Living Offgrid Affordably: Before Getting Started

| 7/31/2011 6:54:25 PM

 Jeff and his one kilowatt array
Photo by Jeff and Kathy Chaney  

This series of articles will chronicle our journey into living off grid at the least cost, and as comfortably as possible. As with all things in life, the comfort level you enjoy will be directly proportionate to your available budget. This level can be raised massively using your knowledge and abilities. Our desire was to create a sustainable lifestyle using a minimum of investment. The wish now is to convey some of what we have learned along the way, and identify some of the mistakes that were made. I am not an expert in any field, nor do I hold a list of degrees. My sole qualification to write this is the fact that I am living it daily.

This story is not a how to guide. Off grid living is much more complex, as you will discover, and unique to each individual family. Every detail of one’s daily life, both current and future, must be given utmost consideration. I cannot stress enough that last statement. Actual cash outlay will also depend heavily on the exact amount of work you can do. Ninety percent of the work was performed by my two hands. We will not go into every detail, with the hope that you will come away with a clear understanding of what was done and why, what was successful and what was not. Our approach was far from common, but a lot of this information is quite adaptable.

A myriad of topics will be covered, including the purchase of land, obtaining materials, use of alternative energy, and utilization of alternative techniques. Standard construction methods were used, with few exceptions. Components will be critiqued. Certain products and procedures exceeded expectations, while others did not measure up. These are only our results. Yours may differ, and probably will.

Legalities and building codes vary widely with location. Please check with local officials before action is taken. Demolition and rebuilding are vastly more expensive. Do it right the first time, and only once. Since we were not connected to the grid, an electrical inspection was not required. This does not mean that electrical codes could be ignored. How sad it would be to build a structure, only to see it burn to the ground! Saving a few dollars to cut corners is not worth the result. Sustainable, remember?

On a similar note, we are constantly asked about the latest and greatest cutting edge technology. The next new invention may be better than sliced bread. But what if it isn’t ? We hope to sustain the lifestyle we are building for twenty to thirty years, or longer. We mostly use only tried and true products and techniques. Consider the consequences if something used turns out to be a failure, and what it will take to remedy the situation. The costs involved may be prohibitive. A workable solution may be impossible.

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