For many people when they have found their off-grid homestead, they know next to nothing about off-grid systems. Many want to move to land in the country with room to stretch out, and they know plenty about growing and preserving their own food. But there are a lot of things they wish they would have known before going in. This article is a response to what many wished to had known before the shift to off-grid living.
Off-Grid Systems Are Reliable
Many off-grid newcomers assume that off-grid systems are inherently unreliable. When their system breaks down, which it usually does constantly during the first year, they assumed it is par for the course. They will have to be constantly troubleshooting. They’ll have to watch it every day, and carefully ration every bit of power.
So, problems do start, like one of the charge controllers is malfunctioning, and not regulating the charge to the batteries. A problem such as this one, causes batteries to constantly be ovevolting. Eventually, the charge controller will start malfunctioning differently if not fixed.
Ordering a new charge controller and quickly replace the bad one should solve everything. No more overvolting. No more chaos. A quick fix.
So, systems are supposed to be reliable, do not accept a first year of chaos. If it’s not working, fix it. It should work. Seems simple, but not if you’ve been conditioned to believe that off-grid life should be hard.
Too Much Electricity Is Common
Solar panels are easier than you think. In many cases, off-grid power systems produce a lot of electricity in the summer, and a charge controller doesn’t let all that surplus go to waste.
For example, a family in Vermont, has plenty of electricity 9 months of the year. From late February through late November, they never touch the generator, and ran electric appliances at will. They actually invested in more electric appliances to make use of all the free electricity they had for those 9 months of the year.
DC Appliances Are a Lifesaver
I remember learning about AC and DC electric in high school physics. AC or “alternating current” runs on power lines, and it’s what comes into standard wall outlets. The electric current is in a sine wave that allows it not to lose as much as it travels over long distances.
DC or “direct current” is the current that comes from batteries, and though it can’t really travel any great distance, it’s more efficient to use because you don’t have to use up power creating a sine wave.
Solar panels create DC power, and it goes into your batteries as DC power. To use a standard appliance or lighting, it has to be converted into AC power by an inverter. That inverter step wastes a lot of electricity and just having the inverter running creating power in case you need it drains the batteries.
Anything that’s going to run constantly, like a refrigerator, or that needs to run at night, like lighting, is much better off as DC power. That means you can turn off the inverter if you need to conserve power.
With the inverter shut off, the system uses almost no power at all to run lights, refrigerator and 2 DC chest freezers. All those together burn less power than a standard AC incandescent bulb.
DC appliances at first can seem like a hassle. What if they break? They’re expensive to replace, and it’s almost impossible to find someone to help fix them. Luckily they’re built to last.
Off-Grid Is Harder With Kids
Romantic notions aside, there’s nothing easy about raising kids, let alone infants. If you think taking the iPhone out of their hands suddenly solves everything you’ll find that regardless of the circumstances, raising another human being is never easy.
There are many times that you can think about the fact that electricity has only been around for a relatively short time in human history, and somehow everyone survived. Diapers were changed, dinner found its way to the table and life went on.
Off-Grid Enforces Seasonal Living
When you know that each season will be over soon, there’s more incentive to make the most of it. You will learn quickly that while you had seen the seasons, you probably hadn’t really experienced their full meaning.
When you’re dependent on the sun for power to cook dinner or wash dishes, you notice ever cloud that moves across the sky. The type of snow on any given winter day has a different meaning. How will it stick to the panels? How will this affect our lives?
Every day, you’re conscious of the weather, and you’re conscious of the world around you in a way that you probably hadn’t really imagined it could be.
Plants Grow Well With Soil
It could be that it will take you some time trying to grow plants in the soil. The first job to do, is to create soil. There are many ways of doing that. Bringing in any kind of organic matter, from various kinds of manure to grass clippings or leaves. You can also do sheet mulching.
Building your own earth is the correct way to do it, so that when you plant the plants they’ll actually grow.
Water Runs Downhill
Gravity fed water systems are a lot easier than you think, and it’s just worth hooking it up and experimenting and see what it’s able to do. Remember, carrying water constantly in five gallon buckets all year, it is backbreaking labor.
Bears Like Trash
Knowing and understanding that bears will always be searching your trash, is a priority.
Firewood Is Hard Work
Every year you could be seeing yourself filling up a woodshed. In a family of four it usually takes fiveu cords of wood or so to get them through the winter.
Gathering the wood, splitting, and cutting them into the right shape and size is hard work. Also, making sure it’s all dry and actually useful as firewood is more hard work.
You Will Believe In Yourself
After living some time off-grid you will see yourself doing things you didn’t know you could do. An attitude of learning, and an attitude of being okay with accepting that the lessons we need to learn are sometimes kind of elementary is allowing us to make changes that we’ve always dreamed of making.