Off-Grid Living

In 2016, we embarked on a journey to live completely off-grid in central Ohio with no connection to our local utility power.  We built a new house and shop with off-grid in mind every step of the way.  We have been making all of our own electric power for nearly 4 years now without sacrificing modern conveniences.  Our four kids enjoy their electronics and long showers, etc, just like other kids do.  Let me tell you a little about it. 

We currently have 7 kW solar on our shop and 2.5 kW solar on our house.  A Schneider Electric 6.8 kW inverter powers our home with a Magnum 4.4 kW inverter for backup and battery charging.  We have enough battery storage to make it through about 2 cloudy days without needing to run our backup generator.  Our generator is an 11 kW Generac which automatically starts based on battery state of charge.   

We heat and cool our house with Fujitsu mini split ducted AC/heat pump units.  These are super high efficiency with variable speed compressors and fan motors.  Our auxiliary heat is from propane when the sun doesn't shine (hot water coils in our duct work).  In middle of the cold dreary winter, we get most of our heat from propane.  Our kitchen is setup so that we can cook with either electric or gas.  Maytag (and other brands) makes gas ranges with electronic spark ignition in the oven instead of a glow bar which uses less electricity.  Also, we dry clothes with either an electric dryer or gas dryer depending on how much sun we are getting.  

Induction burners are a modern alternative to traditional electric resistance heat burners.  Induction burners heat the pan and not the surface which means less waste heat and higher efficiency.  

Our water comes from a deep well with a Grundfos submersible pump.  Grundfos pumps have soft start technology which prevents a power surge when the pump starts.  Also, it is a constant pressure system which makes it more efficient than traditional systems.

There are many things that help to reduce our power usage.  Of course, our house is well insulated with spray foam insulation in the walls and triple pane windows.  All lighting is LED and all of our appliances are high efficiency.  Energy Star rated appliances generally are more efficient than others.  Our chest freezer is a newer model which cut the power consumption in half compared to our old chest freezer.  We use a front load clothes washer which uses less water and energy than others.  When it's coffee time, we usually put the freshly brewed coffee in an insulated carafe so our coffee maker doesn't need to keep heating.  DC motors for exhaust fans and ceiling fans, etc, generally are much more efficient than induction motors.  Our dishwasher heating element is disconnected so it doesn't heat the water, wasting electrical energy.  Our propane water heater is set hotter than most which helps the dishes get clean in our dishwasher.  

We can monitor our battery condition and check the system while away from home over the internet.  Our goal is to help others become energy independent as well.  Ohio is more difficult than some other areas to depend on solar energy because of the amount of cloudy weather that we have.  But from March through about November, we generally have enough sun without backup generator.

Our goal in the future is to have a CHP (combined heat power) unit which will generate electricity from propane while heating our house with the waste heat.  This will make virtually free electricity while heating our house in the winter time, making our system more efficient.  I have begun to do some experiments with a CHP.  Feel free to message us if you have ideas about this.

First CHP Experiment

DC Motor Fan

Spray Foam Insulation