I believe I am guilty of promoting free energy on the off grid homestead, and during the summer months it appears that way. However, during the winter months cloudy skies make solar energy creation improbable, and it’s the battery bank that keeps the home’s electricity going from day to day. When the fog and inversion continues throughout the week, a 5 gallon jug of fuel is added to the generator. The generator is fired up to produce the home’s power and to fill the battery bank for a few more days.
Winter is the time of the year when an off grid home realizes they are not living “free”. Perhaps a nice sunny equatorial home would provide the energy the home needs and less reliance on a large battery bank. But even then, a home close to the equator has a constant 12 hours day and night. In which the daylight begins at 6 and ends at 6 in the evening. If only we lived on the equator… but I really like the 4 seasons, so that’s out for now.
If you are thinking about going off grid, depending on where you live and what your winter is like as far as darkness and climate, you will want to size your battery bank accordingly. Our new bank, if we conserve, can get us about 4 days, without direct sunlight. We have added so many new systems that require more power and we added to our family another person, so power usage has naturally increased. More lights are on, our fridge runs more often, and the phantom load of the Internet and the propane tankless water heater begin to add up over a few hours. If I remember, like I just did, I shut them off.
As seen in the video, I crunched the numbers and our new battery bank (basic electric bill) is estimated at $25.00 a month over a 10 year period. That’s not bad, but that doesn’t include the generator maintenance or the fuel for it. A 5 gallon jug is required to charge the battery bank from 50% back up to 100% and to equalize them. Without equalizing, it’s about 4 gallons of fuel needed. I am keeping tabs on our generator usage this year with the new bank and tractor generator; it will be nice to be able to prepare a constant monthly budget by spreading the winter expenditures year round.
If my wife and I lived on the grid in this area and had solar panels that covered our electrical usage, the power company would still charge us a $25.00 minimum monthly hook up fee. That doesn’t seem fair, but with many people trying to save money with increasing electrical bills the power companies do not want people wiggling out from their profit margins, plus someone has to pay for all those linemen who repair the down wires after a devastating storm. Either way off grid or on, you will have to pay someone for your electricity. As electricity bills increase, so does the price of batteries. The T-105’s I first bought were $155 each in 2011; this year they are $180 a piece.
If you are thinking about supplementing your on grid home or building an off grid power system, now is the time to start because prices are always going up.