Getting Off the Grid: 2 Easy Steps to Energy Independence
Would you like to get off the grid? You are not alone. Getting off the grid and becoming energy independent has many benefits. It means no more monthly electricity bills, no more dependence on depleting fossil fuels, and no more blackouts caused by an overworked grid system. Before you get off the grid, however, you must do two important things. You must figure out how much energy you need, and you must choose the best way to create that energy.
Completing an Energy Audit
Before going off the grid you must figure out how much energy you are currently using. To do this, check your electricity bills. Be sure to check usage for each month of the year, paying particular attention to the summer and winter months. The last thing you want to do is go off the grid and then fail to produce enough power to get you through the cold winter months.
Once you know how much energy you currently use, figure out ways to reduce your consumption. Is your house well insulated? Do you use energy efficient appliances? Do you have energy efficient habits, like unplugging appliances that are not in use? Sit down with your family members and brainstorm ideas about how you, as a group, can reduce your energy consumption. Then put those ideas into action. Live for several months using your new energy plan, comparing your electricity bills along the way. Then use those comparisons to decide exactly how much energy you will need to produce once you go off the grid. With that answer, you will then be ready to choose your new source of power.
Choosing a Power Source
Once you get off the grid, you will be creating your power with solar panels, a wind turbine, or, ideally, a combination of both. Let’s first take a look at solar panels.
The requirements for solar panels are simple. If you can see and feel the sun’s rays, you can use solar panels. For best results, have your solar panels facing the south. Mount them so they absorb the sun’s rays at a 30-degree angle. Also, solar panels are breakable, so make sure you install them in a safe location. Most people mount them on their rooftops. To figure out the number of solar panels you will need, use the information from your energy audit and your solar panel manufacturer’s output specifications. If you are a DIY type of person, consider building your own panels. You will save yourself thousands of dollars by doing it yourself.
To use a wind turbine you must be in a suitable location. Most importantly, you must be in an area that gets steady winds. If large buildings or trees surround your property, a wind turbine may not be the best choice for you. If this is the case, and you still want to use a wind turbine, remember that the smoothest, most constant winds will be thirty feet above any nearby structures. Before purchasing or building a wind turbine, buy a wind meter and record the wind speeds at your location. Ideally, you would like to get readings in each of the four seasons. Also, check with your local government to see if there are any restrictions or permits you need to be concerned about. As with solar panels, consider building your own wind turbine. Doing so will save you much money.
Wind and solar Combination
Many people that go off the grid use a combination of wind and solar power. Having solar panels and a wind turbine gives you the ability to produce electricity 24 hours a day and in nearly all natural conditions. If you are serious about getting off the grid and enjoying energy independence, I recommend that you take advantage of both wind and solar energy.