What does off-grid power entail?

Even though self sufficiency is smarter than willingly connecting to a never ending utility bill, it does cost money for the equipment and one should be frugal in energy use. Electricity should not be used for heating. Heating with electricity requires a direct short and makes your power meter race around, and is incredibly inefficient and wasteful. Using electricity for heat is one of the early signs of senility.

Propane or natural gas exist in extreme abundance, burn clean, and are very cheap and efficient. Heating with gas costs only 25% as much as with electricity and even less if you have a well insulated home. Propane is easy to store and a complete years supply will cost only a couple hundred dollars and is not subject to utility failure or government shut-off.

Expensive and wasteful air conditioning should be replaced by evaporative cooling. HVAC systems are costly, inefficient, and pure evil when used off-grid. Nature's way of cooling, that God designed, is cheap, efficient, and can chill you below your comfort zone.

Now that you have taken your first smart pill and eliminated the stupid things from your off-grid system, running lights, televisions, computers, and such are a piece of cake.

Don't forget to use the sun to heat your water. By 10 o'clock in the morning, the water in a garden hose will be far too hot to shower with.

How off-grid power works

Off-grid solar electrical systems all use the same basic components, with other elements added according to need.

Here are the functions of each part:

  • Charge controller: The charge controller feeds current into the battery bank at the required voltage. Good charge controllers draw the best performance out of the batteries and are very important for economics because they influence efficiency.

  • Battery bank: The battery bank is typically made up of six or more individual batteries connected with stout cables in either series or parallel arrangements.

  • Inverter: The inverter changes DC to AC voltages suitable for use with household equipment. An inverter is optional if you use DC loads exclusively.

  • DC loads controller: You may be using both DC (boat, RV, and auto appliances) and AC loads (standard household appliances). The DC loads controller maintains the proper currents and voltages into the DC loads.

  • AC generator: As a backup power supply, the AC generator isn't strictly necessary but is usually part of any off-grid system in order to prevent blackouts when the sun is weak for extended periods.

  • Transfer switch: The transfer switch alternates the power source between either the inverter output (when battery power is available) or the AC generator.

  • AC loads controller: This device includes appropriate fuses and switching means and maintains the voltages and currents used by the AC appliances connected to the system.

Which type of current you choose depends on what you want to run. If it's just a few lights at night, with a coffee maker and a fan or two, DC is fine. However, the market for DC appliances is far smaller than 120VAC, so you may go for AC if you're using standard household appliances (which is the most common way to go and is cheaper and better because of the widespread availability of AC appliances compared to DC appliances).

DC, which is more efficient because batteries use direct current, is usually the choice for small cabins and small power systems. You can use DC appliances for RVs and boats, so envision your cabin like a big RV, and you get the picture. But DC also requires larger wire diameters, which can be very costly if you need to run lengths of more than 50 feet or so.

On a grid-tie system, you will be completely shit out of luck when the utility power goes out since you have no battery storage, so take your second smart pill and forget connecting to the grid at all since there is no legitimate reason to allow the government to connect wires to your home, and why would anyone want to subscribe to a utility bill anyway, particularly a perpetual one that continues even after you die?