We are called daily by folks who believe the world will soon fall into such changes that there will be no more utility power available. Reasons given include imminent earth polar shift, nuclear war, EMP, solar flares, natural disasters, war, famine, social disruption plus numerous other end of the world scenarios. We are not qualified in most of those areas to know what might be waiting to befall our world, but we do believe that being prepared for whatever unexpected event could possibly be looming is always a good idea.
Solar electricity is indeed one of the most survivable energy technologies. While no one can be totally self-sufficient, (we have yet to meet someone who can make a piece of wire without help) we can all become more self-reliant. We can have enough food for our needs and the needs of those we love, we can also make plans to have the equipment necessary to generate power should the grid go down for a short period or collapse completely. When we look at any of a number of natural disasters in the past few years, it is amazing to watch ordinary city dwellers fall into a miserable condition and have to be rescued after only a few short days without ‘modern infrastructure.’
Should the city lights go out forever, a home already powered entirely by solar electricity would be in a great position to continue life as usual, (at least until the batteries wear out or something breaks). The catch to this scenario is that modern homes consume, on average 20-30 kilowatt hours a day! Whereas an off-grid solar home can consume as little as a few hundred watt hours a day to usually less than 10 kilowatts hours a day. Costs associated with systems this size range from a couple of thousand dollars to $30,000-$40,000 for the larger system (before possible incentives).
If your home is currently tied to the grid and you haven’t stopped to think about the inexpensive energy that is always available, your first step is to take a look at your last energy bill. Wherever it falls in the range of 30 Kwh/day to over 1000 Kwh/day (and yes, we have been asked to design a system that large!) the problem is simply the cost to make the conversion. For those that have the desire and the ability to move off grid and design a home from the ground up, they have the most options and the best chance of building in the energy saving features that make living off grid easier. These homes need to be built with propane as the workhorse for most heating and cooling chores. Dryers, ranges and water heaters need to be gas based, fridges and freezers can be propane or solar powered and there are costs and benefits associated with either option. Air conditioning can be done with solar, but it requires an ultra efficient air conditioner and plenty of solar panels. If the system is designed right, you will have extra solar in the summer when the air conditioning is needed. Be sure to contact Backwoods Solar to help you design the system, they can insure that the system is sized correctly for the loads you would like to run.