Ever dreamed of living off-grid? I know I have. The thought of unplugging from the modern world and living as our ancestors did is strangely appealing to me. Part of me thinks that I would enjoy the challenge of off-grid living. Another part of me worries that I would go nuts without basics like electricity and running water. While the lack of running water may be an issue, generating enough electricity to power a small home is getting easier and easier. Here we take a look at the three most popular methods for generating electricity in an off-grid home.
Solar power is without a doubt the most popular way to generate off-grid energy. Many homes today incorporate solar panels into their on-grid electrical systems, which are designed to sell back any unused electricity to the power company. Beginning in 2020, all new homes built in California must feature solar panels on their roofs. A solar panel electrical system that is completely off-grid can be installed as well. Solar panels need very little maintenance and have the benefit of containing no moving parts. The downside to solar is that it can be very expensive to install, often taking years for the homeowner to see a positive return on their investment. Prices continue to fall however, and one day solar power maybe ubiquitous in homes across the world.
Recent developments in residential wind turbines have made generating electricity from wind a real possibility in certain situations. Depending on the average wind speed in your area, it may be possible to estimate how much electricity can be generated buy a specific sized turbine. To power an average sized house in America, one would need a 10,000 watt turbine. A turbine capable of generating this amount of power would need a rotor that is over 20 ft in diameter, and would need to be mounted on a tower more than 100 ft tall! This is obviously not a realistic solution for homeowners in urban or suburban areas, but could work in the countryside.
Microhydro electrical systems use sources of running water to generate electricity. Electricity is created when water flows from a high level to a lower level. A turbine at the bottom of the system turns, and electricity is transferred from the system to the house. Because weather conditions do not come into play, microhydro electricity generation is the most reliable of the three if a continuous flow of water from a stream or a brook is available. These types of systems are also the cheapest to set up, making for a quicker return on investment. If only all of us could have a river in our backyards!
Do any of our readers have experience with off-grid living? What have you found to be the most effective method for generating your own electricity? Will I ever see my dream of living off-grid become a reality or is this city-slicker doomed to be a slave to the power company for life? Please leave us a comment below and let us know your thoughts.
Source | Image: Wikimedia Commons