Anyone have an energy independent home?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Francois Caron, Jan 6, 2003.

  1. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    Does anyone here have a home that is completely disconnected from the power grid? By this I mean all your energy requirements are met with devices such as wind turbines, stream generators, solar panels and other non-polluting devices. Does the system work reasonably well? Do you have days where the batteries run dead on you?

    Since I currently live in a loft near downtown Montreal, this is not an option for me at this time. But further down the road, who knows what might happen? I might sell my loft at a ridiculously high price and buy a small cottage out in the boonies. I like the idea of owning a small home equipped with a wind turbine, solar panels and enough batteries required to deliver the amount of power I need for everyday living. I've been studying the options available at various sites on the Internet and was surprised at how much equipment was readily available for such a project.

    So has anyone taken this route? Are you glad you took the plunge? Or do you sometimes wish you had a boost from an outside power source?
     
  2. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Not I, but there are a whole bunch of books on how to create your own heating systems and stuff like that, being in Canada, I'm sure you'll probably learn about various heat producing ovens that are made to radiate heat slowly over time such that you can make one super hot fire and then let it burn to ashes, while the heat is ducted through brickwork that allows the heat to slowly radiate through the whole house. Stuff like that, there are a bunch of books on how to build a house like that. I'm sure there are books that tell you how to setup wind power, solar panels, etc..

    My sister who works for an architectural firm always has ideas about "green homes" so she gets alot of books from my other sister who manages a Barnes and Nobles so it's like the perfect connection. I simply read them when I'm over there..

    Jay
     
  3. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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    Haven't done it yet, but one day I'd like to. Power rates went up 20 some odd percent at the end of 2001. Now, end of 2002 came along and they went up another 12%. I'm getting sick of unstable energy prices.
     
  4. Brian Perry

    Brian Perry Cinematographer

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    While I can't see myself ever going completely separate from the power grid, it would be neat to have my exercise equipment hooked up to some batteries that could store some energy to lessen the bill.
     
  5. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    http://www.otherpower.com
    You'll find all kinds of stuff about building your own windmills and stuff. Interesting to read even if you don't plan on "unplugging".
     
  6. Todd Hochard

    Todd Hochard Cinematographer

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    Interesting, Ryan. My rates recently dropped to the lowest they've been since I moved into my house (1994).
    I'm very enthusiastic about all things efficient. I don't personally know anyone with an independent home, but I'm always looking over them on the Web. Ex: www.solarhouse.com. Extravagance AND independence.[​IMG]
    From an electrical standpoint, you wouldn't want to be disconnected from the grid, unless it was out of necessity (no power nearby). If you build in enough capacity to handle your peak loads, chances are that'll you produce more power than you'll need at times. If connected, you can sell it to the power company. Alternately, you can build a smaller, cheaper system, and use the grid to supply your peak power needs, like a battery.
    It's still crazy expensive, too. That's why I'm waiting. Plus, I'd like to have a more efficient structure to start with.
    Todd
     
  7. Paul McElligott

    Paul McElligott Cinematographer

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    They also make home fuel cell generators. You aren't completely disconnected from outside (because you need natural gas), but it's clean and electricity is supposed to be cheaper.
     
  8. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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    I think that within 100 years, we should be able to build subdivisions that are independent of power lines, sewer, water and gas.

    Passive solar home construction should be able to do away with almost all home heating needs. Solar hot water heaters could provide another big energy savings.

    A few years ago, Popular Science ran an article on a low weight concept car Ford was building. This may not have made it into the car, but instead of wires running to head lamps, tail lamps, etc. the intent was to use use fibre optic cables and have only one lamp that could be adjusted by the load. I would like to a see a home with fibre optic cables that would replace wires and light bulbs.

    Once you eliminate heating, cooling, and water heating, and put lighting on a dedicated circuit, then the demands on electrical systems should be greatly reduced and should not be unreasonably expensive - even without wind turbines.

    Phones are already wireless.

    Get some further advancements in septic systems and that would complete the energy independent home. And in 100 years I doubt it will be more expensive than what we pay today.
     
  9. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    Thanks all! The extra links will help me further my eventual goal to become totally "unplugged". [​IMG]
    One thing I won't try to do is build my own wind turbine. With the amount of work required to build one, it'll be easier for me to purchase a professionally built model such as the Southwest Windpower Air-X series along with a set of solar panel arrays.
    Hot water is not a problem since another set of solar panels will do a decent job on that end. Appliances such as the stove, refrigerator and clothes dryer will be powered by natural or propane gas. Home heating still needs to be studied, but I may be able to accomplish something highly efficient with a wood pellet stove and a proper set of heat exchangers. Another option is to use gas as a supplementary heating source wherever applicable, but I do want to minimize my dependence on gas since it's just as succeptible to price fluctuations as electricity.
    The ultimate goal is to find a small home in a small town close to services such as water and sewage if possible, but have the electricity and gas physically disconnected from the house. I want to prove without a doubt that it's not only possible to become energy independent, I also want to prove it's possible to accomplish it without changing one's lifestyle too dramatically.
    In my case, the cost saving won't be all that dramatic considering the cost of electricity here in Quebec is only 4.8 cents Canadian or 3.2 cents US per kWh. But the next time there's an ice storm, I'll be the only one in town with plenty of heat and light! [​IMG]
     
  10. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    This thread reminds me of something I found humorous over this past holiday season:

    Every year the local power company puts out a holiday cookie cook book. Between the recipes are propaganda about the electric company and pictures of local homes.

    The funny part is, we have one of these books from the late 50's and one from 2002. The 50's cook book talks about how great electricity is and how you should use it in everything you do. And it shows pictures of 50's kitchens stacked with electrical appliances and light covered ceilings.

    The 2002 book is all about conservation and how you should turn lights off when not using them and how to reduce energy bills and how to look for energy efficient appliances.

    It's funny how our mentality has changed over 50 years. I wonder what it will be 50 years from now.
     
  11. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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  12. Todd Hochard

    Todd Hochard Cinematographer

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    Yeah, I'm not sure how the fiber optic thing would be much more efficient. Lighting efficiency is all about lumens/watt. LEDs win here, they just need to make them bigger, and less expensive.

    Interesting quote from that otherpower.com site. It was something like- "incandescant bulbs are space heaters that happen to give off light." I didn't realize how true this was, until I replaced all my high use bulbs with compact fluorescents. My den temperature dropped two degrees!

    Dave- the conservation thing is funny, since if you look at it, energy use per capita is way up, compared to the 50s. I personally think the electric companies just play lip service to the idea, because it's "politically correct" but certainly not popular.

    Todd
     
  13. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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  14. Todd Hochard

    Todd Hochard Cinematographer

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    I live in Florida. We have little need for this- what do you call it- "central heating."[​IMG]
    Actually, my heat pump runs in heating mode about 2-3 weeks each year (right now, actually- we might get frost tonight- brrr!). As you can imagine, most of the year is spent cooling (9 months or so), so I'm always looking for ways to reduce the heat load on the heat pump (in cooling mode, of course).
    Compact Fluorescents are coming in lots of sizes now, and you can get them at lots more places, AND they're a lot cheaper than they used to be. They make mini-spirals that will fit anywhere a regular incandescant will, as well as R30 (indoor) and R38 (larger outdoor) floodlight sizes. I've also seen them with fancy globe covers, for those bathroom globe strips. Home Depot, Lowe's, and my local Costco all sell them.
    WARNING- they do NOT start well (dim for several minutes) when used outside with temps below 45F. That's my experience, anyway.
    Todd
     
  15. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    That's one thing I've noticed about living in the northern part of the continent. We aren't as dependent on air conditioning as those living in the southern part. As a result, the lack of excessive heat and our well insulated houses seems to reduce our energy consumption quite a bit. Sure it can get a bit hot in my place during the summertime, but the big heat waves only last maybe two or three weeks. The rest of the summer is usually reasonably comfortable. As a result of this, I've never felt the need to spend a lot of dough just to get an air conditioning unit that will be used for a very brief period of time.
    Todd, you don't know the meaning of winter! Places like Manitoba get record cold snaps and six foot snow drifts, and you're worred about a bit of frost! [​IMG]
    It's a good thing those energy efficient floodlights are available. I have thirteen 50 watt R38 floods on the ceiling of my loft! The former owner was an artist who installed the floods to light up his work. If I replace the ones that burn out with energy efficient floods, I'll cut down on my power consumption slowly but surely.
    Then again, I rarely ever use the floods in the first place except when I have company or when I need to work on my home theater system. In three and a half years, only one lamp has burnt out. Still, there are a few frequently used lamps here that could be upgraded with the new bulbs when the old bulbs burn out.
    Thanks for the info!
     
  16. Todd Hochard

    Todd Hochard Cinematographer

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  17. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    Actually, I didn't mean so far south where winter heating becomes pointless. I was talking about those areas where the weather varies so much that something is running constantly almost year round.
    I checked my hydro bill and the consumption peaks between November and March where the average consumption is about 900 kWh per month. But between April and October (that's when the baseboards are turned off in the breaker box), the monthly consumption quickly drops below 400 kWh per month. On the whole, it's very low. Then again, the loft only has one side exposed to the outside elements. Every other side is buried inside the building. My previous dwelling was so badly insulated that it easily consumed over twice as much power just to heat up the place!
    I didn't expect a home theater system to take that much power even when it's turned off! I knew it consumed a bit of power, but 55 watts? I should measure my own system just to find out how much power it's consuming in the long run.
    Wait a minute... $30/400=... You're paying 7.5 cents per kWh?!? Ouch! In American funds, I only pay 3.2 cents per kWh! I never thought I had it so good!
    Now I'm being mean! I should also stop. [​IMG]
     
  18. Todd Hochard

    Todd Hochard Cinematographer

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    7.5c/Kw-hr is actually below the national average. In Maine, just "across the way" from you, the rates were about 13c/Kw-hr when I lived there in 2000.
     
  19. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    13 CENTS?!? [​IMG] Holy crap! That's SEVEN TIMES what I've been paying for the last few years! And just across the border to boot! How the heck do you Americans ever manage to pay your utility bills? I'm surprised more energy independent homes haven't sprung up! A wind turbine and a solar array coupled with the required support equipment would be paid off within two years, yet would provide power for five years with minimal maintenance.
    Thanks for the cold shower! [​IMG]
     

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