The Best Way to Keeping your Off-Grid Home Warm

The Best Way to Keeping your Off-Grid Home Warm

Matthew Davies image of a home with solar panels for electricity and heat.

Just like everyone else, Matthew Davies knows a warm home is a necessity. When deciding to live off-grid, the choice of your location should not be dictated by climate. It is part of the equation but should not be the only thing you consider. Living off-grid does not have to mean being cold all the time. There are multiple ways to keep warm during cold nights and the long winter months. 

The Balance Between Freezing Cold and Suffocatingly Hot

Building an off-grid home teaches you about efficiency. There are a lot of things that are learned during the first year of living off-grid. One being your comfort zone when it comes to temperature. Your home has to be efficient to live off-grid successfully. Let’s look at ways to make your home more comfortable.

Proper Insulation – It goes without saying that a house with improper insulation will not keep a steady temperature. The first step is installing insulation that will keep the extremes out. Roof and attic are often forgotten, but remember, heat rises. The highest point in your home is where the most substantial amount of heat loss occurs. Adding a layer of insulation between each floor of your home will help keep every level at an even temperature.

Keep Your Pipes Wrapped – Adding foam insulation to your water pipes will help with water consumption and prevent water damage. Un-insulated pipes can burst due to ice forming inside, resulting in hefty repair bills, not to mention ruined possessions. Before foam insulation, running your water frequently was the best way to keep your pipes from freezing, as flowing water does not freeze as quickly as standing water. This, however, is not very efficient and can be a drain on your water system. A quick and easy fit during construction will be a time and money saver in the future.

Draft-Proofing – This is your starting point. You can have the best heating system in the world. If your home is drafty, you will be cold. Draft-proofing is first and foremost, finding where you have a draft, and sealing it. You will naturally find drafts where there is an opening. Windows, doors, and outlets. To draft proof, close all windows and doors, and you can walk around the outer wall of your home, holding a candle or incense stick, and looking at where the flame or smoke goes. Both will head towards the closest draft, helping you identify where you need to address a potential heat loss. For doors and windows, try installing a door-sweep, or weather-strip. If you find your draft is coming from the side of your windows, you may need new caulking. Spray foam will work great for any visible gap.

Let’s Talk About Heating – Now that your home is efficient, we need to look at heating systems. There are many heating systems that can be added to your home.

Wood Burning – When it comes to sustainability, wood burning is one of the few truly renewable resources available. On top of being multi-functional, it has a distinctive warmth that cannot be compared to any other heat source. It can be labor-intensive; however, your cost per cord can be exciting. If your land plot is large enough, this is the one resource that can be re-planted and harvested every year, giving you a secure supply, no matter your income. Different types of wood will provide you with a different burn, so experiment with what grows naturally in your area. You will find the best balance of burn time and temperature. Maintenance is a drawback, as cleaning your wood-burning stove, and chimney needs to be done annually. It’s not suitable for small spaces and requires attention. It is definitely not a “set it and forget it” type of thing. 

Clean Burning Propane – You may not have access to a large plot of land or simply not like the smell or feel of wood burning. If that is your case, propane may be the solution for you. You can not only warm your home, but like wood-burning, you can also cook using propane. Propane is extremely versatile in terms of the sheer number of appliances that can be connected to it. Space heaters, Generators, Refrigerators, Dryers, Stove, the possibility here are massive. One drawback is its cost. Wood can be gathered at no other cost than the sweat on your brow. Propane prices can vary widely from town to town, company to company. It also needs to be handled with care. Pressurized propane can be quite dangerous if mishandled. Repairs on propane appliances can be costly, as it is a specialization that cannot be done by every repairman.

Let’s Go Solar – Your rooftop is an empty, unused space. Sure, you can and should have a water collection system in place that takes the water runoffs from your roof, but other than that, it’s a blank canvas. You can maximize its usage by installing an active solar heating system. This, however, is only really effective in warm climates. It’s a system that uses dark painted copper pipes to warm water via sunlight. As the sun shines, it heats the water, which, via a pump, will flow through your home, heating the part of your home that is connected to this system. Having long daylight hours and excellent sun exposure is a must for this system to work adequately, but it is not a system that can run independently from one another.

Staying Warm Can and Will Be Accomplished.

A home should be a safe, warm, and comforting place. With these few steps and options, you have the tools needed to have an efficient, cozy home for those cold winter nights. There are some drawbacks to each option, but with careful planning, you too can keep warm. Matthew Davies hopes your journey to self-sustainability, with these few steps, will be made a little easier. Heating an off-grid home can be easy if you know the steps you need to take.

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