Off Grid Basic

Off Grid Basic

Postby montanamac » Tue Oct 25, 2011 2:09 am

I have talked in the past about the challenges of living "off grid" and the life style adjustments that are needed if you are on a limited budget. If unlimited funds are available then the sky is the limit on solar panels, inverters, batteries, generators and on and on. However, if your household is not in this category and you are trying to prepare for what might lie ahead in the future then what I have to say might be of interest.
What if the power went off and stayed off for a week, month, year or more? What are the very basic electrical needs that you may have? Here is a possible list not necessarily in order of importance that you could run on a very basic 12 volt DC system.

Small battery recharging ability

Lights .. LED lights take very little power and can light our living area so you are not stumbling around in the dark.

Communications ... At the very minimum hand held walkie-talkie type radios that can be recharged. Next in line would be a CB radio. My preference would be a Ham radio setup that operates on 12 VDC and can keep you in touch with others.

Security ... I am not well versed in this area but seems to me that motion detector alarms would be a first choice followed with surveillance camera(s) of some sort. Others in the group might care to post more information addressing this topic.

Battery charging ... We live "off grid" and I find that a good quality head lamp is a tool that I would not want to be without. All of our headlamps and flashlights are LED type and use AAA rechargeable batteries. The charger operates on 12 volt DC power and can recharge several batteries at a time.

Refrigerator ... a small chest type freezer converted to a refrigerator would be a convenience but probably not a necessity and can operate from 12 volt DC power via a small inverter.

All of these items could operate from one or two solar panels, one or two 12 volt batteries, a charge controller (keeps from over charging your battery(s)) and possibly a small inverter (changes 12 volt DC to 120 volt AC ... like your house power). If you keep your demands small the results will be in a small and affordable emergency setup. The more stuff you want to run the more power you need and the cost goes up accordingly.

In our setup we have our house main power in a 24 volt DC system. In addition to this we have a small 12 volt DC setup to operate emergency LED lights and communication gear in case everything else quits.

Do you need an emergency power supply? Here is a challenge to help you make up your mind. Some afternoon right before the sun goes down go out to your main breaker panel and turn the main breaker off and leave it off until morning. Pretend there is some sort of real emergency. Your cell phone, computer, radio, TV, etc does not work. You don't know what is going on but there are all sorts of commotion outside and occasional gun shots. You want to know what is going on and possibly call for help. How well prepared are you?

This is just a drill .... but what if it was real?
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