With electricity prices going up, and you can feel the squeeze in your bank account. What do you do? Many people are opting to move “off the grid.” It’s an expression that refers to living in homes that are largely autonomous. In other words, they don’t rely on municipal water supply, the power grid, or municipal sewer or natural gas. It’s not an easy feat, however. If you want to get started with generating your own power, here’s what you need to know.
Consider a Career Change
A lot of people who decide to go off the grid also decide on a general change of lifestyle. They switch careers so that they’re more flexible, less dependent on others, and more independent. You don’t have to do this, but it’s an option you should at least consider.
Many people who decide to become more self-sufficient opt to become entrepreneurs of some kind, usually in the survivalist niche. But, not everyone does. When you are your own boss, you may find yourself using less electricity if you’re working outside the home. If you work from home, you will use more electricity during the day, but you also have control over how much you use and can make your home more efficient in general.
Get a Solar, Hydro, Or Wind Generator
Solar generators are a great way to go off the grid. Solar is relatively inexpensive to maintain, but it can be pricey to set up. Even the best solar panels right now only convert 20 percent of the sun’s energy into usable electricity.
So, you’ll need a lot of panels (which contributes to the expense) and you will likely need to dramatically reduce your power consumption.
A gas generator can help you kick up the amount of power you generate for your home, but it still runs on gasoline, meaning you’re not fully self-reliant. It’s better than being on the grid, however, if you have access to cheap fuel.
And then there are generators like the ones found here: http://patriotpowergenerator.com. These super-efficient generators are useful for traveling and for times when a main generator isn’t working. They can charge pretty much anything and they’re very durable.
If you’re looking for alternatives to solar, there’s always wind generators, which work well when you live in a windy area. Again, there’s a problem with efficiency, and wind needs to blow for you to make power.
A company in Japan has introduced a new type of hydro generator that you can place in a stream. It generates up to 250W, not enough to power a home by a long shot, but it will keep the lights on.
If you live near water, you could conceivably load it up with these things and have a miniature power plant that’s safe, reliable, and replaces at least part of your need for the grid. The only downside is the cost – these things are expensive.
Get Backup Batteries
Regardless of the type of power you generate, you’ll probably want backup batteries, which provide you with “power on demand.” At night, solar power is non-existent, for example, you you need a way to draw energy after the sun goes down.
Wind energy also has its own intermittency problems. And, while hydro isn’t as unreliable as solar and wind, there may be times when the river slows down, freezes, or when the water level drops.
Use Less Energy
Another aspect of going off grid is that you must become more mindful of the energy you use. Since it’s not being supplied by a distant power plant, you are responsible for generating your own power. The less you use, the better, since it means you don’t have to front more money to build a bigger power generation infrastructure on your property.
You can also buy more energy efficient appliances, use energy-efficient laptops, and minimize the use of gadgets in the home. In other words, simplify your life and become incredibly efficient with the electronics you do have.
Allen Baler is a Partner at 4Patriots LLC, a Tennessee based small business that provides products to help people be more self-reliant and more independent. Allen founded the company in 2008 after 14 years as a corporate executive leading profitable business for the Easton Press and the Danbury Mint. He graduated with honors from Harvard University and resides in Nashville with his wife and 3 daughters.