Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When the power goes out

There's been trouble at the camp, that is to say, that the electricity at my grandparent's camp hasn't worked all summer, namely to run a few lights. It's been insignificant to me personally, but they've been trying to figure out why. For a number of years solar panels and a small wind turbine have been used to produce what little power was needed to pump water into the plumbing system and run a few lights and the radio from time to time. As its a camp that no one uses around the clock its not critical to anyone's comfort to have the electricity operational 24-7, and yet, the problem lingers. It seems to be the inverter--perhaps.

This little electrical problem has me thinking about our plans to be completely off grid in our house!
Despite plans to have a generator, loads of batteries, solar panels, gas appliances, and whatever else we learn we will need, this trouble with the power at the camp causes me to wonder about many things, such as how long should inverters last? How are they fixed? Easily? Expensively? Who fixes these things? (We'll have to learn to do it!?!) And can we really live like this?
This snow and ice took out power for days around Christmas last year.

A main reason we plan to be off-grid is because when the power company gave us our estimate to stand poles, run wire, and do whatever needed to be done to get us on line, the price tag was bigger than expected. Also, the nature of the road and area we are building in is that in the winter, invariably, if the power is goes out, it goes out big and for days. That area is not a high traffic or business area at all, and therefore is last on the list of outage repair work orders. So there are two benefits we see--we can dump all that money we'd be paying to the electricity company into a system that would be ours and eventually (they say 10 years) pay for itself, and we'd be no worse off when the on line system went down.

So much of our entire planning has been centered around using the sun as our main energy source-- the clearing of our land, the position of the buildings, solar panels, windows, kitchen, etc., etc.--that it would be silly to think about paying for our power now, and yet, I have my moments of doubt (I have many of those concerning this project) about living off the grid and how it will all work.

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