BEYOND-THE-GRID ~ Perspectives from Life in the Gulch

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There are many things every one of us can do to reduce our dependence on controlling sources of energy in our lives right now before we jump completely out of the grid. Of course we all have heard about diminishing resources for energy, over dependence on foreign energy sources, solar and nuclear and wind farm and ocean current developments to provide more energy and so forth. What we do not hear much about is the other end of the energy story...your end. Why do we require so much? Are we conned into it? Do our egos demand it? Are we spoiled? Maybe we are so dependent on kitchen aids and electronic wonders we are ever inclined to add to our energy sucking menagerie? Is a major part of the energy problem consumption rather than diminishing supplies and costly development?

A little story...I live in the mountains. My energy needs are minimal; lighting, music, internet, occasional toast or microwave use. I get by with three solar panels, four batteries, an inverter (1200 watt), and a seldom used hydroelectric system. My place frustrates people who have access to myriad electronic helpers in their kitchen at their own homes. One of these, who lived with me for a couple of years, couldn't wait to move to the city, rent an apartment, unload all of her electronic kitchen aides, plug 'em in, turn 'em on, and just listen to them all buzzing at the same time. Needless to say that act would have easily flipped the breakers on my tiny 1200 watt inverter. I, of course, was offered a choice...her or my 1200 watt inverter. I've lived happily with my inverter for 20 years since then. My little story says you have to make a choice!

If you lower your energy needs it is really easy to get off the grid without spending a bunch of money. Many installers will boost your estimated system's needs until you are able to live as before, a major consumer, and have to pay really big bucks to be independent. Another thing: if you elect to get off the grid then get totally off it. Don't get into grid-tie programs and equipment which allows the utilities server in your area to buy excess power from you. You will already have paid mucho bucks for the components that would supply the excess. At best a simple toggle between your system and the utility will take care of larger draws or emergencies. What is a large draw? Washer/dryer, electric heater, waffle know what they are. Just glance at the label on the back or under the item for wattage requirements.

I will tell you more soon. If you have specific questions in the meantime please e-mail me at
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