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  • Power to the People: Off Grid Power Solutions

    Off Grid HomeLiving on the grid has its perks. I mean, we’ve got practically unlimited access to power so we can take advantage of all our modern amenities – refrigerators, air conditioning, lights, washing machine, Netflix… you name it!

    Despite having access to all this, however, there are some drawbacks. The United States experiences a ton of power outages. And, when the grid goes down, that means you do, too. Of course, there are plenty of reasons why you might prefer to go off grid, but for now, let’s just talk about power.

    Some of the following off grid power sources can be connected to your home in the city, reducing the cost of your power bill and giving you access to electricity when the rest of your neighborhood is in the dark. Some, however, might need a different location. Take that into consideration while reading and see which resources work best in your situation.

     

    Solar

    Solar Panel Off GridWhen it comes to harnessing renewable energy, our sun is more than eager to help out. Its rays can be converted into energy to be used for anything you need – assuming you have enough solar panels. But that’s just it! These days, solar power doesn’t have to be an extremely expensive venture. With developments in technology, it has dropped in price and increased in accessibility, which makes solar panels a doable option.

    If powering your home by solar isn’t feasible, there are smaller, more mobile solar panels you can use to at least power your smaller devices. These solar panels can be hooked up to certain power packs, so you can charge then go, charge on the go, or go then charge. Small, lightweight solar panels are great for many circumstances, including hiking, camping, and emergencies.

     

    Wind

    Wind turbines power generator on sunset at farmer field off grid

    Before we get too far on this section, might I point out the obvious: Wind power requires wind. I know, I know. I’m a genius for figuring that out. But it’s an important factor to consider when deciding if generating electricity from wind is a viable option. Check your local weather service to see what your average wind speed is in your area. Once you know that, you can then begin to calculate how much electricity you can generate.

    And then there’s the size of the wind turbines. According to treehugger.com, a 400-watt wind turbine is good enough to power an appliance or two (like a washer and dryer). A 10,000-watt turbine, however, could power most – or all of – your house. The more wattage a turbine puts out, the larger the rotors, and the taller the structure. Living off grid, size shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you would like to add a turbine to your neighborhood home, a 100-foot tall turbine probably wouldn't pass city ordinances.

     

    Micro Hydro

    Hydro Home off gridFirst, look outside. Do you have a source of running water on your property? You do? Great! That means you can tap it for its electrical output.

    One of the benefits of generating electricity using the micro hydro method is its constant output. If your source is good (meaning the water source is constantly flowing), you will generate electricity every single day of the week, rain or shine, day or night. And, because of the constant flow of energy, you won’t need as large a battery bank to store the generated power.

    Of course, if there isn’t a stream or some kind of flowing water nearby, this option just won’t work. But, if you’re in a location where you can implement this method, you’ll be hailing hydro for its constant and effective power supply.

     

    Battery Bank

    Battery Bank off gridOnce you have a way to generate electricity, you’re going to need a way to store it for later use. The sun won’t always shine, the wind won’t always blow, and your little stream might even get plugged upstream for a bit. Then you’ll be out of power in moments.

    When building your battery bank, make sure you use deep discharge or deep cycle lead-acid batteries. Basically, these battery types will be able to store and produce a heap of energy when needed. An inverter is also necessary to convert that stored energy to something a little more useful. Once converted into an AC current, you’ll be good to power your household appliances, lights, and other electrically-powered machines and devices.

    For more detailed information on constructing your own battery bank, check out this video:

     

     

    Backup Generator

    Generator off gridEven though you have renewable energy – whether from the sun, wind, or water – things can still go wrong and you can be left without power. Having a backup is always a good idea. A diesel generator (or other source of backup power) will give you power when the sun refuses to shine or the wind stops blowing for a few days. Sure, your battery bank will keep you powered for a while, but as nothing is certain (especially when it comes to weather), a generator can make up for when your power sources just aren’t collecting enough power for your needs.

     

     

    Now, those who have done the work of going off grid know better than anyone the cruel truths that go into this kind of living. According to Bob Ritzman – living off grid in Montana – “living off the grid is not as simple and cost efficient as many people may think.”

    Sure, it’s a great thought to go out there and not have to pay electricity bills, but it does cost money to install the equipment you’ll use to gather that energy. That right there can cost quite a bit. However, once it’s set up, you won’t have to rely on the fragile grid any longer, and that kind of freedom can be worth quite a price.

     

    Have some tips on generating power off grid? Let us know in the comments!

     

    February - Power Banner - off grid

  • Ukraine and Your Gas Bill

    how has conflict in the Ukraine affected Natural Gas transport?

    Have you been following the situation in the Ukraine? Skirmishes on the other side of the globe seem far from our everyday worries, but some parts of the world are already considering possible far-reaching effects.

    At the top of the list is Europe’s energy supply. Roughly a quarter of Europe’s natural gas comes from Russian oil fields. Most of Russia’s pipeline transport routes cross Ukraine on their way to continental Europe. Though experts claim Europe’s reserves are in good shape, and fears of shortages or price hikes are premature, European newspapers like Britain’s Telegraph are already reporting increases in the price of oil and gas.

    Some of you might remember oil and gas shortages in our own country in decades past (is anybody going to own up to remembering the 1970s?). And within my own kids’ lifetime, we’ve seen energy prices fluctuate frighteningly. But along with shortages, embargoes, and depletions, we’ve also seen a fairly miraculous proliferation of energy technology. Just a generation ago, for example, the cost of solar power for consumer use was extremely high. Today, the average prepper can buy a portable solar generator for less than the cost of a laptop.

    Chances seem good that Ukraine’s troubles won’t affect your gas bill—but Ukraine isn’t the only country with troubles! Could you power your home if your utilities were disrupted? Do you have the tools you need to wash clothes, heat your home, or to cook? Have you considered storing fuel? Or maybe you’re looking into generators. Whatever your own energy solution, be sure to do your homework.

    Storms and wars aren’t likely to stop. But that doesn’t mean we have to sit in the dark!

  • Green Gadgets from 2013

    Green Green Gadgets: The Goal Zero Yeti 150 can give you a quiet portable way to power your life

    It seems like advances in technology are coming along at a faster pace than ever before. According to The Next Web’s article 9 of the best green gadgets from 2013, there have been “. . . quite a few green gadgets that made waves in 2013, many making headway in terms of solar technology uses and energy conservation.”

    Featured among products like a bamboo keyboard and a Bluetooth Plant Monitor is the Goal Zero Yeti 150 Power Pack. This solar generator can power lights, phones, tablets, laptops … almost any device that’s USB powered. The Yeti 150 can charge in six hours from the wall, or in 15 hours using a Boulder 15 Solar Panel.

    Using solar power not only lets you collect power during a crisis, but helps save you from the bulk, noise, and toxic fumes that come from traditional generators. Power packs such as the Goal Zero Yeti 150, Goal Zero Yeti 400, and the Goal Zero Yeti 1250 give you a quiet, portable way to power your life whether you’re camping, living off the grid, or getting through an emergency. Don’t get caught off guard during a power outage.

    Learn more about solar power with our Insight article, “Solar Power: Clean, Quiet, and Safe” 

    To read more about the other green gadgets that came about in 2013, check out TNW’s article, 9 of the best green gadgets from 2013

    Has solar power ever helped you during an outdoor adventure or in an emergency?

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