The concept of living off the grid is becoming more popular as consumers become better educated about renewable energy sources. “Off the grid” is a term that describes a home that is powered without the use of the power grids maintained by utility companies. Contrary to popular imagery, off-grid homes are not necessarily rural, are not all log cabins and do not all feature chickens and goats in the back yard. Off-grid homes come in all shapes, sizes and styles and can be located anywhere from the mountains to cities. Options for off-grid solutions for energy come in a larger variety than ever before and are often affordable for the average consumer.
Off-grid Energy Advantages
While it is true that start-up costs for producing energy off-grid can be somewhat concerning, one of the biggest off-grid energy advantages is the immediate reduction in energy costs. The utility bills consumers loathe to pay every month shrink considerably, or disappear entirely, depending upon the method of energy production being used. Most consumers choosing to go off-grid also appreciate the fact that renewable energy is very good for the environment, something that rising concerns about climate change and humanity’s destruction of natural resources has called attention to. A third advantage is the reduced risk of weather-related power loss. Most consumers are familiar with the hassles inherent with downed power lines and weather-induced power loss. When generating power off-grid, large storms and cold weather become less of a concern in terms of maintaining power.
Different Approaches to Generating Electricity
Most people think of solar power when they think about renewable energy. Solar panels collect energy from the sun and consumers use a converter to transfer that energy to batteries, where it can be used to power much of a home’s appliances, heating and lights. Solar energy is a particularly viable option for power production in areas that receive a lot of sunlight, such as the southwest United States. Solar panel installation can be costly at the outset but in some parts of the country, consumers who install them are eligible to receive compensation from utility companies or their states. Solar power is not practical in every part of the world, however. Because the power is collected from direct sunlight, places that are typically overcast or have shorter daylight hours may not be the best locations for heavy reliance on solar power. Many consumers that use solar power, as a result, also use other methods for generating electricity.
Wind Turbines are another option gaining popularity among private consumers. While not every home is in an ideal location for using wind turbines, many homes are located on property lots large enough to accommodate them and many consumers find that a combination of wind turbines and solar powers provide them with more than enough power.
Individuals that live near streams might be interested in microhydro power. This system uses a combination of water flow and vertical drop to create an ongoing source of energy. This option produces a nearly infinite supply of energy but is obviously only available to consumers that live near a flowing water source.
Finally, geothermal energy offers off-grid energy advantages for consumers that want to combine energy production for maximum use. Geothermal energy production is more accurately described as moving heat, rather than generating it. Heat and energy are interchangeable terms and the earth itself produces both in spades. Geothermal uses water-filled, closed loops of high density polyethylene pipes to move heat (energy) from the earth to the home. Set up and maintenance vary from location to location and home to home, but this type of energy can be used to both heat and cool a home, as well as be harnessed for powering appliances.
Most consumers find that a combination of off-grid energy works best for keeping their carbon footprint small and their energy needs well addressed.