Surprising Luxuries You Didn’t Could Be Operated Off-Grid
Prior to living off-grid, I, Matthew Davies, had a lot of preconceptions about what living off-grid actually entailed. I was under the impression that I would have to say goodbye to my 1000-watt microwave, my equally power-hungry waffle maker, and I would even have to let my dishwasher go. Boy, was I mistaken.
While in some instances, living off-grid can mean saying goodbye to some of your favorite appliances, hauling your water in from the stream, and cooking every meal on a wood-burning stove, it doesn’t have to.
To my shock and amazement, with the help of a small rooftop array, I can enjoy more luxuries than the average suburbanite. Of course, living in Northern California means I don’t have to combat the harsh winter months, but I do have to deal with many rainy days. For these days, I rely on the wind turbine I have mounted to my roof. Since most of the storms we encounter are accompanied by wind, I am not at a loss for power even when the sun is not out. Having two systems allows me to enjoy the same luxuries as others and even more, including the ones below.
Living off-grid is a lot of work. Most off-gridders I know have many chores to do throughout the day. These chores can include bringing in water from nearby streams or lakes, foraging for fruit and vegetables, tending the garden, feeding the livestock, and even regular maintenance on farming equipment. The days are long. After a long day, it is great to come home and relax in a beautiful hot whirlpool bathtub.
You may think that there is too much of a drain on the system to power one of these, but you would be wrong. California is known for its copious amounts of sunshine. While I am out doing the chores, my system is passively collecting all the power I will need to enjoy a soak in the tub at the end of my very long days. This isn’t always possible in the winter months as we have many storms during this time. However, on sunny days, even in the winter, I can easily enjoy a quick 20-minute soak.
Unbeknownst to many off-gridders, a dishwasher is a great way to utilize your stored power during the day. Once your batteries are charged, the extra sunlight doesn’t do you any good. You may as well use the power of the sun while you have it. So, unlike most people, I do my dishes in the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak. This leaves me the remainder of the afternoon to recharge my batteries to make it through the nighttime hours.
A dishwasher makes sense for both conserving power and conserving natural resources. As I mentioned above, you can replenish the power you use in a few short hours of daylight. Furthermore, using a dishwasher consumes less water than washing dishes by hand. In my opinion, a dishwasher is a win-win solution.
When it comes to the internet, the biggest limitation I’ve encountered is limited access to internet lines. My household has sufficient power to run our routers and cellphones, but access to the internet can be dodgy at best. There are many options you have when it comes to being connected on the world wide web.
If you live near a town, you may have access to the regular internet lines. However, the further out you get, the less likely this will be the case. You will have to decide what option works best for you. Your options include using your phone as a wireless LAN, using radio waves to communicate to local towers or even accessing the internet via satellite. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. All of these options provide access to broadband service that keeps us off-gridders connected to the rest of the world.
Radiant Floor Heat
Pretty much anywhere you live, you are going to experience cold weather at some point during the year. While the cold weather we experience in Northern California may not be as severe as that experienced by states and countries located further north, it still feels cold to us. For this, we have the use of radiant floor heat. To achieve this heated floor system, you are going to need a boiler that will pump water or antifreeze under your floor. Don’t worry; it is not hot enough to burn your feet. You will probably still have to bundle up on the cold days, but it won’t require the use of winter coats and snow boots in the house.
Living in Northern California, I am susceptible to some sweltering days. This would not be tolerable if I didn’t have a nice cool house to come home to. As with other major appliances, you are going to want to run your air conditioning during peak sunlight. At night, you can open your windows and enjoy the cool night air. Make sure to watch your energy consumption past the peak solar output periods. It would make for quite a long, rough night if you didn’t have sufficient power to cook dinner or enjoy a good movie.
Electrical Cooking Appliances
Speaking of cooking, I do have access to the same ranges people in local housing units have. The only difference is I have to make use of it earlier in the day. If you want to be a little more economical and power-conscious, you can opt for a single burner unit and toaster oven instead of a traditional four-burner cooktop and oven.
As you can see, I, Matthew Davies, am just as capable of having the finer luxuries in life as my suburban counterparts. The only difference between them and me is I have to use my equipment at different times than they do. Living off-grid can mean you have to change your lifestyle a little bit, but it is worth the sacrifice.