DIY





Living Off Grid - Home and Energy Options Part 1


| 1/12/2012 12:06:07 PM



FootingsIn our last blog, we purchased our property and visited the local jurisdiction to make sure we can do what we want with our property. We also made sure it met our minimum requirements for insurance, safety, medical care, and services.  Now it’s time to consider what kind of house we want to live in for our off grid experience.

There is no “best in category” type of house for off grid living. There are however, many different design considerations that can be incorporated into your home of choice that directly correspond to being off the grid. The most critical one is energy efficiency.

Just think of all the different types of homes available to you today. Tepees, yurts, cabins, manufactured homes, mobile homes, traditional stick frame, insulated concrete forms (ICF), structural insulated panel (SIP),  log home, cob, cordwood, straw bale, adobe, earth berm, underground, steel, steel container box, concrete, and masonry (brick, block, and stone).  Don’t forget houseboats!
Remember, we each have our own set of circumstances that factor into the choices we make so the trick here is not to get too hung up on which kind of house is better for living off grid but rather to make the most of the one you choose or already own.

Wall StartWe decided to go with an insulated concrete house. One of the biggest factors is that we live 20 miles from the nearest fire station and wanted to do everything we could to be non-combustible. The ICF design is also fairly energy efficient and easy to upgrade structurally to withstand earthquakes and heavy snow loads. In our first year of living here we have experienced a 4.6 magnitude earthquake and a forest fire that would have consumed our house except for the precautions we took in constructing a defensible area around the house and the non combustible nature of the materials we used on the exterior walls, roof, and soffits.

Our exterior walls consist of Hardiplank siding over 2” (3 hour fire treated foam) insulation board attached to an 8” concrete wall with another 2” layer of fire treated insulation on the inside. The roof is constructed of metal panels and the soffits are covered with vented or slotted metal panels which eliminate bird blocking holes. We even used metal panels on the carport and porch roof exposed ceilings. One of the main causes of house fires from an exterior source is when the wind blows fire embers into your attic via the bird block attic vent holes.
Non combustible construction could also be a factor with your insurance company.

Anyway, back to energy efficiency. The more energy efficient your house is, the less energy you are going to use to run your household. Less energy to run your household will result in a smaller energy source. The smaller the source, the less money you will pay to purchase and install it. I know you off-grid readers already know that but it made me feel better just to say it!



Considerations you need to make affecting energy efficiency include but are not limited to construction materials, insulation, window size and location, the direction your home faces, how much of your home is above ground, the size of your home, eave (overhang) length, ceiling heights, appliances, heating, and electrical fixtures. I’m sure with a little more time I can add to this list. It may seem a little overwhelming but the good news is look at all the ways you can save energy and the decisions and choices are yours to make.



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