive, just as we found it to be five years ago when we tried then.   It may be, that in a collapse situation, we won't have much choice.


 Please see posts which follow on the subject of implementing hand pump sources of water for those will wells at the following posts written following this one:


Gorges Smythe said...

I'm afraid the only way to live successfully (and affordably) off the grid is to develop a lifestyle far less dependent on electricity.

JaneofVirginia said...

Yes, absolutely. This will help while our large family is completing their "launch sequence" from the nest, and while my husband and I adapt to strategies which do not use electricity. We have already made that jump at our cabin, but the climate there, access to water, and set up makes that inherently easier than our farm in Virginia.

Matt said...

This is a little of track from your post, but...

My suspicion is that as the police state gathers more and more strength and control, it will be extremely difficult if not altogether impossible to be completely off the grid. I've seen several articles over the last year or so where the smart meter has been used to do more than just make it easy for the power company to send you a bill. They want those meters on your home.

It's been sort of an odd deal. A customer actually does something to be more "green" which should please TPTB, but instead because you are a prepper or survivalist, this only goes to provoke their interest in you.

JaneofVirginia said...

Matt, We were off grid before about five years ago, and found it to be very difficult and quite expensive. I am off grid at our other house in that I pull the main when we are not there, and turn it back on when we get there. At home here, I think it's realistic to reduce grid dependence, but I think we will always have a smart meter (read from the roadway, some distance away) and always have the potential to draw electricity, even though what we draw may dwindle. The power company did remove my back up secondary meter (different bill) which I keep on another part of the farm for visiting RVs and for our RV should anyone need to stay there briefly. It was removed because it had not been used in a year, and because the power company said a forested exterior plug could actually be a fire hazard in a few circumstances. Maybe I will sometime use so little power, they will pull my primary smart meter.

Anonymous said...

This kind of incident don't really happen all the time. Cruise trips are really fun especially if the cruise line have fun amenities. I tried to go see diesel generator for sale and it is really good. It is a new experience that's why it is very memorable for me.

JaneofVirginia said...

I think it depends where you are in the country, but in my rural location, we lose power once a week, especially during the Summer storm season. I don't quite get your reference to cruise ships.