Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dreaming Off-Grid

My dream, along with many you too I'm sure, is to live off-grid. A place with no wires to or from the outside world, no dependence on anything other than what I can provide for myself. Well, I'm not really ready or able to head to the woods just yet, but I can practice on what I have here in place now. Besides this may be where I stay in the end anyway. We live in a nice 2200 sq ft home with all the goodies that consumers give their last dollar for, 5 bedrooms, 3 full baths and all the room a family of 4 could want or need. But man this is just not for me, I am going to fix a place that we can slip over to when things get tough. My building is only about 50 ft from the main house. This could be a retreat in times of power outage or other emergencies.

Here are the things that I have going for me now.

1. And most important, I own the land free and clear.

2. A good structure- 12 x 24 metal building with 2 inch foam board insulation between the sheets of metal. Top and sides are metal and insulated. 3/4 inch plywood floor. It is portable, it was delivered to the site on a large flat bed truck and could be moved again if necessary.

3. Heat source- I just recently installed a small wood stove in the building. I have access to plenty of firewood.

4. Gutter system- where I could catch rain water for drinking and will do so in the very near future.

5. A make shift greenhouse attached to the south wall. Needs repair. I have found some glass panels that I intend to use for this purpose.

6. I have an adult potty chair in storage that can be used for......well you know. My thoughts are to use a 5 gal. bucket underneath and then have another 5 gal. bucket with sawdust to cover your poop up. When the poop bucket is full, empty and fill it with sawdust and start the whole process over again.

7. The desire to free myself from this monster of a house that we live in. It's paid for but it's just too damn big for me.

I will be posting on the progress when things get done or I have ideas for improvements. Any comments or suggestions are always welcome.

Until next time

This is Bullseye....Out!!!


Staying Alive said...

I already live in a place that is pretty free. And it is nice. We have our land and our buildings and homes. The communal aspect has been side-lined. Our dynamic leader died in 2001. But the group life will be back! Life is going to force it to come back. People will get together to live, or die as individuals. I used to worry about this, the laxity of the human family, the laziness, the complacency, the leadership of the self nature. But that is all behind me as I have seen the light and I know that people will get a warning and time to make the necessary adjustments. The very fortunate will get to prepare a bit while it is still easy. But the others will be along shortly. They will want to live.

Are you in the country? Are ou away from the maddening crowds? Have you got a spring of water on your land? If the answers to these questions are all 'NO' then you might be better off getting the fuck out.

But you are thinking and that is half the battle. Those that can't think will have to have it done for them. Good luck.


BigBear said...

Will you be using solar, that is where your big change will come from everything from cooking to writing your blog must be planned differently. You actually have to be aware of how much power you consume.

Bullseye said...

Michael, I am in the country, in the woods and fields of Kentucky. Our property borders the Daniel Boone National Forest so no neighbors to speak of. We also have a nice size pond on the property that we could use as a water supply, filtered first of course. There is also a spring that runs about 70% of the time. No crowds here for sure.

Bear, Plans for solar in the near future. I have a few panels but nothing that will provide me the power that I will need. I have a solar fence charger that is charging a 6volt battery that I may be able to use for some power, not much though. Any other sugguestions for solar panels?
Big Bear, i have been following your move to the cabin and look forward to reading about your lofe there.

Thanks for the comments and questions. These help me to address things that I may have overlooked. Thanks

Anonymous said...

re: solar/power

Have to agree with BigBear - seems like he speaks (very succintly) from experience.

I'd look at passive solar heating/comfort cooling first. It can easily provide half or more of your heat in the winter. Comfort cooling for the summer might be more critical in Kentucky however? Home positioning, roof overhang, and internal mass are critical aspects for both. Much cheaper to incorporate these during design/building than retrofitting later. Vistors to our home always want to see the panel/wind turnbine/inverter/battery setup - but aren't too intertested in the passive elements. Passive solar/comfort cooling is what makes our off-grid home LIVABLE, as opposed to just survivalable. It's amazing how much energy you won't even need if your house is designed properly.

On active solar, wish I had an hour or 3 to detail our experiences. Your creek flows 70% of the time? Might look into microhydro... But first, I'd check your electric bill for your monthly kWH usage to see what your up against. We live on about 3kWH per day, getting down to 1kWH would be do-able at extreme discomfort. Less than that would be VERY difficult for any extended period. Again, this is livable numbers for us (vs. just survivable). After 3 years of this, the Mrs and I sometimes get a good chuckle out of some wannabe off-griders expectations - many seem to think a thousand dollars invested in a couple panels, inverter, and some marine batteries means no electric bill for the rest of their lives (and no change in lifestyle either)... Sorry, ain't that easy, no way, not by a long shot.

Good luck and God Bless.

Bullseye said...

Anonymous, you make some very good points and I thank you for taking the time to comment. Our spring runs about 70% of the time but...the overflow from the pond runs year round @ somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 gals. per minute. Microhydro is very possible. We are more in the 8 or 9 kw per day(10-15 more like it) here in the house, my people are energy hogs for sure. I could live with much less than I do new. Really enough power for my laptop and internet connection and I'm pretty good. I have several solar lanterns now that work great when I'm out there at night. Passive solar would be pretty easy to do seeing that the greenhouse could provide much of the heat needed, it's attached to the south wall. Changing our lifestyle is something that I look forward to the most, not sure that is the case with the rest of my crew though. lol Again thanks for taking the time to comment.

Anonymous said...

No problem Bullseye - I sometimes wish I could start over on my place. We love it, but SO many little things I'd like to change or add. Our old electric usage was closer to 25kWH per day, with no kids! Just some thoughts/suggestions if you're interested:

1) trombe wall between the greenhouse and the house maybe?

2) check the dinural temp swings in your area - if the average temp moves above/below the comfort level for much of spring/summer/fall - then add mass, mass, and more mass to the interior. Marble/concrete tables, big houseplant planters, concrete slab (insulated from the earth and the walls), and/or large amounts of water. Even in the cold months it'll absorb the heat from the woodstove/passive solar. MUCH more stable temp inside year round.

3) PCM drywall/wallboard if possible - it was cost prohibitive for us, but I'm retrofitting it in as soon as it's available in the states. Google BASF Smartboard.

4) Glow in the dark paint, like you'd use to paint little stars/moons on the kids' room ceiling. Dab some on your flashlights, door frames, wall corners, rocks in the yard, gun sights, or whatever. Doesn't work great, but if you already know what you're looking for it throws/reflects just enough light usually to be helpful.

5) Radiant barrier (heavy duty tinfoil). I bought some in year two and rolled it out over the insulation in the attic/under the roof, really helps to reflect the summer heat away from the living space. Also stapled it to cardboard and put it inside the garage door panels/sections - really keeps the heat out of the garage (south facing metal garage door). Cheap Faraday Cage material too - if you're concerned about that...

I'll stop there - but can't stress the MASS enough. Find a way to warm it in the winter and cool it in the summer! It's just below freezing outside now, and even if I don't add another log to the woodstove it'll still be warm in the house come morning.

Bullseye said...

Anonymous, once again you have given me more things to think about. Mass, Mass, Mass and in that order. Thanks for all the input.

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing about retreats- I can't shake FerFal's advice that, post crisis, the most dangerous place to be is out in the middle of nowhere. In a city, you might get mugged, but out in the middle of nowhere, the bad guys can take their time, pull a home invasion, and take their time torturing you to find out where you keep everything of value.

I think FerFal is right when he says that a small group like a family of 4 or 5 people simply cannot protect a retreat in a rural area from the bad guys. You still need time to eat, sleep, go to the bathroom, etc., who's gonna keep watch then?

By contrast, I'm on my way to having a year's worth of food stored. Water pressure in the city I live in works even in a power failure, and I'm not in an area prone to natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes.

If people don't evacuate cities in examples like Beirut or Stalingrad in WWII, in what scenario is a 'retreat' a good idea?

Ken said...

...Hey Bullseye...unrelated to post...in my book i got a model 850 ???...is it the same ? typo ?...got a real 'smith' in my pocket down the road...he's helped me lots of times...not workin friday...let me know and i'll go see him

Bullseye said...

Anonymous, I never really thought about it like that. Villians sneaking up on us or anything. I think there are enough overs around to make sure that dosen't happen, lot of watchful eyes on the road to my house. Thanks for the comment.

Ken, Model 85 for sure. Be cack intown on fri night.

Anonymous said...

I saw some Tuff Shed buildings at Loews this weekend that cost about $1000 - $2000 that could work pretty well. Pre-fabed if you don't consider yourself handy or just don't have the time to DIY. Basic shell - free delivery within 30 miles of store. Could later stack or hay barrels around it for insulation. Small enough to wear a small wall a/c unit could work, especially if said unit was under shade.

For a couple of folks, might work.