We have all been there when a cold front comes in and our homes electrical system had to work double time to maintain a comfortable temperature. We often feel like we don’t have any other choice.
Then one day you take a trip out to your mailbox, and you see it, last month’s electric bill. You don’t want to open it and see just how much you really owe, but you don’t have any other choice. Or do you?
Lately, there has been more attention on alternative lifestyles like tiny homes and living off-grid. It’s fun to watch these shows and imagine what you would do in that situation, but have you ever really thought about it? Here are some important things to consider before going off-grid.
1. HOW MUCH POWER DO YOU REALLY NEED?
Depending on the year your home was built, homes that are connected to the grid can generate between 7,200 to 48,000 watts of energy a day (this depends on your amp and voltage services which is 60-200 amps and 120-240 volts). This is your capacity, not how much energy is used.
According to Google, a typical family will use 911 kilowatts per hour (kWh), although this average is only close to what is typically used in Ohio, other states differ greatly.
To convert how many watts that is, it’s important to know that there is 1 kWh per 1,000 watts. Multiply the 911 kWh by 1,000 and you get 911,000. This means that over the course of a month it’s about 30,000 watts used a day.
911 kWh x 1,000 W = 911,000
911,000 W / 30 days = 30,366 W
That is a lot of energy every day that you would have to generate on your own if you were to completely go off-grid. Because that is, at least at first, a totally unrealistic goal for energy consumption off grid you will need to change your habits.
For example, you don’t need to have the lights on at night when you are watching TV and you don’t need the lights on in a room that you just left. Small little changes will help to cut down your power use and will help conserve energy down to something that you can realistically generate.
Let’s do a little math. There are two parts to generating energy or watts, they are voltage and current. Voltage is the pressure of electrical power, and current is the flow of the electricity (it is also measured in amps). To figure out how much power you need, here is the equation:
V x I = W
V = voltage
I = current
W = wattage
So if you have 2 volts and multiply it by 3 currents (or amps) you will need 6 watts.
2(V) x 3(I) = 6 (W)
Look at any appliance in your home and you will be able to find a tag that states how much watts will be required to run it. Sometimes the tag will state out-right the watts required, but if not multiply the amps by 120 volts (120 volts because that is a typical homes volt service).
2. HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE TO MAINTAIN YOUR OFF-GRID SYSTEM?
This is entirely up to you. When you are first starting out it will take a lot of work, and probably some trial and error to figure out how your off-grid system is going to work.
It will take time to reorient your lifestyle from “I turn this switch on and I automatically get power” to “I had to do ‘x and y’ to generate this power and store energy in my ‘z’ battery so that I can turn on this light”.
You’ll have to be mindful as well that you aren’t depleting your energy stores faster than generating more.
3. DO YOU HAVE THE MONEY OR RESOURCES TO GO OFF-GRID?
This is also a big concern, going off-grid has to be expensive right? Wrong. There are many different things you can do to power your home on own without spending a ton of money.
There are so many options to generating your own power some of which include rechargeable batteries, K-Tor, pedal power or solar panels. Do what is right for you and more importantly what you can afford.
Most of those items are things you only have to purchase once, but some you can jimmy-rig for yourself using things you probably already have in your garage.
IS IT WORTH?
That all depends on you. Do you want to just get the monkey off your back and stop paying the electrical company so much money every month?
Or do you want to create your own system where if something devastating happened, natural or otherwise, you could still have power?
Generating your own power is a change of lifestyle and a commitment to deciding what you really truly need.