Going off grid is a dream for many Americans who are sick and tired of the wastefulness of society today.
Your motivation might be about saving money, satisfaction of doing something for yourself, embracing a minimalist lifestyle or doing what you can for the environment and reducing your carbon footprint.
Or it might be all of these.
Whatever your reasons, there are several off grid power solutions and it should not be too difficult to make this dream a reality. And there is no reason why you cannot combine these solutions to make them more effective.
The Top Off Grid Power Solutions
At the moment, solar power is the most popular option in terms of renewable energy. For one thing, solar panel arrays are more affordable when you compare them to wind or hydro systems. Solar is also more practical when you consider the installation barely takes longer than a day. You don’t have to worry about moving parts, the panels can harvest energy for twenty years or more, and the maintenance consists of cleaning the panels once a month for maximum efficiency.
There are other advantages too. For example, solar panels are pretty cheap to manufacture while the technology behind them keeps advancing. Panels are taking less space but they put out more energy, which is just one development people are very excited about. And finally, there is a pretty good chance the sun is going to come out for the next 5 billion years.
How many panels are you going to need? And what about the additional equipment? Everything depends on the efficiency of the panels you install. The higher the efficiency, the more it will contribute to the output. As for additional equipment, you require an inverter convert the DC energy to AC. Everything else can be considered optional, such as a battery bank for energy storage.
At the same time, you have to be realistic and look at the challenges. Because if you do not have a battery bank to store energy, you will not be able to utilize solar energy during the night. Additionally, you will have to make do with low levels of energy when cloudy days persist. But this is where the second off grid power solution comes in very handy, namely generators.
While this option does not fall in the renewable energy department, it is always recommended to have at least one strong generator around. Firstly, a quality generator can be trusted to start up as long as there is fuel or diesel in the tank. It can also be trusted to provide a consistent output of energy.
So, when the rainy season comes along and harvesting solar energy is problematic, generators can be used to supplement the loss. In fact, generators are great for camping or outdoor situations. Not to mention emergency scenarios where you do not want to take longer than five seconds to get energy flowing, which is possible with a generator.
Granted, generators are not part of the renewable energy family, but they do not have to be used all the time. As mentioned earlier, you are at liberty to combine all the off grid power solutions available to you. And, well, generators make for great backup energy suppliers.
Residential turbines can be the perfect solution if your location fits the bill. Yes, a single turbine can generate up to 10 kW, which is enough to power just about everything in a medium-sized house. But there are more challenges involved, making it a less practical option than solar or using portable generators.
Your first priority is to research the average wind speeds in your area. If the speed is too low or simply not consistent enough, a turbine in the backyard can literally become a white elephant. You also want to think about the maintenance involved due to the moving parts. You see, the blades of the turbines power an electric rotary system, which is responsible for sending clean energy to your home. When the turbine does not undergo regular maintenance, there is a risk of it failing without notice.
On the flip side, if you do live in a windy area and you have enough space to accommodate a residential turbine, expect to generate a lot of clean energy.
Hydro systems are amazing in the sense that they generate a lot of energy on a consistent basis. In fact, a hydro system is much more effective than solar or wind in terms of what it can produce. And when you break it down, you basically need a strong stream of water that flows from a higher level to a lower one. As the water makes the drop to the lower level, it powers the hydro system and generates clean energy.
For the most part, you do not need a battery bank if you want to enjoy free energy throughout the day and night. This is because an appropriate stream will keep flowing 24/7. However, this means more priority has to be placed on maintenance. Just like the rotary system inside a turbine, hydro systems are based on the same concept. If the moving parts are not kept in working condition, there is no telling when the power can stop.
Unfortunately, hydro systems are restricted to certain conditions. Whereas solar can be used on a much bigger scale, you need to live close to a source of constantly running water. Plus, hydro systems are still somewhat expensive when compared to generators or solar panels.
According to research and theory, the earth has enough geothermal resources to power all of humanity’s energy needs. But there is no realistic or inexpensive way to harvest this cleaner energy. At least, not yet. As with all the other off grid power solutions, there are several variables that play into the harvesting of geothermal power.
Just to be clear and avoid possible confusion, geothermal energy is found beneath the earth’s crust. And looking back in history, geothermal energy was used as a natural method for heating water and taking a bath. More specifically, people used hot springs when water heater tanks weren’t available yet. These days, water from hot springs are used to generate energy. So, you might have the option to connect your home or business to a geothermal source for heating purposes.
Is One Off Grid Power Solution Better Than The Other?
An objective answer to this question would be no. Because if you live in a place where the days and nights can go on for months, a solar array might not be so practical. Not to mention areas where clouds dominate the skies for most of the day. But wind and hydro systems come with limitations as well. This is why you should not limit yourself. Not when you want to get off the grid.
Tips For Going Off The Grid
In the final part of this guide, you will get some tips for making the transformation. Of course, you are at liberty to do your own thing and follow your own ideas. But it does not hurt to have a few solid starting points.
– Assess your location and list your viable options
– Combine off grid power solutions to supplement each other
– Invest in quality equipment, given that you become very dependent on durability and performance
– Learn everything about the solution, including the possible issues
Out of all the solutions mentioned above, they are usually combined with a generator backup. Seeing as generators provide more control for immediate energy demands, don’t forget to add one to your overall off grid power solution.