Thursday, March 14, 2013

Solar Electric vs The Grid

Our homestead is off grid with our electricity needs being satisfied via a solar system and back up generator. That's our final solution, though initially we had planned to go with the grid. There are lots of pros and cons involved, but it came down to personal choice.

Let me tell you the story......

When we moved onto our future farm, the house had a very basic, simplistic solar set up. Two L-11 batteries were being charged by a solar panel. There was the cheapest available charge controller hooked in. This set up ran three DC light bulbs and the water pump. The caretaker before us had allowed the batteries to run down repeatedly, so this poor abused system was barely functional. Often our choice was having one lightbulb on versus saving power to flush the toilet at night. We had to use Coleman lanterns for light at night just so we could take a very quick shower once a day. Something needed to be done.

Our first move was to look into hooking into the grid. Since our house was not permitted, the electric company refused to allow a hookup, even just a temporary pole for construction purposes. Therefore we ran a generator when we needed power. It didn't take long before the noise was bothersome and the rapidly consumed gasoline appalling. But our mindset was to hook into the grid so that's the steps we took. #1step- get a building permit. Not easy and quite expensive. It took us 11 months, really, to get a building permit! Egads! And all that time we're living with almost no power.

With new building permit in hand, we again approached the electric company. Ending up with a sheet full of calculations (number of poles, pole installation, SSPP--our "share" of the cost of the company's infrastructure on our road--, the electrician, the temporary service pole) the estimated cost the hook into temporary power was an incredible $30,000!!!!! We left their office in shock. By now we had been living here for over a year and our mindset was changing. We decided to ditch the grid.

Now we changed our plans and started thinking solar system. In the past year we had learned a lot about solar, especially what not to do. We learned to live on less, a lot less. In hindsight, living a year with an abysmal set up taught us how to use power wisely and not waste a "drop". A great lesson that we appreciate to this day.

Cut to the end of the story...... We spent $20,000 for a decent solar system. We have everything we want except for a jacuzzi. Yes, I even have a nice freezer! So when people ask us when we started saving money using a solar system, we honestly tell them we started the moment we turned it on. We saved over $10,000 on the very first day.

Our homesteading philosophy has evolved in the direction of self-sufficiency, self-reliancy (is there such a word yet?) We choose to live off grid. We choose to use less electricity.


  1. We had a realtor tell us that a person could hire an electrician to pull the permits and "supervise" if one was handy at doing the work themselves. Which we are. What do you know about that?

    1. Most off grid systems are not permitted nor installed by licensed contractors.