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The “Lie” of Off-Grid Living

February 18, 2019

It was brought to my attention recently that, at a social gathering at our farm, an acquaintance had the audacity to gossip to other guests, behind our back, that my family “isn’t really ‘off-grid.’ They’re just relying on the grid that everyone else is paying for.” Since this is a common refrain heard by off-gridders, I thought I would discuss this, as well as some of the reasons why moving towards a more off-grid lifestyle is—I believe—a key aspect within preparedness.

To begin with, we need to establish some definitions, so we have parameters within which to frame the discussion.

“The Grid,” generally, refers to the electrical grids that provide electrical power to the nation. Using that impeccable journalistic resource (notice my tongue firmly planted in my cheek!), Wikipedia, “…and electrical grid is an interconnected network for delivering electricity from suppliers to consumers. It consists of generating stations that produce electrical power, high-voltage transmission lines that carry power from distant sources to demand centers, and distribution lines that connect individual customers…” In that context then, anyone who doesn’t have their home connected to the industrial electric grid can accurately be said to be “off-grid.”

More generally however, “can refer to living in a self-sufficient manner without reliance on one or more public utilities…Off-the-grid homes aim to achieve autonomy; they do not rely on one or more of municipal water supply, sewer, gas, electrical power grid, or similar utility services.

While neither of these really encompasses my personal definition of “off-grid,” particularly well, they’ll do to start the conversation. To do this, very briefly, I’ll discuss which “utility services” we do without, and what we utilize instead.

1) We are not tied to the electrical grid. The power line ends at our property line. We generate all of our household electrical needs from our solar panels and battery bank. We have a 1.4Kw solar array (with twice that in extra panels still in storage), a 60A charge controller (the highest level of commercially available MPPT charge controller apparently, a 5KW inverter, and a 13KwH battery bank (which means we’re practicably limited to about 6.5KwH of power from them, to avoid more than 50% depth of discharge, in order to maximize battery life span). That runs our chest freezer, lights, television and DVD player, a radio, as well as charging cellphones, laptops, flashlight batteries, etc (our refrigerator is a propane model from Dometic. I hate it. It’s a propane hog, and is going down the road soon, to be replaced with a standard electric model. This will require additional batteries in the bank though).

We also have a 5KW gas engine generator that I use to run power tools for various building projects, when I’m in a hurry, and cannot afford the time to use my more traditional hand tools (although, I have to admit, in many cases, I’ve found the hand tools are actually faster than the power tools!).

2) We’re not on public sewage. We use a composting toilet system, which I’ve written about before, and we use greywater disposal for bathwater and dishwater. I’m working on that system’s improvements, so the greywater nutrients are more efficiently utilized than the current hole they go into under wood chips.

3) We don’t utilize municipal trash service. First, we live well outside city limits. Second, while there are commercial trash collection services locally, we don’t use them. Burning trash is illegal in our county, according to county regulations. So, we don’t burn trash. What we DO have however, is a fire barrel next to the rifle range table… for warming fires….It’s just most efficient to fuel it with waste products, rather than firewood. For waste items that won’t burn, I built a large wooden dumpster on the farm. It is 4x4x4, for a total volume of 64 cubic feet. That gets filled about every 2-3 months. Then, I load it in the back of the truck, and haul it to the local dump. Each load weighs between 150-200 pounds, according to the dump scales. While dumps are not particularly environmentally friendly, our wastage is so small that it’s a trade off I’m willing to make, in order to avoid having a dump on the farm itself. My more liberal-leaning environmentalist friends like to claim I am externalizing the costs of those wastes. They’re absolutely correct. Nevertheless, with five people, we produce less than ½ of the landfill waste of the “average” 3 person American family, so…

4) We’re not on the county water system. We utilize rainwater collection of the roof of our house for household water use, filtering cooking and drinking water through a couple of Berkey filters on the counter. Water is currently heated on the stove, because I’m still working on the plumbing system in the house.

5) We’re not on the natural gas system, even though it is present in our community. We DO utilize propane gas for cooking (and the refrigerator, currently). We transport the propane to the farm in 100# and 20# tanks, in the back of the pickup. A large 500 or 1000 pound tank with delivered propane would be more efficient, but the delivery truck couldn’t make it up our driveway most of the year, and the current system works well for us. We keep roughly 18 months of propane on hand, given current usage.

6) Our kids are homeschooled. We’ll get into this in more detail elsewhere, but suffice to say, while we pay the local schools tax, we aren’t getting fuck all benefit from it.

——————

But, are you “really” “off-grid” if you’re driving on the roads, or spending money on things? How are we producing even the landfill waste that we are producing, if we’re off-grid?

Again, it depends on how you’re defining “off-grid.” Every single society, in the history of mankind, has produced non-organic waste. Even the much-lauded “nature-centric” traditions, so-beloved of modern liberals (from a distance mind you…they’re not going to give up their SUVs and laptops, in the interest of “nature,” by any means), such as the American Indians and the European Celtic tribal cultures, produced wastes. You know how we know this? Because their trash heaps are a significant source of archaeological research material.

Further, every single society in the history of the human experience, has engaged in external commerce. In my ancestral cultures, in Norway, Germany, Ireland, and Scotland, archaeological goods from trash dumps and grave finds have been found with clear origins in Asia and the Middle East and Africa. While some of those were undoubtedly the result of post-conflict looting, much of it was also—according to other source material—the result of peaceful commerce.

In North American Indian culture, there’s a really interesting example I first read about when I was in grade school. The finest bowmaking wood in North America is the Osage Orange, or Bois D’Arc tree. Planted across much the Great Plains as windbreak hedges in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this thorny tree is native to the Ozark Plateau of Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Yet, bows made of Osage Orange have been found in archaeological sites as far away as the Pacific Northwest, and Hudson’s Bay, in Canada. The bow of this wood was so highly prized that commerce routes for its trade were established the width and breadth of the continent! How’s that for commerce? There are other suitable bowmaking materials pretty much everywhere in North America. From horn-backed bows, to Pacific Yew in the PNW, to hickory and cedar…nevertheless, Osage Orange was desirable enough to make the effort to get it, much like the best yew for English bows in the middle ages was imported from the Mediterranean.

This idea that being “off-grid” means giving up anything that you cannot produce on your own, with your own effort, off your own property, flies in the face of reason and history. Someone with a 1-5 acre homestead on reclaimed cow pasture doesn’t have the same resources as someone with a 40 acre homestead in the mountains of Idaho. Someone with a 160 acre homestead—or a 200 acre homestead, in Appalachia has far more native resources on his property than the dude in Idaho does on his 40 acres.

——

So, how do I define “off-grid?” What makes our farm different than what my neighbor who is grid-tied?

The most important distinction, to me, is that we are reducing our DEPENDENCE on outside resources. There are things that we WANT, that we cannot produce on our own place, and there are even things we NEED that we cannot produce on our own place. What we’ve done is reduce both of those, as much as possible.

This serves two important purposes, from a preparedness perspective.

1) By reducing our dependence on outside resources, we’ve reduced how much capital we are expending on those things. This means we have more available to procure those things that we cannot—or will not—give up, except under the most dire extremes.

2) By reducing our dependence on outside resources, and concentrating effort on finding alternatives or work-arounds for those things we cannot—or will not—give up, we are increasing our resilience in the face of the decline.

Even those ties we still have to the “grid,” are—for the most part—things we could work around pretty easily, given the requirement.

Switching totally to hand tools would be more time-consuming, and potentially limiting, but our farm is also a designated “bug out location” for a number of people, most of whom have contributed effort to the building process. They have a proven record for being willing to do work that is necessary, and multiple vested interests in seeing the place succeed. So, while switching to all hand tools BY MYSELF would be limiting, with a proven work force on hand, it actually accelerates how much can be done (as I mentioned, in many cases, I’ve actually found hand tools are faster than power tools. An example? Turning a hardwood log into a square building timber, it turns out, is actually faster with my ax and broadax than it is with my chainsaw and Alaska Mill. Granted, it took me a couple of beams to get to that point (and I suspect the chainsaw and Alaska Mill work considerably more efficiently in softwoods than in hardwoods like oak and walnut), but it did turn out to be the case rather quickly.

Using a No5 Stanley hand planer turned out to be faster at planing building timbers than using a power planer, when dealing with knotty oak and hickory, and considerably faster than using a power sander. I will admit though, a worm-drive circular saw is still faster than my antique, one-man crosscut saws, and my Stihl chainsaw is WAY faster than my two-man crosscut saw, although both are actually far more pleasant to use than the chainsaw.

Switching from the propane stove to cooking in a wood-fired stove or wood-fired oven and an outside open fire (in summer time), is a pretty simple switch (I’ve had a LOT of experience cooking on wood stoves and open fires).

Eventually the batteries in the battery bank will die and not hold a charge anymore, but that gives us time to adapt to the changes in circumstance. It’s a “cushion” that is far more desirable than the sudden transition from “All is well, we’re watching American Idol (or whatever the fuck the Bread-and-Circus Show of the day is….) and surfing PornHub!” to “Oh shit! The Lights Just Went Out, and They’re Not Coming Back On!

Ultimately, “off-grid” for us is about choices, and options. Because we are mostly self-sufficient (and the stuff we DO buy, we could probably do without, in a pinch, although, if the grid does go down completely, one of my very first priorities is reestablishing commerce with South Texas, so I can still have oranges. I fucking love oranges!)

One of my favorite “collapsitarian” authors (other than myself, of course) is John Michael Greer, of the EcoSophia blog, and formerly of The Archdruid Reports. One of Greer’s books is titled Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush. While I certainly don’t agree with everything Greer writes, I do agree with a lot. More importantly, the title of that book jumped out at me the first time I saw it, as a practicable, actionable step I could take. We haven’t “collapsed” to the point of “let’s live in a bush hut, and eat rodents we can hunt and snare with primitive technology,” but we’ve collapsed a lot, by choice. This softens the inevitable fall, considerably, as things continue to fall apart, and gives us breathing room as others are scrambling. It’s a piece of advice I suggest to everyone. The degree to which you choose to “collapse” is up to you, but it’s worthwhile advice.

I was talking with one of our people the other day, and he made the comment that it was “frustrating,” because “I have to keep doing the ‘normal’ 9-5, in case there is no SHTF, but I still need to be prepared, because I know it’s coming.” I’ve never particularly understood this, which is why, in my entire adult life, I’ve never really stuck to the “norms.” If you KNOW that shit is falling apart around us–and I would, and have, argued that everyone does–then you have zero vested interest in continuing along doing the ‘normal.’ Quit worrying about that 9-5 and the 401K, and etc. Start looking at ways YOU can “collapse now, and avoid the rush.” Start small, but start today. Look for alternative sources of income. Look for ways you can reduce your external dependencies. Look for ways to become more self-reliant (within your community). Collapse now, and avoid the rush.

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24 Comments
  1. mtnforge permalink

    That is a great read. And one you got to understand something you pour your heart into.

    I have been running a solar/wind offgrid system for 5 years. We use a 850lb steel case motive power 12vdc battery from a fork truck. AIMS inverters for AC requirements. I need to build two more wind turbines and like to have 4 more 150 watt 12vdc solar cells. That way we can have enough capacity for our freezers and fridge, (like to buy some 12vdc refrigeration, but costs are too high for us currently), and enough “dump load” left over to heat our domestic water needs. We run a garden, bag enough deer meat with farm kill tags and regular tag season, you can take 7 deer that way alone, trade and barter for beef we want, raise some meat birds.
    Building a 14 x 25 greenhouse, so we can spread out our harvest over a longer part of the year. Also do some cold weather growing like cabbage, beet, and other root crops. I may have enough “dump load” to heat up water tanks in the greenhouse to help on coldest nights. We get A LOT of wind on the ridge here in WV when the sun ain’t shining, and shining half the time. And at night there’s always enough wind to produce steady 30-100 watts from one turbine.
    The harvest is too much when everything comes in about the 30-60 days of harvest and the canning, cellaring, etc required to put it all up for us as we get older.
    I had to do something because the quantities needed to have enough of a food larder is too much for two people. So having hopefully a 10 month or more steady supply of green growing fresh picked produce would be an excellent addition to our food supply. And a healthy more toothsome one too. Less weeding, cultivating, soil prep, bugs diseases etc.
    I began a rainwater cistern with a roof water washer as described in Khain’s 5 Acres & Independence, but that is illegal in WV. Designed it with a pressure tank system, with hand power rotary vane pump, 12vdc slow pump, and a low amp shallow well 110ac pump. Its at ground level, 12 ft tall concrete block, so at worst can have gravity feed, and that head pressure helps with all the pumps. Like I said, but thats all illegal here.
    I run a Lincoln 100% duty cycle gas drive welder for quick battery charging when the weather is uncooperative and I’m having to hurry, and an air-cooled Yanmar 1 cylinder diesel engine turning a PMA alternator, also an old VW beetle bug air-cooled engine on timber skids, running a 100amp 1 wire race alternator. Nothing comes close to the hours per gallon run time of this old VW engine. Had to build a unique starter motor set up. Runs at idle, I triple stacked flywheels for inertia and a steadier output at low rpms, and belted up to achieve the alternator speed needed to keep them cooled enough so they dont burn out. I set up the alternator mounting the same on all drive units so I can swap around alternators to suit.

    Always a way………always a way…..keep thinking….you’ll figure it out……

    For the “dump load” water heater, have dedicated 12vdc water heater elements running in a pre-heater tank, replacing the 220vac elements, but I need more dump load, because the wind turbine I got now is a piggy backed double alternator, 2000 watt 12vdc PMA from Missouri Wind & Solar, with a 82 inch sweep 5 blade blade set. Its a lower speed style blade set, creates more torque and better startup in low winds. I find a steady watt output works excellent rather than trying to get every erg of energy out of the wind speed. (the theoretical limit of kinetic power you can derive from wind is around 36%. Add in all the other mechanical and resistive losses, a steady 150-250 watts instantaneous constant charge works very well, makes me very happy. Its not the official engineering specs and lab performance, its what reaches your battery). With a simple PMA turbine, you either have to run a brake switch, or keep the PMA under load, or your blades spin too fast and come apart explosively, soon as the battery set is charged and the controller takes the battery out of charge mode. I use a digital control, mechanical solenoid charge controller, one for each the solar array and turbines. It gets complicated in a hurry. you got to adjust things not for only charge, but for dump limits, how long, at what battery voltages. And what if my dump load craps out a 3am and I’m snoozing away, my turbine sends its blades into my neighbors cows making shishcabob on the hoof? These charge solenoids have a rated 440 amps at 12vdc, (21.75 volts max a 12vdc system runs at). the tower I designed and built with, don’t laugh, EMT pipe.
    I built it as a trussed tower, uses a central 2.5 inch pipe, for strength and simple wind up cable run from the PMA, no slip ring system, with cantilevered 1.5 inch trussed EMT connecting at the center pole top and bottom with steel plate stock stand off gussets 2/3rds up the OA height, this is where my “guys” attach, I used 10 ft long sections of 1/2 inch EMT in double shear brackets and connectors, giving far more strength than cables. They hook to #12 rebar driven into sand stone ledge I drilled with a rotary hammer, and set in with mine roof bolt adhesive we use in the coal mines. It is a “Gin Pole type tower, I raise and lower with the 1/2 ton pickup. Its a 40 foot tower with a 5 ft section of schedule 80 steel pipe mast the turbine pivots on. Ran 3 conductor, super hvy weld cable type insulation wire down inside the tower center pipe to get the wild 3 phase the PMA cranks out down the pole, to a big heat sink plate rectifier I made using 80 amp diodes. This was to reduce the DC run back to the battery, thus line losses with dc power, using 6 ga weld cable in flex tight buried from the hill to the charge center in the house.

    Telling you all this, because John is more right than he is telling. To be “off grid” not just is a myriad of things and ways of living, its a total holistic mind set. Not unlike the art of small unit infantry combat tactics, how that is a holistic thing, or its just a collection related, but separate things. The best weapon is the one between ya ears. The best off grid system is the one between ya ears. You have to use your head in ways our civilization just dont do.

    Money dont buy you off grid. same with weapons. It is how you think.
    And I can tell you arm chair and ideological smart asses, THEY really dont get it.

    You got to bust your fuckin’ arse to do this. It is so many things its a continuous learning creating process.
    Even the minimalist off grid is true freedom. You who have not done so, you have ZERO comprehension of the liberty you create that only doing gets one. It is as empowering as a belt fed in your home defense. It is the belt fed of self reliance. Its the thinking you create that is the real element. Once you begin to off grid shit, it is contagious. It begets itself, it become self perpetuating self reliance because it is self determination.

    Give you an example. Power goes out 2-5 times a week up at 3000 ft on this ridge, the system is the oldest in the AEP corporate grid. Too few of us live up here to revamp the system. so its add a patch add a patch. That Dericho we had number years back, it came right thru my 6 acres, snapped off 5 to 6 ft diameter tulip poplars at ground level. Ripped whole trees, 100 foot oaks, maples, poplars out of the ground root wall and all. Flung them like toothpicks in a tornado. No power for 20 days. With our offgrid power, probably saved $35 bucks a day at least in fuel running the gas drive welder as a 11000 watt gen set to power our house. As it was we used it only to boost our two freezers so we didnt loose a years worth of home raised meat and vegetables, to avoid running our battery set much below 20% depth of draw. Thats the trick with off grid battery sets, the motive power type, they are made for an 8 hour, 80% depth of draw then fast recharge for the next work shift. They are DESIGNED for this abuse. Ours is rated at 1100 hundred of these depth of draw cycles. It is abuse, the worst way to treat a deep cycle battery. The engineers at the company we bought this battery told us you keep this battery above 20% DofD it is a 30 year battery, or more if kept lower than that, that rate of draw and charge cycles actually is beneficial for this battery construction. One engineer told me the secret to knowing a batteries quality is weight, the heavier the higher the capacity in real world terms and the higher the quality of the battery life.
    When power goes out, we dont know till we notice our neighbor 1/4 mile down outside security light is out. If we look. Can not describe to you what that is like. That freedom. Its living liberty in an unfree world.
    And another aspect. When we began to find ways to reduce our power consumption, we started keeping money that always went into the corporate/state pockets. I would say we realize somewhere between 200+ to 350 a month in savings, that is now ours, that never existed. How would you like $300 extra bucks a month? You dont allocate to something you never get a return on because it can not be invested into improving your life in the first instance?
    Remember, unfettered economic activity is one of the essential legs of Liberty. Corporate tyranny is tyranny. It denies you that essential element of Liberty. Because your a slave by having no alternative than to pay up motherfucker or your lights go out.
    If that aint being s serf I dont know what is.

    To be off grid, to live with it, build a system that is practical and works is to embrace the holistic nature of things.
    Grid tie systems are another critter entirely. They are put up and forget systems with minimal maintenance. Everything with an off grid is different. Everything. You cant make one work well without the mind set to LIVE off grid. And the funny part, is you end up saving and creating more efficiency, and innovation, with changing your thinking then changing your living. And the best part, you can not just live, but thrive if you use your mind and think outside normal convention.

    Like I said, John is more right about things than he describes.
    Off grid isn’t going off grid, it is a way of living, of life, simply put. Change your thinking and you can accomplish things most see or say are impossible or not worth the effort.

    I dont have to be polite.
    Any smart mouth nit picks me on his opinion of what off-gridding actually is by his never done it definition, can go fuck a flyin’ rollin’ donut. Right there, he has totally missed the Reason for off grid, it is the process of self reliance, sustainability, self determination, giving TPTB the finger, it is defying, it is as you John so well coined it, joining The Honorable Resistance.
    That is Off Grid Bitchez.

    If you want liberty, you got to be willing to do things no body else will.
    \When you do that, others see, and say, I can do that.
    Only the resistance is futile crowd cries it cant be done. Or its not worth it, blah blah blah.
    On a practical note, off grid is wide open. There are no standard systems, no cut and dried ways. The good Lords weather is an ever variable element. week to week, second to second. Off grid is not for the weak at heart. You risk much when you begin. It requires courage and intestinal fortitude. And hard work It is a new frontier. Ones mans off grid is not another’s off grid. All the myriad ways.

    Small wind and solar is very doable. Got a creek or river, a pond, or spring with high head hieght, or large flow, you can go small hydro, and really clean up. The best steady rate of power possible.

    The sun only shines during the day.
    The wind is best when the sun is behind clouds.
    In sping fall & winter, when the sun is lower in the sky, is when more wind is usual.
    But those two sources are unpredictable, the best off grid system money can buy doesnt compensate when you got no sun or wind.
    So you have to not only take this into account and prepare accordingly, you have to figure out and make ways to compensate. Burn wood or coal? Run stainless steel tubing through your firebox, using natural convection to pre heat, or heat you hot water. Build solar boxes on your roof or south facing walls, paint them flat black, run coper pipe inside with a glass or translucent plastic cover to let infared sun energy boil your pre heat water. Use a pool water solar roof heater even. It takes way more than you know till you try, but grow fermentable crops, distill a minimum of 178 proof ethanol you can run a gasoline engine with it to make auxillary power. You can even get a permit for 10 bucks from the ATF. But you grant them non warrant access to your property.
    The essential thing here is priorities. You must work to get a paycheck right?
    Why not work where you keep and reinvest in sustaining your life what you created as wealth.
    Wealth creation comes from only one place. everything else is part of a system to extract wealth. To part you with what you created.
    the only source of wealth, true wealth creation, is by hard work. A human has to make something using their labors. No Place. Else.Why do you think they want to keep us unarmed, unawares, ignorant, afraid. So we can be stripped our our intrinsic wealth.
    And off grid is the essence of defying and living outside of that system of wealth transfer.
    And one more thing. Weaponize.
    They weaponize everything. It is what they do.
    Food. weaponize that you control hundreds of millions.
    Water. same thing.
    Air, of course.
    The three essentials right?
    No.
    There is a fourth. Energy.
    We now live in an age where energy is as important as air water and food to many. To our civilizations ability to function. Our entire corporate industrial modern world is so energy dependent it would crash in a fucking new york minute it energy was cut off.
    So would your home. Be nothing but a box with a roof. No heat. No fridge-rated food. No water supply. no lights, phones, computers, texting, internet, ice cubes for your bourbon your bud light, no bud light either, no hot shower, or flush toilet.

    Not so much the above got yourself a good battery, solar panels, a wind turbine, the electrical controls and inverters. You aren’t living, your thriving.
    Try 20 days without grid power. We had neighbors after the Derecho who had nothing. The gas stations had no power too. Sat in their front lawn and cooked up the food they had in their freezers before it spoiled. Couple, 3 day supply. Then that was it. For 17 days, no lights. No water. No food. Without neighbors and friends providing things for them.
    It was as sad as sad is, gets. If it went on for months, years? Be a world I cant imagine. But I’m trying with all I got to avoid or live through.

    Last thing. You go off grid a tiny bit at a time, your doing right. Little bits, steps. How I did it. All out of pocket, part at a time. Then one day i had enough to start building something. then add on. upgrade. You actually can keep on with that about forever. Always improving your combat gear. Making it just bit better, quieter, easier to get to, more secure etc.

    • soapweed permalink

      Forge: And sticking it to the man is by far the world’s best entertainment. They are so constricted by their own inabilities that every regulation can be defeated by reformulating the problem and producing a far superior solution that stymies their narrow perspective….FUN…

      • mtnforge permalink

        You said it! Yeah, actually goes past, way past the satisfaction of resisting.
        It is defining oneself as a Freeman in an unfree society. The crazy thing is its culture not very far off the normative reservation. We have only been a few decades away from this self reliance and a holistic system of self determination. Its only the appearance of it being lost when you change your thinking you find out this is pretty good shit, really, I’m only limited by my imagination. And initiative.
        It is a hard hump for some to get over. It is unfathomable even to others. And to some, you and what your doing is such an outlier to their viewpoint, your insane.
        It is daunting to most I know who have come by to check out what I have accomplished, you can see it flash across their faces. Almost hear the thought: Oh Shit!. This is too much work. I’m going to just stick with staying on the grid. Its safe, easy, I don’t have to risk anything. I can’t give up air conditioning, two 6 foot freezers, my 7ft big screen, satellite TV….

        I can see the gears turning. Everyone who has come by, I honestly get the impression they thought is something like you buy at Lowes, a ready to go all in a box system, you mount up and plug in. And I never hear a word from them again.

        Interesting dynamics. We have had county and state cars sit out on the road and stare at our panels and turbine, like for half an hour, just sit there looking.
        I’ll give them a spell, then walk out to talk and they stomp on the gas pedal down the road they go before I get 50 feet from them.

        And every day, my old lady and me will look at each other and laugh, say God, aren’t you glad we sold everything, paid off our debt, bought 5 acres and independence with the tiny bit of cash we had? And we laugh again.
        The joke now is: “Hey Honey! The powers out!” “Oh! I didnt notice!” “When that happen?”

  2. James permalink

    I realize the initial outlay a bit but do the fridges/freezers like say the Sunfrost models make sense if one going solar and looking at the long term picture/lowering energy usage.

    I am at moment looking into building a solar heating system for hot water and heat,a thermo syphon unit utilizing old slider door panels that have good seals.Will not at moment heat whole home ect. but just experimenting and would at least cut down hopefully on using propane/woodstove ect.The builditsolar site has a lot of what seems proven plans along with a lot of ideas folks working on at moment,worth a look to help get at least a little independence energy wise.As mentioned,just going with little steps and hopefully building towards a more independent home as time moves on.

    • ApoloDoc permalink

      I would humbly suggest that most of the ‘solar’ appliances and such are NOT cost effective at this point. Solar panel cost has dropped so dramatically that adding capacity makes better sense. A good example is water heating. Solar panels coupled with an efficient heater (especially the newer heat pump water heaters) are far less expensive and lower maintenance than directmsolar heating of water (the old ‘gold standard’ involving collectors on the roof heating water piped through them).

      I have installed a couple of Mitsubishi minisplit heat pumps that do wonders for increasing comfort in the summer, and are great for additional heat on cold, sunny winter days. Woodstove doesn’t have to run nearly as hard.

      The key is buying a pallet from Sun Electronic in Miami when they have a big sale. 58cents per watt changes everything. With the advent of LED lighting, it is so much easier than ever. Batteries remain the big snafu, and I hope and pray that when my 2-ton 48v bank needs replacing, lithium cells will.have matured and be reasonable.

      Grid power is still cheaper, but the sense of independence is wonderful. If storage ever catches up to actual solar panel technology, it will be a new game.

      • I concur, 100%.

        For a host of reasons, I doubt highly that storage technology will ever catch up. In fact, I’m at the point now that I tell people, if you want off-grid, now’s the time to do it, because I suspect the production costs of PV to go back up, due to resource costs.

        That having been said, my take on batteries is, worst-case scenario, I will be salvaging regular car batteries out of disabled/abandoned cars. They won’t last long, but they’ll serve as a buffer as we collapse a little further, off grid, looking for alternatives.

    • mtnforge permalink

      If its ok to give you my take on the Sunfrost units, only draw back is the cost. If you have the resources you can commit by all means go for it. Every watt of power used you can reduce is a big deal, because those watts really add up.
      Refrigeration you can operate off your battery bank without biting into your demand overall detrimentally is a huge advantage to obtaining a higher level of self reliance. Remember the idea is not just survival, but “sur-thrivel”. Reduction of time and labor devoted to the basics also.
      The off grid system is a system of accumulating small gains and reducing losses. You must figure out how to have more gains, ie more input than output. Or your system no matter how hi tech and the money/time invested is a losing game. This is the main imperative with which to judge all decisions. The only effective means to that is to make as studied and common sense/practical decisions as possible, leave yourself a margin, and start up. Then and only then can you make correct choices because now you have tangible working real world results to guide you.

      Again, off grid systems are as much a thinking thing as it is an equipment capability thing. And always, there is the wild card of weather. Which you are a victim too. So you have to learn by doing how to work with that variable. Nothing you can do to change it, but you can compensate. The longer you been running you O-G-S the more historical data and experience you acquire and the better you can deal with the weathers vagaries. There are always outliers though. 10 days of cloudy weather, no wind for 3 days, then a few days of optimum conditions, then another cycle of poor weather. It happens all the time. Why one need for reducing the load on your system by alternative alternatives. And, back up such as motor driven battery charging.
      It is not a sin, to use lord forbid, petroleum driven power, no matter what the armchair purists proclaim. It is simply a fact of nature you can not change. Only deal effectively with.
      In fact, because it is still the cheapest, keyword “still”, source of power, I use a AC mains powered “smart” battery charger to charge my battery set instead of gasoline powered charging, because its cost effective, convenient, I stay hooked up to the grid for my metal fab/welding/blacksmith shop. I have 3 phase driven lathes, mills, and 240vac single phase welders, compressor, etc. My O-G-S doesnt have the capability to run both my home and shop. It is reality. The shop pays for itself. As long as there is grid power, I’m using it. I’m no ideological fanatic either, where its some kind of apostasy, violation of some secret code, to use grid power, therefore I’m no longer “off grid”.
      This is a pragmatic thinking mans game.
      Like combat, you use every advantage, create every edge, take every opportunity. You win. Period.

      In that light, in no uncertain terms, my personal perspective, the Sundazer and Sunfrost DC powered refrigeration is a superb piece of kit in your O-G-S.
      It eliminates probably the greatest obstacle to thriving with your O-G-S. The advantages to preserve food with refrigeration. Just having a short term storage option, say for keeping berries from spoiling while you gather fruit during the harvest period, then being able to pick the day you make jam, can not be exemplified in its advantages.
      See it is a game of small things, of individual smaller sums, utilized to advantage, they add up into big advantages.

      I’m set on purchasing the solar panel powered standalone freezer Sunfrost offers. It is proven, used for all sorts of situations.
      I consider any device I can remove from the load on my battery a monster plus.
      Grid powered refrigeration in the start up sequence draws a very large spike in wattage due to the compressor overcoming the resistance to gas pressure and oil viscosity. Those high spikes add up fast in regards to reducing your battery’s long hour rate of reserve when trying to stay above 20% depth of draw.
      The standalone non battery, solar driven chest freezer is isolated from your entire system, add to that benefit, if your main off grid system goes down, or your experiencing a lack of charging, long as you have sunlight this freezer is still working.

      There are a couple of US manufacturers who offer 12vdc refrigeration units, they are the whole assembly, used in building mostly onboard built in RV refrigerators. Run about $750, two models, a flat plate chiller, and a 90 degree offset chiller plate model. These are great because you can build a fridge or freezer of your own design, say using very thick layer of isosionate foam board insulation i think one could produce an excellent fridge or freezer. Something in my future plans.

      The Sunfrost concept of a top opening fridgerator has another super advantage for off grid use in it doesn’t lose its mass of chilled air like a vertical door style does when you open it to grab something. Every watt usage you reduce adds up.

      Once I had my O-G-S running it was easy to figure out how much power I needed for running standard AC powered refrigeration. It is larger than all my other power needs combined, just for one medium sized frost free fridge. With one day of cloudy weather my 32 amp instantaneous Kyocera 4 150 watt 12vdc panel array, this one fridge drained my 1285 20 hr rate fork truck battery, in the hottest part of the summer, drain the battery to 80% in 14 hours.
      It instantly became an imperative to either increase input, or reduce refrigeration load, or both. Or we would have no fridge and freezers. I did three things. Big reduction in draw was to add insulation board to the outside of our freezer and fridge, and reposition the heat exchangers away from the units. Increase the size of our solar array. Build a dual PMA wind turbine. Keep the freezer as full as possible, even if it means using gallon milk jugs of water. Relocate the units in the basement where it is average of 50 degrees air temp. Eliminate the freezer section of the fridge, turn into more cooler space. We have a standalone freezer already. Why run the added draw when there is no need?
      Most of these improvements originate in how I used my thinking. They are relatively free, and payback a thousand fold the investment.

      We have about 11 grand invested so far. I think with everything we realized in direct reduction of cost of living in current kilowatt charge rates to be upwards of $200 a month. The electric bill from my metal fab shop and the little bit we use to run our freezer and AC cloths washer averages $35 to $50 a month.
      There are many savings which are not so tangible, and they add up in very interesting ways. The most spectacular savings is the one, where we have eliminated our dependence on corporate indenture. Its not just the cold hard bucks we now have, to keep 100% that never existed previously, but that wealth, is more wealth we invest in keeping and creating more wealth we keep in our pocket. This is enormous. It can not be spoken highly of enough.
      The spiritual wealth we have obtained from freeing ourselves from another system of slavery to the system and its PTB, is the real treasure of wealth.
      We now think in these terms. And doing so we think as free people. Hence we act and live as free people. This is the real benefit of living as off grid insurgents. Its is open source, grass roots resistance to tyranny. We joined The Honorable Resistance. We have built in our own custom made Anti-Fragile state of being.
      And it is more dangerous to TPTB than the possibility of armed wrath directed at them. This is the war for hearts & minds. Freemen who reject the grid, not just the AC mains grid, but the whole grid of tyrannical corporate/bankster/political class power over every facet in the sphere of our lives. An insurgency of indomitable self determining people, with enormous motive power and audacity that can not be assailed. Mark my words, if shit dont back down, living off grid will be the new Nazi white racist toxic, we will be classified as domestic terrorists.
      It is now very easy to determine who is off-grid, in our location at least, along with a wealth of meta data mining, as those “meter readers” who drive by your house, can see in real time on their laptops everything running off the meter plugged into your mains system. I stopped our meter reader, and when I asked he was happy to show me how his reader system acquired usage data. Its Orwell’s 1984 via smart meter. Certainly a most chilling, and motivating reason to unplug.

      On the nuts and bolts side of this equation, the one true objective is more input than output, as the acme of your O-G-S. You get that by improving input as much as reducing and eliminating draw. Your successful system is ruled by this inviolate rule. All else follows. You force multiply the power created when you use the holistic strategy of connecting everything together as a complete system.

      The thing is, you have to start. You have to flip over the table and say fuck this shit and go for it. It really takes awhiles to set up and dial in you O-G system. It is not a ready to eat meal in a nifty package. There is nothing else for it. Do it yesterday. Not tommorrow based on trying to get all the info. The state of the main components are superb, the costs have dropped so much you cant afford not to go off grid. Shit, Homeless Depot, sell’s high quality 100 watt 12vdc panels for $100 to $150 with free shipping off their website. Missouri Wind and Solar has designed and produces a PMA for wind, hydro, and gas drive power production, which is a magnitude improvement over anything but OtherPower’s, Hughe Pigget’s great Axial flow PMA design, and on par with it in output potential at low wind speeds, which is where most of your wind power comes from, and much easier to put up and can be run from more blade choices because of its form factor, which is geared to the common GM alternator style of alternative power PMA accessories and applications.
      The axial flow PMA’s are superb in every way. But, you have to fabricate them yourself because they are available as completed PMA’s to my knowledge. OtherPower did offer parts and whole units, but after the 1000 year floods and fires up in the Rockies where they where located devasted the offgrid community up there, they stopped selling parts and PMA’s.
      Their most excellent ’10-Foot Axial Flux Wind Turbine User’s Manual’ is a 1st rate resource on wind turbine building, tower construction, and operations. Last i looked they still offered it online.

      This is my next wind power add on. I see the axial flux big wood blade as the remedy to my total self reliance on refrigeration power. Its a big blade turbine. Start up power is 6-7 mph wind, gets you reliably, 150-250 watts constant below 10 mph wind. At 60 feet height AGL, in our location, in many places actually, there is a constant breeze in this speed range.
      the thing to keep in mind, everything in your off grid home, just as with your grid connected abode, there are more hours where you are not using power than are. Its the times of usage, the surge from little to no power, to lots is what your overall input has to supply. Thats why a battery set. And why small wind/solar works very well, and big wind/solar can never replace energy driven power generation. The cost and drawbacks to storage when the wind or sun is not adequate to the grid systems demands. yet again, another Big Lie of the marxian madness green tree humpin’ flat earth maniacs.In other words, another racketeering scheme, to con people to strip mine them of their intrinsic wealth through the fiction of globull colding, via the boondoggle shakedown of 75% and higher government underwriting the connected and privileged class skims off such projects. Then is worked into your electric bill to strip mine you again of your wealth in the form of “decommissioning” and other nickel and diming shakedown tax you have ZERO say in.
      Ever more cause to yank out the 200 amp main breakers and smart meters.

      So the question is becoming, can you afford to not go offgrid?

      I would be surprised if in the next 5 years the market for innovative and cost for off grid power orientated refrigeration does not change to the better than it is currently.

      I am serious about home rolling my own using those RV fridge units. Building my own fits into the whole philosophy of off grid living. And I can add in some features and improvement I would like not offered commercially. For the cost of one commercial RV unit I may be able to build two units of my own custom design. Sell what I have now, recoup some of that original investment and put that back into upping my system’s capability. Win Win.

      See how the self determined wealth creation/ re-investment system of unfettered economic activity works here? It is no different than what our Colonial Era forebears lived, and fought to keep. This is Liberty lived. Without unfettered economic activity and self determining retention of the wealth creation inherent, Liberty is not possible.

      I think when one goes off grid, it is in large part a modern technology way in our era of living the same as our founders who resisted tyranny of their day and won liberty.

      • James permalink

        Forge,thank you for your thoughts,gave me a lot to think about!I at moment have a fair amount of monies and thus looking to invest in me and my home(without being stupid,hopefully!).Tis why I am also to a degree going with some home build ideas small scale to see how it is done and ,well…..,does it work before I ramp up the efforts.I have been a builder for years and done a fair amount of smaller scale wiring/plumbing ect. along with being for most part except machining my own mechanic so do have some good foundations for these en-devours(need a good welder,is on list!).Again,thanks for your input/experiances!

        Oh,and add a home made forge to list of “to do “projects as I have access to a lot of free decent scrap metals i.e. beams ect.

    • I don’t think the extra cost for the SunFrost, et al, is worth it, no. For the cost differential between a Sunfrost and a high efficiency refrigerator from my local Lowe’s, I could build my PV solar system twice over. Check Craigslist, both locally, and–if like me, you are not close to a large urban area–the closest large urban area. You can usually find brand new in the box panels for less than $0.50/watt. A decent MPPT charge controller and a 5K inverter will run you around $500. We’re using Duracell deep cycle, AGM batteries, from SunFrost. They were $170 at Sam’s Club, and each is a 110aH battery.

  3. Bill permalink

    Sounds like one of your “acquaintances” is just jealous of your industry and independence. Been there.

  4. Desertrat 1 permalink

    I’m totally uninterested in somebody else’s opinion as to what is or is not “off grid”. Now that I’m old and decrepit, I’ve simplified my life to a travel trailer and either-or grid or not-grid electricity. Off-grid for septic. Can do either-or for the on-property well. Can burn the burnables if so desired, but the county has a tax-paid dumpster site.

    Motor fuel taxes pay for paved roads, so all drivers contribute. It’s the only fair tax there is, basically. Don’t drive? Don’t pay.

    Somebody whines about me not paying taxes or fees? Hey, I haven’t had a kid in school for forty-eight years, but I’ve sure laid out a ton of school tax money for other folks’ brats.

    I’ve always assumed some sort of uncertain future for over fifty years. Prepping let me go on and have more fun than the law allowed, just because “prepper’s insurance” was in place.

    Good article. Enjoyed it.

  5. NorthGunner permalink

    Very well done essays on a more than thorny subject, thank you!

    As I was reading what was mentioned about the desire to replace
    the dometic propane fridge, I remembered what Kenneth Royce
    mentioned about excellent solar compatible high efficiency fridges
    and freezers in his “Surviving Y2K” book. There’s a ton of very
    useful information for your family to be found within it’s pages for
    just a bit over a mere $10.

    http://javelinpress.com/surviving_y2k.html

    Here’s the link for Sunfrost DC and AC fridges:
    http://www.sunfrost.com/

    Vestfrost high efficiency freezers
    https://www.vestfrostsolutions.com/

    Kenneth Royce goes into detail in the above book about
    how to decide between them and if it’s worth it to get one
    of each.

    For education, I agree with Royce about the importance of
    the original McGuffey Reader series/system (especially with
    young/begining students). Here’s a link to a business that
    still has them available:

    The Original McGuffey’s Eclectic Reading Series, Boxed Set with Teacher’s Guide
    https://www.christianbook.com/original-mcguffeys-eclectic-reading-series-teachers/william-mcguffey/9780880620291/pd/620293#CBD-PD-Description

    Add to it as necessary, especially imho, with the classics such as Twain,
    Shakespeare, and others (a good encyclopedia set from the 1950’s or
    so would be useful too). Definitely recommend a copy of, “A History of
    the American People” by Paul Johnson; very good and not at all laced
    with pc nonsense or gobblydegook!

    No homestead library would be complete without Carla Emery’s
    books, especially, “Country Living”.
    https://www.alibris.com/search/books/author/Carla-Emery

    For non-electric tools and related there’s no better source than
    Lehman’s in Ohio.
    https://www.lehmans.com/

    Other than that, keep on doing what you’re doing!

    NorthGunner – The Truth Is It’s OWN Defense!

    • When “Boston” wrote Surviving Y2K, there probably was some benefit to using “solar” specific fridges like the SunFrost. I remember my initial introductions to solar back in the 1990s (we’d been off-grid when I was a kid, but our “solar power system” was just called “the sun,” because we were way too poor to afford panels and a system back then. If we needed something electric, we used car batteries and 12V appliances, and charged the batteries by putting them in the truck and going to town, or hooking jumper cables up…(which I’ve done more than once since myself. It works, although it’s probably hard as hell on the batteries.)

      That having been said, the cost differential between a standard “high efficiency” refrigerator from Lowes, and a SunFrost is so great that you could build my entire PV system, twice over, just on the differential. They’re not worth it nowadays.

      I had shitty luck with the McGuffey readers. We had a lot better luck with a “sight words” workbook, and teaching basic phonetics, before just handing the kids books to read on their own. Nowadays, the McGuffey’s series just sits on the shelf as a conversation piece. Since my kids are reading books written in the late 1800s/early 1900s, for young adults, and are not yet 10, I think we’re doing okay.

      I’ve had a copy of Carla’s book, in one form or another, since the mid-1990s. I’ve yet to find a damned thing in it that worked the way she claimed it would. I’m not saying she was full of shit (an accusation I’ve read more than once), but her methods, as described, sure didn’t work for me, or anyone else I know.

      I’m a huge fan of Lehman’s. I’ve been ordering stuff from them for two decades plus, and I keep hoping for someone to host a class in Ohio or Michigan, so I can squeeze a visit to Kidron into the trip….

  6. Bill permalink

    “…while we pay the local schools tax, we aren’t getting f^^k all benefit from it.”

    I’m sure you meant ‘benefit’ to be in quotes.

  7. Mike Miller permalink

    .

    Being totally “off the grid” is impossible.

    Minimalism is the best you can get.

    I live minimalist.

    It works for me

    .

  8. Maddy permalink

    We’ve been off grid 14 years now. One thing you can do is not waste money on expensive propane/12v refrigerators.

    A regular 110/120v refrigerator works fine, and if you don’t think you have enough battery for nighttime…well for years and years we simply turned off the inverter when we went to bed.

    Refrigerator just doesn’t cool down that much overnight. If that bothers you, leave the inverter on and put the refrigerator on a timer to come on once or twice overnight.

    We have 10,000kws of lifepo battery, so can use about 7-8000 watt hours overnight, but really only use about 2400.

    We have a 110 washer and dryer, an instant pot, sat tv, sat internet, two 5,000 watt window ac units, etc.
    We even pump our well water into a 3,000 gallon cistern with a 1 hp 230 v well pump that can run directly off the solar or even from the batteries in a pinch.

    You just have to “load shift” the heavy energy users to sunlight hours. Of course that’s easier to do here in the southwest than it would be way up north.

    Load shifting is the key, but people raised on the grid aren’t used to/don’t want to THINK about electric use before turning something on….and maybe have to turn an appliance off to run another.

    • I agree 110% with the “stay away from propane fridge” thing. I hate this damned thing.

      And, load shifting is real. If we get two or three days with inadequate sun, I’ll unplug the chest freezer for a day. Since it’s full, it won’t thaw out in less than a few days, and it’s our single biggest draw on the system, by an order of magnitude.

      I’ve even got the kids trained to know that, “if the sun ain’t shining, don’t even ask to watch cartoons.” Now, even the wife knows, if she wants to watch a movie in the evening, she’s gotta walk out and check the battery bank levels.

      That having been said, we’ve been socked in with clouds, fog, and freezing rain for the last four days. Last night, an hour after dark, my battery bank was still at 12.52V, so….even with cloud cover, modern PV panels will do a pretty good job of charging. In heavy clouded weather (not fog), I typically charge at about 8-13A. In fog, we’re down to 0.5-2A of charging (in direct sun, our system charges at around 59.8A…and that’s on a 60A charge controller…)

  9. John permalink

    By the way, both Magnum and Outback are now making 100 amp MPPT solar controllers. We are running a Magnum PT-100 controlling 10 panels at 290 watts each for a theoretical 2900 watts, but the most I’ve seen yet is just over 2.5Kw and 75 amps at the controller. Charging 12 Rolls S-550 batts in 3 strings of 4 for a theoretical 1284 amp hour capacity. 24v system. Here in So. Oregon we don’t have a problem getting a full charge or equalizing most of the year and we are fortunate to also have a hydroelectric system which gives us anywhere from 2 amps up to 20 amps depending on the creek. Of course we usually have more water in the winter when we have shorter days so it works out. Hydro has a Tristar dump load controller and getting it to sync with the solar has been a pain. You must set the MPPT levels lower that the diversion load controller and I recommend not using battery temperature sensors with your controllers. They screw stuff up as different controllers have different temperature compensation. Read the battery manufacturers charge recommendations carefully. Rolls-Surette has good battery tutorials on youtube as does Alt-E, if I recall.
    I did get my hands on an Outback FlexMax 100 controller and plan on switching over to it this year. The FlexMax has a feature the Magnum doesn’t. That is it can be programmed to operate a relay by PWM, or pulse width modulation, diverting all available “extra” power to a load, thereby functioning as a diversion load. Set the battery charging parameters for bulk, absorb, and float and what extra power there is is diverted through a relay (solid state for PWM) to your load. Water heater or air is probably best because if you are running hydro or wind you must have an reliable load. And load can be low or high voltage as it keeps the batts from over charging either way but your load must be sized adequately.
    We are 10 miles from the grid, spring water, standard septic, etc., and it all needs improving, of course.
    But the biggest wake up we received when we moved out here years ago, into the middle of the Feds forest, was the simple fact that they don’t want us here. None of the “powers that be” want any of us off the grid, and you know why.
    Read Rosa Koire’s book Behind the Green Mask and learn how Agenda 21 affects all of us, right now, and learn how to be the resistance. Nobody’s going to do it for you.

    • I’ll look into that. I had been told, repeatedly, that charge controllers for the commercial/residential market were limited to 80A. Thanks!

      • mtnforge permalink

        These guys have their own brand of basic controllers at reasonable money. Been running a couple now from them, think 6 years plus. Work fine. Not a problem one. Lot less than the fancy brand name units. But they are basic units. Less to fail. Have adjustable set and trip points, dump load switching too. I like the mechanical solenoid versions myself. Purchased extras for when they crap out.

        Running their dual PMA wind Turbine with the 84 inch aluminum gull wing 5 blade rotor. It is a low wind turbine, but thats fine, because low wind speed is where the most power is, unless you live in a primo wind spot.
        I ran heavy duty 10 ga, weld cable quality, 3 conductor cable, 2 runs, down the pole, using the simple twist method, and 2 rectifiers to convert to DC, into double runs of #6 weld cable thru Flex Tite underground to the house.
        Got the rectifiers from MWANDS. Also using their 600 watt 12vdc water heater elements. Converted an AC mains 240v hot water heater, simply screw out the AC elements and screw in the DC units, and the temp sensor/switches you prefer. Pretty simple rig. I scounged a nifty 304 stainless tank at the scrap yard, it has an internal heat transfer coil, along with the usual in/out plus a hand access port. I welded in 4 extra pipe thread bungs. It is the basis of my Rube Goldberg hot water contraption, the system is also piped into the hot air wood furnace, with heat exchanger pipes welded inside the fire box, has provisions to natural convection feed to a forced hot water base board heater upstairs, and, to heat a home made Jacuzzi I built for my wife, she has arthritis and soaking in the Jacuzzi helps her. It is firewood heated also.

        We live on a 3000 ft ridge line, pretty steady wind. It gusts a lot, but mostly above 35 feet there is a pretty steady 7-10mph wind. Built a 45 foot tower. Found the trick is large swept area blades, and losts of blades, they create enough torque to run above cut-in speed of the alternator, which is around 6mph wind. It’s not alot of power, but it is steady. We get average between 50-150 watts. But that is like constant 24/7 wattage. It adds up quickly, and when the sun ain’t shining, is usually when the winds are stronger. Then there is night time. Solar panels only produce power during the day. Sounds stupid to say this, but many don’t recognize this. It is half and more of each day when your panels aren’t producing, but your wind turbine can.
        The tower is the largest hurdle. It costs more than the turbine and bits to hook it up. I’m a welder by trade for 45 years. Designed and built us a cantilever guyed tower using EMT. It is a trussed cantilever design, even used 1/2 inch conduit guy’s. It has survived 70mph gusts no problem. Cost 250 bucks in pipe, plus hardware and weld wire/gas, 18 bags of pre-mix. It is unconventional. But unconventional is the key to building your own off grid system.

        Oh by the way, I’m with you on the refrigeration, it is by far the largest draw. We picked up a 12vdc fridge/freezer unit, units the RV manufacturers use when building their RV’s. $650, come all self contained, ready to plug in, you build the insulated box. We got 3 inch foil faced Isocyanate foam roof deck insulation board, using two layers, inside a wood and sheetmetal enclosure, top opening. My reasons for not going with a hi efficiency AC fridge is to avoid more dependence on the inverters. Go direct DC with as much as possible. But that is jusy personal preference. And one less weak link in building in sustainability into our off grid system. After all, to us that is the whole object, sustainability and self reliance. The holistic approach. Not unlike the holistic approach of small unit infantry combat tactics.

        These guys have pretty decent prices on many of their products. Nobody makes as good a PMA as these guys. It is their own design. Very well thought out. They sell Aims Power inverters too. We bought ours from these people.

        https://mwands.com/

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