What's off grid like?

Discussion about OutBack Inverters in Off Grid Applications

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raysun
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

Then again maybe they define continuous really weirdly
What would be the purpose of that? To give tech support something to do, debugging Radian module failures?
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by JRKsolar »

Nice to know. Their wording is a little ambiguous, maybe they know it's capable but don't want to quantify/guarantee it.
raysun
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

JRKsolar wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 12:25 pm Nice to know. Their wording is a little ambiguous, maybe they know it's capable but don't want to quantify/guarantee it.
Being an engineer by nature and profession, I say if it isn't measured, it didn't happen.

Let's see measures, rather than impressions.

FWIW, my money's on the Radian specs being conservative - a good equipment design practice. However, the specification is what's covered in the warranty. Pushing devices past their design limits is poor system design and operational practice. It can be done in many cases, but there's a price to pay.

I can drive my vehicle with the engine RPM well past red line - for a while.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by JRKsolar »

Couldn't agree more.
I'm hoping to get a long life out of my equipment and running well under rated capacity seems like the best way to get there.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by JRHill »

Shadow_Storm56 wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 11:53 am I notice alot of people 100% off grid tend to be in areas with low power quality.... seems to be alot more areas with bad power quality than I thought.
Not necessarily low quality but there is more exposure to the elements and delays and fixes. When the weather is so bad that power lines are taken down it stands to reason the line crews will be challenged. I really appreciated the PUD/PUC guys. They are courageous folks and usually your neighbors with many of the same priorities for their families. Besides, everyone is related to everybody else.
raysun
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

JRKsolar wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 12:44 pm Couldn't agree more.
I'm hoping to get a long life out of my equipment and running well under rated capacity seems like the best way to get there.
An Outback engineer once told me, in reference to sizing PV arrays for use with FM charge controllers, to leave 20% "headroom" under the published specifications.

I understand the "cover all eventualities" approach, and use this guidance with all the equipment.
raysun
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

Not necessarily low quality but there is more exposure to the elements and delays and fixes.
Agreed. We would have hooked up to the grid, and still put in solar, had the opportunity been practical. However, even with working through the entire permitting process starting a year in advance of construction, and having all our "ducks in a row", we were told by an electric company field foreman who came out to do a pre-installation survey, that it would be 6 months before he could schedule a crew.

WTAF. I went that day to a solar electric distributor and within a week had my equipment delivered and self-installed.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Mike Curran »

I notice alot of people 100% off grid tend to be in areas with low power quality.... seems to be alot more areas with bad power quality than I thought.
Speaking of poor quality AC, red trace is grid at my barn, yellow is Skybox output with grid input disconnected ("dropped"):
Screenshot (5).png
https://ei.tigoenergy.com/p/pZXn7SZQyO45
https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/Hctc107221
Shadow_Storm56
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

Mike Curran wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 2:00 pm
I notice alot of people 100% off grid tend to be in areas with low power quality.... seems to be alot more areas with bad power quality than I thought.
Speaking of poor quality AC, red trace is grid at my barn, yellow is Skybox output with grid input disconnected ("dropped"):Screenshot (5).png

The grid looks like the output of a very low grade inverter, but your inverters output looks great! Idk if the grid is bad enough to destroy electronics but I imagine lots of noise in motors
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

raysun wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 1:12 pm
Not necessarily low quality but there is more exposure to the elements and delays and fixes.
Agreed. We would have hooked up to the grid, and still put in solar, had the opportunity been practical. However, even with working through the entire permitting process starting a year in advance of construction, and having all our "ducks in a row", we were told by an electric company field foreman who came out to do a pre-installation survey, that it would be 6 months before he could schedule a crew.

WTAF. I went that day to a solar electric distributor and within a week had my equipment delivered and self-installed.
I do all my stuff myself with some advice from electrician friends but mainly my own research. I do wish radians had the ability to grid limit like some inverters do as it's not worth actually going grid tie with a proper bi directional meter in my case but on rare occasions my meter does show backwards so I basically am paying for what I produce during thoes times. Even if it's probably like 50kwh a year I'd lose...

Maybe one day I can take that line off grid.... I'd need about 80-100kwh of batteries and 6 or 7 8kw radians and atleast 20-30kw of solar but it's not completely impossible!
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

raysun wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 12:33 pm
JRKsolar wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 12:25 pm Nice to know. Their wording is a little ambiguous, maybe they know it's capable but don't want to quantify/guarantee it.
Being an engineer by nature and profession, I say if it isn't measured, it didn't happen.

Let's see measures, rather than impressions.

FWIW, my money's on the Radian specs being conservative - a good equipment design practice. However, the specification is what's covered in the warranty. Pushing devices past their design limits is poor system design and operational practice. It can be done in many cases, but there's a price to pay.

I can drive my vehicle with the engine RPM well past red line - for a while.
I thought you were supposed to stay above the red line...... uh oh
raysun
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

Just make sure you've got a buddy in a follow car to pick up the engine parts laying in the road, and soak up the oil trail.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

raysun wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 5:56 pm Just make sure you've got a buddy in a follow car to pick up the engine parts laying in the road, and soak up the oil trail.
Haha that'd be a rough day.... I've had to run some diesel pump engines pretty hard and it's like please don't explode please don't explode.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by JRHill »

What's off grid like? At least where we live? We have almost a kilowatt of solar coming in. Woo Hoo! At least while the sun comes over a draw that goes up the canyon. That'll last 30 minutes. After that the sun will be behind the trees for the rest of the day except for cloud edge. :grin:

I'm not complaining in the least. A blast of sunlight around the winter solstice really causes me to count my blessings. The whole of the forest seems to 'light up.' The livestock, the livestock protectors (Catahoulas), even the forest squirrels- everything wants a sun tan. I'd be out into it but moving slow today after teaching a city boy how to butcher a few pigs in the rain. Go figure, today its beautiful.

So what's off grid like? Formally off grid is just switching your main off from the power pole. Informally you have no power pole (or choose not to be connected), its a whole realm of stuff.

I thought this thread would bring more input....
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

Last week, we had one of the biggest storms in memory. The wind, pelting rain, and lightning actually woke me each night.

There was a massive power outage. Huge swaths of the island were affected. Nearly all power in our district of Ka'u (the island's largest) was out for two days.

I found out about it on Facebook.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by JRHill »

raysun wrote: Sun Dec 12, 2021 11:57 am Last week, we had one of the biggest storms in memory. The pelting rain actually woke me each night.

There was a massive power outage. Huge swaths of the island were affected. Nearly all power in our district of Ka'u (the island's largest) was out for two days.

I found out about it on Facebook.
I thought about you and David several times. Not the normal thing but better than an eruption. So there is a good example of 'What's off grid like?'. Having something totally, totally unexpected and its a non issue. Perfect.

I killed FB several years back so I don't have that news source to rely on anymore.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

I also read about it in the newspaper several days later. I was suprised by the extent of the outage.

Our power didn't even flicker. 😄

We did know something was up. We lost our fiber internet connection about 9PM the first night. The intrepid local field crew (thanks Darrell!) had it back online at 3AM.

Being off-grid, the whole storm was relatively inconsequential for us.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by JRHill »

And there you have it: What's off grid like?

It's no different here except for no macadamia nuts. But they don't have snakes to play with.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

raysun wrote: Sun Dec 12, 2021 11:57 am Last week, we had one of the biggest storms in memory. The wind, pelting rain, and lightning actually woke me each night.

There was a massive power outage. Huge swaths of the island were affected. Nearly all power in our district of Ka'u (the island's largest) was out for two days.

I found out about it on Facebook.
That's like my staff in our market store, they call me and are like hey the big produce case is off can you check it? I'm like.... powers out silly. Not everything stays on but most things do.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

raysun wrote: Sun Dec 12, 2021 12:18 pm I also read about it in the newspaper several days later. I was suprised by the extent of the outage.

Our power didn't even flicker. 😄

We did know something was up. We lost our fiber internet connection about 9PM the first night. The intrepid local field crew (thanks Darrell!) had it back online at 3AM.

Being off-grid, the whole storm was relatively inconsequential for us.
Atleast your having fun, I keep think your name is raisin....
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by JPA »

We are in the high desert of western Colorado at 5400'. We get quite a bit of sun year round. We built a new home and went off grid because it was significantly cheaper than running a power line and it is something that we had always thought about.

Land:
94 acres with ample irrigation water rights to irrigate 45 ac of hay from a creek that flows through the middle of the property. We also have a beneficial use water right to run a hydroelectric plant on that creek at up to 0.5 cfs and 10 psi (not hooked in to power yet...more on that later). Potential is 500W of energy but our hydro gen and fluctuations in water level dictate using about 0.25 cfs for most days of use of hydro since the creek does dry up at times in summer.

Home Specs:
Power: Thanks to Colorado Energy Systems out of Glenwood Springs for the installation! Our solar panels on the roof face about 15 deg East of South. We are running a 3kW solar array and we have a Kohler 14RES Natural Gas Generator that we run about 300 hrs a year, almost all from November to February (Forunately a 2" steel NG distribution line ran right by house site). The gen costs about $1.25-1.50/hr to run and maintain depending on NG prices. Outback Radian inverter and FlexMax 80 charge controller. We have 16 350 Ah FLA batteries wired 48V. I am really close (an hour or two) away from hooking in a 240v AC hydroelectric that will supply about 250W continuous energy. We get about 16-24 hrs out of a battery charge before AGS triggers the generator depending on if we are using heavy or not.
Lights: We are completely LED. Outside lights have two switches in front, two in back, and two on each side, allowing for motion detection security to remain on and a set of lights that we can turn on or off at will.
Water: We developed a spring that gravity feeds a 1750 gal cistern in our creek valley. That spring also gravity feeds a 1500 sq ft garden. We then use a Grundfos SQE pump with soft start to pump to the house. This has been great because the pump soft start limits the current draw upon startup and is easier on batteries. We are running an UV Light for disinfection.
House: 800 sq ft, 1 bedroom living space w/ 1100 sq ft attached garage (priorities... :grin: )
Heat: On demand NG Lochinvar furnace/water heater with radiant floor heat. Two heat zones, each with 60W grundfos circulator pump. We typically see -10 to -20F as yearly low. Our NG costs topped out at $125 one cold and snowy January with heat, dryer, stove, and 100hrs on generator. Our summer NG bill is typically $15.
Cooling: Window based swamp cooler in an upstairs window. We typically see 100F as yearly high.
ALL appliances possible are on NG, including dryer, stove, furnace.
We purchase the most efficient appliances that we could. We have one Refridgerator/freezer and two additional freezers to support my hunting habits.
The dishwasher, coffee maker, and microwave are the electricity hogs (basically anything with electric heat element)
Insulation: We did R24 in walls, even in the garage, and R30 ceilings. The garage is only heated by the furnace in the garage and has always stayed above 58F even at -10F outside.

Changed habits (training 7 and 10 year old kids to do these sucks, BTW):
Try to run dishwasher, clothes washer, dryer, microwave either while sun is out or we are on generator.
In the winter, we run the generator manually about 1 hr a night so the AGS doesn't run the gen 3.5 hrs after we leave for work in the dark
Lights off unless we are in a room.
Instead of a power bill, I put $100 a month in a savings account to prepare for potential issues and maintenance items like battery replacement.

Other:
Our 1500 sq ft garden produced about 1000lbs of organic/non GMO/etc produce this year, a bumper crop. Our cellar is full! It takes time, but I grow my own plants from seed. The garden is watered by an 8 zone automatic timing system, which is a huge time saver.
We have chickens with minimal water thawing and lighting requirements in winter.
Deer, Elk, Bears, Mtn Lions, foxes, coyotes, etc regularly visit us...I catch them on camera. It is really fun to see!

Other thoughts:
Once we are tied in to the Hydroelectric, our generator and battery use will decrease significantly.
We are planning to add about 2000 sq ft on to the house in the next 2 years or so once material prices come back down (I hope). 800 sq ft is small for a family of 4.
We would like a hot tub and/or sauna, so they will likely be wood fired if/when we get them.
Having guests over pretty much guarantees that we will run the generator due to increased power use.
I do use power tools a lot for woodworking/construction/auto mechanics. I run the generator for these tools/compressors/etc.

Problems we have had:
-I had to install a vent fan in the battery box to keep our Carbon Monoxide detectors from going off at night after a heavy battery charge day. The passive vent didn't cut it. I wired the vent fan to the FlexMax aux 12V port and have had no problems since.
-Our mate 3 went bad about 13 months in. It still worked except for AGS. Fortunately this happened in the summer. Replacement unit was free but install company charged us b/c it was outside their 1 yr labor warranty.
-I maintain the batteries with distilled water (3-6 gal total) and clean the terminals from corrosion every 2-3 mos. I foresee the battery cables not lasting more than another 2-3 years. I will build a set of cables with hydraulic crimpers and sealed heat shrink next go around.
-Our AGS failed to start one time in the winter and the power system shut down due to low battery cutoff when we weren't home. I think the gen got water in it and froze stuck. My wife had to go out to the gen and hit the on button manually several times to get it to break loose when she got home.

Overall, I like living off grid, but it is a lot of work. It is nice to get a call from a friend to ask if our power is out and be able to say "nope." But in addition to being very cautious power users, we also have the added maintenance of the batteries and generator, so it adds to the workload. Since we both work full time, it is a burden at times, but I enjoy the work so I don't mind. Our expectations were low and we committed to adjusting our lifestyle as needed. My wife gets tired of it at times. I have to stay on top of my family so we are using our batteries/gen as lightly as possible. I get tired of that at times.

Advice to those considering going off grid:
Think it through thoroughly before pulling the trigger!

Things I would like to do:
Hook in the hydro (I am so close!)
Build a roof over the generator.
Put in a greenhouse.
I am considering doing a wind study, but once the hydro is in, it will likely be unnecessary.
Build an ag shop for equipment...still wondering how to do the power for it.

I am sure I have forgot something, so I will post updates as I remember.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Jpro556 »

I have an off grid property in Colorado at 10,500’. 12 acres with two primitive 20x30 sheds, a small original 400sf cabin and bath house, a new 2300sf house and a detached garage with 850sf garage space and 850sf rec room/kitchenette living space above.

I run 2 radians, 42kwh lfp batteries, 10.2kw panels, LP gen backup.

2 buried 1000 gallon lp tanks. 1 - 500 gal tank dedicated to backup generator.

Main house supplies power to several sub panels. 30a/240 to old cabin, 20a/240 to one shed, 50a/240 to another shed, and 100a/240 to garage.

System supports 2 lp boilers and sidearm hot water tanks, in floor radiant heating in house and garage and wall lp heat to old little cabin, 450’ deep 5gpm water well to 1200gal tank and two 240v Gould pressure pumps 2 ERVs, sophisticated Lutron homeworksQS lighting control, all led lights, security cameras, 4 fridges, washer and lp dryer, 2 lp ranges, microwaves, 4 bathrooms, water drain heat tape, septic system, 50 amp arc welder on occasion, plug-in phev charging, dishwasher, and internet via little unit that converts cellular lte to Ethernet to Velop mesh system covering all structures.

My family of three lived there for first year and dialed in all the systems.

Whole system uses about 20kwh/per day vacant, and 20-30 when occupied plus more if charging phev.

Use about 1200 gallons LP per year for heat and cooking, plus another 250 for backup generator.

Unless a big storm system, the systems batteries are typically recharged by noon everyday all year long. But generator charges batteries up 10-20 times per year when Sun not available.

Using passivhaus design principles, lots of insulation, airtight… a very comfortable interior space with radiant heat. Keep it at 60 when not there and 70 when occupied. Heated garage at 50 in winter.

Feels super nice not to rely on almost anybody to keep the place running. Wish could get away from LP, and probably will in 10-15 years. When affordable to add another 2 radian type units and quadruple solar energy and triple batteries. For now $2-$3k in LP costs is ok, plus lots of diesel to power tractor to plow 2 mile forest road!

We only charge phev during day after batteries have charged, and that works great. Better systems and comfort at that off grid house than my main house in Denver. Will be moving up to off grid house permanently in 2 years. It’s our dream retirement place.
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MT Solar galvanized, single pole mount for the solar array
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Note: panels mounted about 600' away hence the high voltage
charge controllers (higher voltage = smaller wire for the long run)

Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Pacifico »

We are in the fourth year of our off-grid living experience and I can report that basically, in nine months out of the year, we don't give it a second thought. It's only about the three shortest months of winter that we pay attention to the weather reports and keep an eye on our battery's state of charge.

My wife and I set out to live this way and bought a somewhat remote piece of land in the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the Pacific Northwest. Designing and having our home built (3 bedroom, 3 bath + small guest house and shop) gave us the opportunity to tailor our home power needs around the unique characteristics of alternative energy generation. It is said that the most economical approach to designing an independent, home solar power system is to figure out first, how to use less electricity.

Since using electricity to heat things is very inefficient, all of our major heating needs are based on propane. Clothes drying, whole house heating, cooking and water heating are based on standard gas burning appliances. Where possible, other electric devices selected were Energy Star rated or highly efficient whenever possible. Things like the microwave oven, cloths iron, kitchen sink garbage disposal have no energy efficient alternatives so had to budgeted for in the design of our alternative energy (AE) system capacity.

To pump water from our well, we use a Grundfos well pump which is extremely efficient over the 240 volt alternatives and only uses 400-500 watts to pump at 10gpm. Our pressure tank for household water pressure utilizes an efficient Dankoff booster pump and since the well fills two, 3,000 gallon water storage tanks, we have sufficient reserve to only pump water out of the ground on sunny days when we have an excess of solar energy. We have a standard Energy-Star rated refrigerator and a chest freezer. LED lighting is a huge power saver compared to the ghastly fluorescent lighting or even incandescent lighting of the past.

The specifications for our RE system came after a careful and thoughtful audit of our daily energy needs. By listing every power using device and the amount of time we would need to run each device daily, we came up with that all important number needed to get a reasonable grasp on how to size the inverter, solar panels and battery capacity. We were blessed to have a competent advisor/installer for our project who guided us in the energy audit phase, system design and installation.

Our goal was to live in a well thought out house where one would hardly notice that we were not grid connected. Since the short days of winter, where cloudy days and rain would greatly reduce solar panel production, we settled on three days of autonomy (zero solar production) as what we would demand from our battery bank before having to rely on the backup generator. We have learned by trial and error, how to "game the system" so to speak and further increase efficiency during the winter months and not rely on the generator (Our backup generator runs a total of about 14 to 18 hours per winter to make up for shortfalls in solar production). For example, if you see in the forecast that there is a sunny day between rain storms coming up, we can pick that sunny day to do the power intensive chores like laundry, running the dishwasher or running the well pump. Installing a wood stove to heat the house as nearly eliminated the need to run the whole house propane heater which relies on an electric fan to move the heated air. Living along the coast means we don't need to budget for air conditioning since it hardly ever gets hot enough to need it though, the abundant sunny days of summer make running an efficient AC system doable if it were desired.

Three more observations about living off-grid. Since our acreage was far from the power grid, we bought it for a very attractive price since conventional wisdom says that bringing grid power to the site would be too costly to attract buyers even though it was a very beautiful piece of land. The money we saved in the land purchase plus tax credits more than made up for the cost of our AE system.

Second, alternative energy has come a long way even in just the past decade. People still have this impression that living off-grid means composting toilets, small, one room cabins, constant reliance on noisy, gas generators, and doing without. None of that is necessarily true today. The equipment out there is very good and more affordable than ever before. The cost of solar panels is a mere fraction of what it was in the past. New battery technologies are coming down in price and gaining in popularity.

Third and last observation to share is that every system is a custom system. There is no off the shelf, plug-and-play solution if you want to do this right. The right system for you can only be determined after you determine how you want to live and how much you're willing to spend. AE systems are about the same cost and thought process as buying a car. Do you want a BMW, a Prius or an economy model? Decide the balance between what you need, what you want and what you're willing to spend to guide you.

We took a risk in jumping into this project. We couldn't say with certainty that it would all work out but we did our homework, got competent advice and found out that yes, you can live very well off-grid much the same as those who live in the on-grid world. I'm glad we took the risk.

I hope this helped.
Last edited by Pacifico on Sat Jan 22, 2022 11:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
glassmantwo
Forum Junior Member
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2018 5:04 pm
My RE system: older off grid system with 24 - 175 watt pv panels, two 3524 inverters, charge controllers and batteries. Batteries installed are Trojan SPRE 06 415. There are 20 batteries total. 5 strings.

Re: What's off grid like?

Post by glassmantwo »

We have been off grid for over 10 years. This is our seasonal and weekend home. We have two 3524 inverters set up to deliver 120 volts. 20 of the larger deep cycle lead/acid batteries. 24 - 175 watt panels. Our home is a SIPs home which is structurally insulated panels. Small, about 1400 square feet. We are about 43 degrees north latitude, cold enough. When we built the house, we installed many kill switches to reduce phantom loads. Our refrigerator was propane. I have tracked production and usage for about 8 years now, and we can get by with little to no generator usage during 9 months of the year. About 80% of generator usage is during the winter. We have all the conveniences of a so called normal home including washer and gas dryer, dishwasher, microwave, toaster oven, plus the garage is heated. We have two 500 gallon propane tanks that carry all the load, and last all winter. Road is not plowed during the winter. Attached to the propane tanks are 8 appliances. Granted, we keep the house at 58 degrees when we are not there. We otherwise use a wood stove that will run us out if we are not,careful. The original Mate was not really easy to program, but I understand the current Mate3 is much easier. All LED or CFL lighting. Also have 21,000 BTU of AC for the summer. I am really pleased with outcomes.
JRHill
Forum Emperor
Posts: 2391
Joined: Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:12 am
My RE system: 48v OB inverter and charge controller, hub and mate3s.
Location: PNW
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by JRHill »

Pacifico wrote: Sat Jan 22, 2022 11:11 am We are in the fourth year of our off-grid living experience and I can report that basically, in nine months out of the year, we don't give it a second thought.... I hope this helped.
Pacifico, well written. I drafted an addendum but it evaporated. While the original post to this thread was about power there is so much more to the story of off grid. Land and its classification, taxes on improvements and law land, usage... Marketability, and on and on. Those can be terrible after the fact of your off grid dream.

Sometimes the power part is inconsequential compared with other factors.
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