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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 12:37 AM
Original message
Living off the grid
wow, it feels soooo much better here than in the primary forums. thanks femrap for leading me here.

i live off the grid as much as possible. this involves a boat, a huge transition in living that you may or may not want to make. i do have to buy diesel fuel, but not very much. and i do have internet access. i do have to buy groceries, but try to find markets and local products as much as possible. and i have a Ceil phone. but other than that, i pay no one and can move wherever i want (well if it is on the water) whenever i want.

i have solar panels to supply as much power as i can. i use that diesel i buy to generate my own power when the solar just won't cut it. when you do that, you become very aware of every bit of energy you use and use it very sparingly. i fill up my water tanks about once a month at public facilities and, again, you become extremely aware of what you use and how you use it when it is hard to get. i use saltwater for much of my washing and cleaning. i have a holding tank (for the poop) that can be emptied either at the local pump out or anytime i go more than three miles offshore - which is often.

and i love every minute of it. it's not just the very small footprint that i am making right now, though that is a part of it. it's just so wonderful to live this simply and this unencumbered.

and to answer some possible questions...
i make a little money working on the internet. i don't need much.
i have a wonderful partner who knows a whole lot more about boats than i do.

and i have the most indescribably beautiful backyard that i can imagine.

so, thanks femrap, for leading me to a forum where i can tell you about this. i don't think a boat is the only way. i think an rv or a hut or a tepee can get you to the same place. you just have to be willing to see things very differently than you have seen them before.
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grasswire Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 12:42 AM
Response to Original message
1. welcome to DU
Are you generally located in a warm or colder climate?
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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 12:46 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. well that all depends
right now off the coast of southern california. warm by many people's standards, but cold by others. lol!
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EmperorHasNoClothes Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 12:56 AM
Response to Original message
3. Sounds like a great life.
How do you get internet access?
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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 12:58 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. it is a great life!
i use an at&t wireless card and my husband uses a verizon wireless card. anywhere we can get phone, we get internet (which is not everywhere but close enough)
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EmperorHasNoClothes Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 01:09 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. Darn.
I had visions of surfing the net whilst 100 miles out to sea... :)

(although I'm sure that is possible, I'm also sure it's not cheap)
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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 01:11 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. you can use a sat phone, but not internet
but then, wouldn't it be great to get away from all this nonsense for awhile?
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EmperorHasNoClothes Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 01:20 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Absolutely.
Good god, it's 1:20 AM.
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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 01:22 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. GO TO BED
you have brought out the mother in me. teehee - it's only 11:20 here.
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patch1234 Donating Member (109 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 03:20 AM
Response to Original message
9. anybody could go off-grid with a big enuf diesel generator
I could go off grid if I let my car
idle 24H a day.
who wants that?
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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 11:44 AM
Response to Reply #9
11. I only run it for an hour or two a day
And it's not that big. I have a 12 volt system and only use the generator to charge up the batteries. And my consumption is quite low. So it's really nothing like running a car 24 hours a day. Sorry if i wasn't clear about that.
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Nihil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 12:00 PM
Response to Reply #11
13. Don't worry, you were clear enough.
Ol' Razzleberry just likes to post irrelevant comments now & then ...
:shrug:
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ixion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 03:31 AM
Response to Original message
10. welcome to DU, cbayer
I'm working on making that transition myself. I have a piece of land in the back-country, have a small solar setup, and am moving step by step towards living off the grid.

I can't wait until I get there.

thanks for the inspiration! :hi: :toast:
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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 11:51 AM
Response to Reply #10
12. and thanks for the welcome!
after getting beat up repeatedly in the primary forums (wow, what in the world is going on there?), it is really nice to be in a friendlier place.

kudos to you for what you are doing. it can be scary and you have to be ready to give up a lot of things you have probably gotten used to, but when you get down to just what you need - it is blissful. i am looking into a better solar system so that i can get off the generator completely when it is sunny. also looking at a wind generator (can be great on a boat). these are big investments and the technology is getting better all the time, so i am moving slowly.
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 12:36 PM
Response to Reply #12
14. My brother and his lady live "off-the-grid"
Their experiences closely match yours, although they have a well.

They also have a small wind turbine to supplement their solar panels in the cold/dark months. Between the solar and wind, my impression is that the generator is seldom used.

Theirs is not the stereotypical solar house, completely covered with panels. A few panels, batteries, and conscious conservation seem to be sufficient.
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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 10:47 PM
Response to Reply #14
17. cheers to them
people that do this are usually people that don't talk about it much, so the general population doesn't know it can be done. good for them and good for you for telling their story.
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femrap Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 09:40 PM
Response to Original message
15. I finally got back to you...cbayer.
Glad you like this forum. Don't let the political forums scare you. People are just very emotional now over the Primaries. Many of the Edwards people are so frustrated by not getting any Media attention for their candidate...and then you have many young posters who are rubbing that in and are truly naive about the country's dire situation.

In '04, I stayed out of the primary mess....all I wanted was someone to beat W. This time I'm more involved because I have waited so many years for a candidate who is taking on the Greedy Corporate Robber Barons. I truly believe Edwards would be our best candidate because I think he could beat the republican candidate. I'm not that optimistic about the tolerance of this country's voters....too many Evangelicals, bigots, etc. Plus Americans hate change. Oh well.

So you are on a boat...how cool. I used to live in N. California and just loved it. Never got cold and never got hot.

I am looking at straw-baled houses....where bales of straw are used as insulation. And then put stucco (or something) on both sides. Then maybe geothermal for heat in combination with solar panels. I just don't want to be dependent on these damn corporations for my water, heat, and in Ohio, I desperately need a/c. I keep thinking I'll find some other folks who are interested in the same thing and want to buy some land and get off the gird...get a garden going, some chickens, etc.

I have thought about an RV, too. But I keep seeing those KOA camp grounds and think...ugh. But one would at least be mobile and able to move easily...of course that takes GAS.

And then I have my days where I think I just want to go to Italy. If we don't get a Dem Prez elected this year, Italy might look better and better. Now those people know how to live...good food, wines, relaxation, and move at a decent pace...a quality of life we don't have any longer. I hate what has happened to the American Culture...so violent, crude, and mean....with nothing but bad fast food. I miss California's seafood and sourdough bread....and San Francisco's tolerant attitudes.

And I miss that beautiful back yard of yours...I loved driving up the coast. I used to stay at a great place south of Sea Ranch looking out over the ocean. I miss seeing the ocean...in fact, I think I am going to have to drive up to Lake Erie (the nearest big body of water)...just so I can feel the wind blowing off some water.

Take care...give the Pacific my love.

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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 10:45 PM
Response to Reply #15
16. femrap! thanks for finding me
i finally get to PM and recommend!

and thanks so much for bringing me to this forum. so nice.

i am getting a better understanding of what is going on at du and see a turning towards a more collective coalition. there won't be a revolution (doesn't that always involve bloodshed and such?) but i do think we will get a change. i am not worried about myself. but there are a lot of others who can't have what i have and do feel responsibility towards them. that makes leadership and government important to me, so i will remain involved.

i don't know about straw baled houses. there is a post on here from someone who is trying to get off the grid on a small piece of land. you may want to communicate with her. i give great kudos and hugs to anyone who actually makes it happen. not easy, but definitely doable.

i also had dinner tonight with a friend who lives in a small house she built herself and really has NO outside services. so cool.

italy is wonderful in so many ways. my husband lived there for many years. but you think our politics are messed up!?!? take a gander at theirs.

the question is, can you live the life away from all of this and still be a part of the process? i hope so.

i have discovered that looking at the ocean and living on her are very different. she challenges me daily. not always my friend, but i bow to her. tomorrow we sail back to america for a few days where i will indulge in corporate america (trader joes, the bank, target).

you are right. this country is often violent, crude and mean. but hasn't it always been? you already know that you just have to make your own place and surround yourself with the right people. and, hopefully, influence the future with your own actions.

so nice to hear from you. please keep me up to date on where you go.

peace
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diane in sf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-03-08 04:58 PM
Response to Reply #15
30. I'm thinking straw bale in Northern California, they work well even in the rain.
You can use cement stucco to waterproof the first few courses and let the rest breathe with a plaster stucco coat. People are building them in the maritime areas in Canada, they can deal with moisture as long as they're not sitting in it and they get to dry out. The thought of never paying for heating and cooling appeals to me!!! One of my books has one that a couple built on the rainy area of the coast, they bought a metal building without walls--framework and roof-- for around $20k and the cement foundation pad was around $10K (it would be more if you worked with radiant heat) and built the strawbale walls underneath. Sorry can't find that book to tell you the name.
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kestrel91316 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-29-08 11:55 AM
Response to Original message
18. I want to retire to the Midwest (where it RAINS) and live in a very humble
little home of my own making. With super-duper insulation and a wood-burning stove and a hand-pumped well (no indoor plumbing needed, lol) and a sawdust bucket toilet.

Well, maybe not quite that humbly. But I could if I had to. And be satisfied.
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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-29-08 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #18
19. i'm with you about the rain!
it's been nice to finely get some out here (even though people in socal seem to see it as an emergency - hysterical).

talked with a friend last night about straw bale houses. very interesting concept.

they make these nice porta-potties now. better than buckets and environmentally sound.
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Ready4Change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-29-08 07:00 PM
Response to Original message
20. Nifty! What's your solar power system like?
I'm still of the 'cover the roof with panels' mindset. (Not that I've done that. I just have a small 45 watt hobbies system.)

What are you using for panels/charge controllers? Permamently mounted, or do you set them up when the sails come down?

Have you considered a small windmill or water turbine, to generate more power while under sail?

Thanks for the info!
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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-29-08 07:49 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. Solar and wind
right now we have two 85 watt panels (so old, i don't know the brand) which we put on the dodger when anchored and strap to the deck when sailing. i have to say we, because HE really does all the heavy lifting. we are planning to have an arch built onto the back of the boat for permanent installation of two new kyocera 135 watt panels. i believe the panels will pay for themselves in about two years, based on our current fuel consumption for the generator.

we currently feed the panels directly into our batteries and don't use a charge controller. that's because those 85's don't really give us enough to overcharge our large battery banks. when we get the new panels, we will also get a controller.

we are looking at wind generators. the jury is still out on their efficiency, but in the winter when it can be overcast, the wind blows like crazy out here.


the whole water turbine idea is fascinating and i have done a little research on it, but not on the agenda yet.

i've got a friend who did the cover the roof thing in austin, TX and the power company is paying him! his meter goes backwards. how cool is that?

good luck to you. even little steps are meaningful. i am glad you are Ready4Change.
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skids Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-29-08 08:49 PM
Response to Reply #21
22. small wind stuff here:

I'm guessing out on the open water the wind tends to be in one direction,
so a hawt should do:

http://www.ecobusinesslinks.com/small_wind_turbines_sma...

But if it's a lot of squalls, may want to look here instead:

http://www.ecobusinesslinks.com/vertical_axis_wind_turb...
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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-30-08 07:10 PM
Response to Reply #22
25. Great stuff - thanks for the links
Right this minute it is blowing a steady 25-30 knots with gusts over 35! oh, for wind generator!
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FREEWILL56 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-31-08 12:38 AM
Response to Reply #21
26. Welcome to DU.
Are you sure that the model number of the new Kyoceras you intend on purchasing were KC135? To my knowledge they haven't come out with that model number as yet. If it is that model number then please provide a link to it that I may see who has it available.
As to your charging system now, if you have not been able to have need of a controller it is because you drain off the charge power before the batteries are able to be fully charged. This is known as deficeit charging and you will ruin your batteries through sulphation if they aren't able to be regularly fully charged. If the batteries should become fully charged with the pvs still forcing a charge to them because of there being no controller, those batteries will then overcharge. This will be seen as excessive gassing and boiling away of the electrolyte. If the the plates become exposed to the air sulphation starts immediately and will probably take away some of the capacity and life of the batteries. Nobody should use pvs without a controller or some other regulator for charging batteries and I recommend a battery temperature sensor in a controller that has that provision. It is a small investment comparitively to the rest of the system components and will save on the cost of new batteries from happening all to soon. Have you checked on the skyrocketing costs of batteries lately?
Also of interest to some here may be Home Power Magazine and you can find a sample issue in PDF form on their website.
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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-31-08 01:27 AM
Response to Reply #26
27. You are right
it's the 130's we are looking at.

we have 3 banks of batteries - 2 banks are basically golf cart batteries (2 in one, 4 in another) and one starter (basic car battery). most of what we use is 12 volt directly from these batteries and we try not to use the alternator. there is no way that our 2 current panels can meet our needs and we run our generator daily for an hour or so to bring them back to a full charge - generally at in the evening when we might want to use the a/c circuits. the two current panels feed the banks during the day, allowing us to go longer between charges. we never let the batteries discharge more than about 50% before bringing them back up to a full charge. we do have a controller on the system that will prevent overcharging by the generator and realize that when we upgrade our panels, we will need to put them through that or another system. it is our goal to use the generator rarely. despite daily charging and discharging, the batteries have shown no evidence so far of beginning to fail.

i get most of my information from sites and written material directed at boats, since our systems are different in some significant ways. but you clearly have a lot of knowledge in this area and i appreciate the feedback. and i will check out the site you recommend.

can you tell me anything about purposeful overcharging to renew the batteries? i have read some about this, but the whole sulphation thing scares me. the batteries are right under my bed!
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FREEWILL56 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-31-08 09:04 PM
Response to Reply #27
28. What you are probably refering to is called
Edited on Thu Jan-31-08 09:22 PM by FREEWILL56
an Equalization charge or EQ for short. What this is is a controlled overcharge for an hour or 2 to overcome small differences between the batteries. This is done every so often due to minor discrepencies in charging that become cumulative over time. Having a good digital volmeter can show minute voltage differences between the batteries and the larger that difference the more important an EQ charge may be along with other measures. Having very large sized interbattery connections can help this somewhat by lowering the extra resistances introduced by the wires. Also have the loads and charge sources cross wired (do not short out the batteries to be clear) so that the + on the far left battery is used in conjunction with the - on the very far right battery, or visa versa with - on the left and + on the right and one can have the charge source on the first example connection and the loads on the second connection. It may be too late, but different types of batteries, different amphour ratings, different ages, or different manufacturers of batteries should not be used together because of differences that'll show up affecting the performance of the batteries in their ability to give their full capacity and affect their lifespan.
Do not fear the word sulphation as much as you do because they won't explode because of it. It is still a bad word because it ruins batteries and don't fall for those little electronic gadgets that claim to desulphate a battery. If you do an EQ please observe your water levels and put only distilled water into the cells.
Thank you for the compliment on what I know. If you wish to know more in general you can go to another forum and learn much from it.
http://www.wind-sun.com/ForumVB /
edit to add:
Beware of some people here on DU that discourage the use of solar out of their own ignorance and prejudices and they sometimes present false info so they can prove their false points of view and defame solar.
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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-02-08 05:07 PM
Response to Reply #28
29. Great information
Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. The site you referenced is really great. I think the information you get from people that have actually installed and used systems is invaluable.

Why would anyone try to discourage the use of solar? What do they see as drawbacks?
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tom_paine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-30-08 01:45 AM
Response to Original message
23. Welcome to DU, cbayer. Welcome to the E/E forum.
In addition to being a fantastic font of information (much thanks to GliderGuider, hatrack, and others), it is a place where there is a much higher ratio of issues/MSM (mainsteram media) nonsense discussed.
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cbayer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-30-08 05:16 PM
Response to Reply #23
24. Thanks for the welcome
Even though I have been a member a long time, i just came here for political news and info. How wonderful to find this forum!
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