Yes, it’s true - we went “Off the Grid” – as daunting as it sounds, it’s not so bad! I have been the laughing stock of jokes recently (in a good way) between family members, friends and co-workers on how crazy I am for attempting it. People are very curious, so I figured I would pull the curtain down and enlighten everyone on my experience thus far!
Last winter I got a hair-brained idea to show my wife a beautiful 80-acre chunk of land (just for kicks) - whoops! That was the first mistake! Needless to say, she fell in love with it. Next thing I knew, that spring we were listing the house that I had just finished building and we were off to the races. Fortunately it sold quickly and after several delayed closings, we closed in August. As if a full time job, a family, and a small farm wasn’t enough. Try moving it all . . . even better, to the in-laws! Wooo-hoo!
The land was bare, so right away I started fencing and getting everything ready to move all of the animals from their temporary home. I got the fencing for about 15 goats, 4 horses, 5 cows, 20 pigs, chickens, rabbits, a 4-year old boy and a 6-year old boy ready by the end of August (don’t turn me in, the kids really don’t live in a fenced in area)!
The first part of September we poured the slab, then the walls, trusses and the normal building routine followed thereafter. Luckily I had one house under the belt so the second one came together quicker - or at least that’s what I thought, to my wife not so much!
All of the work started with a generator which wasn’t such a big deal, but in the back of my mind the power situation was always there. We knew we were going to attempt going off grid because it was going to be extremely expensive to run power to the building location.
After hours of research and talking with people about where we should even start, we finally ordered all of the major solar components, which was actually the hardest part. The solar equipment came and I mounted and installed everything as quickly as possible, which was a huge relief.
Finally in late November we moved in to the house-barn-garage (dubbed this by friends because it is a house with an attached garage and barn, all one building). We knew we were under time constraints so everything is in one building. After all, we had to have somewhere to milk the cows, which just happen to be in the living room!
The house is nowhere near complete but is livable. We haul the water from a nearby stream that’s about four miles away on horseback, the outhouse is nice and close, the house stays about 40 comfortable degrees, and our food gets cooked on a campfire right outside our front door - off grid living at its best! To start the morning and to end the day we milk the cows by hand in the living room because that’s the entertainment of the day!
Actually it’s not quite that bad - the house is heated with our outdoor wood boiler as well as the hot water. The stove is powered by propane as well as the dryer and the hot water heater in the summer months. These appliances are all major draws for electricity so they are on propane. The cows are milked with a milk machine run on electricity in a milk room under the same roof; however, completely separate - not in the living room.
The well, appliances, bathroom, septic system and all major components function pretty much the same as any modern home. The major difference is our power is produced by the sun! We have a 3000-watt solar system now with a battery bank of 24 deep cycle batteries. The batteries then connect to a 6000-watt power inverter which then runs to the house. We can run any appliance including a wire feed welder, which is pretty impressive.
When we moved in it was limited daylight and often cloudy through the winter months, so we started this at one of the most difficult times. We have a backup DC telcom generator that has to run quite a bit to recharge the batteries when there is no sun. Over time we will add a wind turbine, more solar panels, and batteries. However, even with running the generator, our costs on a monthly basis are far less than when we paid for grid power at our previous home.
So far so good - there have been a few hiccups along the way and a few cow pies in the living room, but other than that life is great! Recently we even got Abbie’s soap making supplies and equipment back at the house so she is back in full swing with her business!
It has definitely been a learning experience but it has been fun. We enjoy the challenge and as each day grows longer the batteries charge more and the generator runs less!