Off Grid Solar and Wind Power for Your Homestead
Off grid solar and wind power for your homestead enables you say goodbye to power bills. Why pay high costs to bring power from a utility company when you can generate your own clean, renewable energy?
An off-grid power system is a stand-alone system. It operates completely on its own to supply all your power needs. The cost of and off grid solar and wind power system for a homestead or ranch can be less than bringing in utility power. Especially if you live in an area where it’s expensive to bring in utilities. We chose an off-grid power for our home because the start-up cost for utility power was over $10,000!
Self-Sufficiency with a Clean, Renewable Resource
There is a real feeling of independence and accomplishment that comes with being self-sufficient. We live on an acreage, and we also have our own well, septic system, and a wood stove for heating.
We use propane for cooking, hot water, and a small backup heater. This is our only utility expense. If the power goes out around us, we don’t even know it because our lights stay on! One of the things we love about our off-grid home is that almost everything we are doing is operated from clean and renewable energy. It gives one such a positive feeling.
Editor’s Note: If you are new to solar energy, read How Does Solar Power Work? Home Garden and Homestead receives a small affiliate commission (at no cost to you) from sales generated by the links in this story.
An Off Grid Solar and Wind Power System
An off-grid system consists of five basic components:
- A solar array, wind turbine, or both to produce power
- A bank of deep cycle batteries to store energy for overnight and cloudy or calm days
- A charge controller to regulate and prevent overcharging of the batteries
- An inverter to convert DC power to 110V or 220V AC household power
- A backup generator to recharge the batteries during extended cloudy or calm periods
The cost of an off-grid system depends on how much energy you use. To produce more energy you will need a larger solar array. A wind turbine can provide additional power.
Keeping the Off Grid Solar and Wind Power System Affordable
An off grid solar and wind power system can be a costly investment. Costs can run anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000 or more, depending on what you want. But the power your system generates is free and there will be no utility bills after the initial outlay.
You can cut down considerably on the size—and cost—of the system by figuring out how to use less power. This is not as difficult as you might think. You can cut your energy needs substantially by simply shutting things off. Turn off the lights, the computer, and the TV, when you are not using them. If you are not getting any benefits by leaving them on, why pay for the power?
To save money on the upfront system costs, determine what you really need by doing a load analysis. List of all appliances you will use and the amount of energy that they will require. This will show you how much energy your current lifestyle would require and where you can save power.
Home heating is one of the big challenges in northern climates because of the large energy usage of most heating systems. In very cold climates you will need some source of heating fuel such as natural gas, propane, or wood. It is simply not practical to use electric heating with an off-grid system. That’s because this uses a very large amount of energy at a time of year when you are producing very little. Propane or natural gas is also a good choice for a cookstove, clothes dryer, and water heater. These are all large users of electricity and usually require a 240V system.
NOTE: One way to see huge savings on heating is with passive solar home design.
Storage Capacity and Maintenance
One of the challenges of an off grid solar and wind power system is that it has a limited amount of storage capacity in its deep cycle battery bank. The batteries can only store power for a few days. When your battery bank is full the extra power is lost unless you can use it immediately. This is a great example of “making hay when the sun shines.” When stored power is plentiful it’s time to do the laundry, vacuum, or cook with the electric frying pan.
It would be great if you could store that energy over longer periods for the lean times. Unfortunately, there is no such practical technology available for this yet. Supersizing your battery bank is generally too costly to be feasible. It is more economical to start your backup generator periodically when you need more power than is available.
Battery banks and backup generators both require regular maintenance. They also have a shorter lifetime (12-15 years) than solar panels (35 years or more) and wind generators (20-25 years). The backup generator also requires fuel—either gasoline, diesel, natural gas, or propane.
Monitor Your House
One of the fascinating things about having your own off grid solar system is that you are always monitoring it. You always want to know how much power you are producing and using. It becomes an obsession to check this and take pride in living within the limits of what you produce.
We have given many tours of our off-grid house to show people how it works. One of our meters shows the electric current that is going from our solar and wind system into the batteries. I show people the meter and then I will start our toaster. Instantly the meter goes from, let’s say, +10 Amps (it’s charging the batteries) down to -35 Amps (drawing from the batteries)! That’s how much power the toaster is using. It’s a quick and simple demonstration but also shows that you can see what is going on with your house. That’s something you simply don’t see in a regular grid-powered home.
I often tell people it’s just like having a big toy. But I wouldn’t change a thing. We love our homestead and our off grid solar and wind power. Self-sufficiency rocks!
About the author: Diane H. Wong is a content writer at essaywritercheap.org. She creates different marketing strategies. In this case, she has an opportunity to share her experience with others and keep up with advancing technologies.