[Homestead] Shaking the grid
Clansgian at wmconnect.com
Clansgian at wmconnect.com
Fri Feb 5 18:52:35 EST 2010
> >There is no free lunch .... (Don)
Seems like a good time to chime in since the power just come back on.
During the month of January we had power exactly half the days. This, says I, is
the canary in the mine as far as the crumbling infrastructure. This power
company has done nearly no maintenance on its lines or right of way for
twenty years. Windstorms today took out the power yet again.
Though I was pleased that at the beginning of at lest two of the many power
failures, we'd be up and about and half way though the morning routine when
someone would say, "Is the power out again?" "I don't know, let me switch
something on and see."
Which brings me to my point that having a personal "off grid" power system
was never anything that captured my imagination. I've got an old steam
engine that I once had rigged to a generator for emergency power. It only cost
us some branches and deadfall, but bringing that sucker up to steam (it
would run idle on 10psi but needed more than 100psi to do anything useful) was
so much trouble that we came to perfer doing without power than fool with it.
On this dubious system, one is charged for the first $7 worth of
electricity whether one uses it or not and then by the KWH (as is the case in almost
all systems). Other than playing around with a steam engine (which I was
going to do anyway), I've never seen the economic advantage in spending
megabucks to be able to thumb my nose at the power company.
It's the Arkansas Traveller Syndrome ... you know the folksong where the
traveller comes upon the old man playing the fiddle during a rainstorm while
the roof of his house leaks bucketsful. When he advises the fiddler to fix
his roof, he says he can't because it is raining. So the traveller tells him
to fix it when it's sunny.
"Now git away afore you give me a pain
My roof never leaks when it doesn't rain."
As Don has pointed out with the numbers, the amount of power you can
realize from solar, wind, hydro is very, very modest. To go completely "off grid"
you are going to have to reduce your electical consumption to a minimum, a
small fraction of the typical household. If you do that, then your
dependence on electricity is so small it scarcely justifies an elaborate system to
provide it ... just stay on the grid and pay the tiny minimum charge.
My house is wired for a 200 amp service and the power company even (under a
freebie program) put in the underground cable from the transformer to the
meter base. But to this day, 20 years after the power was installed, the
house is still being run from a 40 amp temporary hookup. I've replaced the
yard pole box three times but never attached to the 200 amp service (and I get
a reduction on my property tax since by state defintion the house is thus
... "unfinished"). I never intend on upgrading the service, we use so little
electricity there is really no point.
My earnest advice to aspiring off-gridders is to be brutally honest with
the math. Calculate how much power you can reasonably get from your proposed
alternate system and then try living on that much power for a few months
even before you bolt down the first solar panel. You may find that reducing
the use that far is so close to reducing it to zero that it's no odds.
It makes more sense to me to become fascinated over machining or forging my
own tools, weaving my own cloth, cobbling my own shoes,
carding-spinning-knitting my own socks than to make my own electricity. I find it more freeing
to cut wood, plow a garden, and put up hay without IC engines than I would
runnng an electric light off grid. I'm not doing all those things (some of
them) but the romance of being off-grid is far below all of them on my list
of what makes me self-sufficient.
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