Going off grid seems to be the catchy phrase of 2011. It’s a great idea, but after doing some research, it isn’t exactly inexpensive, simple, or perhaps even an option for most people. Why is that?
It seems that the packaged kits are incredibly expensive to start out with. An initial investment that may cost as much or even more than a small cabin is daunting for those who live with a short shoestring. How can you squeeze another $10,000-20,000 to power your house? It’s far less expensive, at least in terms of initial outlay, to purchase propane powered stove & refrigerator, convert an electric wringer washer to a gas motor, and install a generator to power the few electric items that you can use. For heat and light, it will be back to early 20th century with a wood stove and kerosene lanterns.
I would not want to live in a travel trailer with a wood stove. They aren’t exactly fireproof to begin with, and adding that kind of heat would be hazardous. I won’t even use a camp stove inside of our travel trailer.
The next issue is the complexity of the systems. None of them are exactly easy to maintain. Not only are there the issues of installing the solar panels or wind generator, but then maintaining all of the other inexplicable equipment and the battery bank that is your lifeline when the sun sets or the wind stops blowing. This also isn’t something that can be stashed inside of the travel trailer–the battery banks are bulky and cannot be placed in your living quarters. There seems to be a lot of work involved in maintaining those battery banks too, and there is an element of alchemy attached as well. It’s very intimidating to the Average Jane.
I did run across an interesting article with concrete information from a fairly average kind of homeowner who is living off grid, although he has far more knowledge and experience at dealing with electricity than I do. It’s worth a read! (It’s found right here.) Of course, among the comments are the comments both from the intelligent and curious, as well as the fanatical and strange.
Hopefully, we’ll see improvements in terms of whole house power generating kits. Currently, they are incredibly expensive and leave you wondering if you will receive a kit off of a truck without concrete instructions. It shouldn’t require an electrician and a contractor to set up one of these systems–kits SHOULD be available that the average homeowner could set up, especially in a new construction scenario, and I am mystified as to why these kits don’t seem to exist. Solar & wind generating, especially for vacation homes and the like, seem to be the ideal answer for remote locations. Often, these small homes are built by their owners as well, making the idea of a do-it-yourself solar & wind generation kit very attractive.
Oh well. Too bad I don’t have a few million dollars to invest in a start up company and could start marketing this dream-come-true to people all across America. I know a lot of people that would be glad to purchase a reasonably priced alternative power system, especially if the initial investment would break even compared to bringing power to their home from a neighboring piece of property, a not so inexpensive expense in many areas! In addition, having a portable system for travel trailers and RVs would greatly enhance people’s ability to boondock and even camp without annoying everyone with their droning generator.
I’ll keep dreaming and keep on reading!