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Off-Grid Electricity

  1. #1
    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Off-Grid Electricity


    So the supply rates got jacked again and I am looking at alternatives to the highway robbery that is the power company.

    Threeish years ago the supply rate went from $30 to $50/month and this past month it went from $50 to $80/month.

    I am seriously considering going for an off-grid system to eliminate the supply charges that are ridiculous.

    Has anyone done any research on this? My house is East and West facing as far as the roof is concerned, which is exactly what you don't want for solar.

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  2. #2
    Lifer
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    What is your daily/peak usage like now? System costs vary ALOT depending on the capacity you need.

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  3. #3
    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    My max daily average over the last year was 15kwh/day.

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    Angry Gumball RandyO's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    I dunno, my brother has a 2nd home in VT on a Class 4 road. He has an Onan tri-fuel generator/inverter, set up to run on propane, originally, he had gas lights & frig, that was 30 years ago, over time, with the advent of led lighting and solar, he added a couple panels to the roof, the only time I hear his generator kick on, is when the 220v well pump is going, or at night when the gang is playing horseshoes, and he's got his big ass highway work lights goin, he hasn't used the gas frig or lights in 20 years, stove, hot water & dryer are still gas

    great setup BUT, last year, he got the neighborhood together to put $150k of underground power up the street, his share was $25k, so now, he's on the grid, after 30years off grid

    I've been saving $$$ over the years here in NH, by switching from residential service, to general service, residential rates are constant, general rates drop the more you use, but a demand surcharge, doesn't work if you have electric stove & hot water, or a welder or other high demand items, but if your just doing lighting & electronics, and a lot of it, it is big savings, I have saved over $40k since I switched 37 years ago, not sure if you have that option in CT, or if it would work for your usage

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  5. #5
    Lifer Falko's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Solar systems are expensive. Check your state's and power companies incentives as well as federal to get the cost offset and then see if it makes sense. You could pay out a ton to save $50 a month.

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  6. #6
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    You should move to a better state that doesn't fleece residents left and right to compensate for running business out of it. It's only a matter of time before CT figures out an "off grid" tax or prohibits it outright.

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  7. #7

    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Also check local and state laws. Some states do not allow to go off grid. I think CT is one of them

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  8. #8
    Lifer
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by csmutty View Post
    My max daily average over the last year was 15kwh/day.
    Quick google search shows it would cost you between 30k and 50k for a setup to run that much stuff.

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  9. #9
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by csmutty View Post
    $50 to $80/month.
    Good lord, that's what I pay alone to run my hot tub in January!

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  10. #10
    Lifer Falko's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by sveesix View Post
    Quick google search shows it would cost you between 30k and 50k for a setup to run that much stuff.
    I don't think he wants a 15kw system, he needs something that averages .625 kW. But his peak would dictate the size of the system.

    I don't know how your bill is structured, but if you are still connected to the grid, you probably cannot get around the supply charge if that is the minimum tied in rate. If that is based on your peak demand, solar should help, unless they measure your peak usage (inclusive of solar) and still bill at that elevated amount. It can be a confusing situation and many people have gotten screwed by the utility because they don't want to lose their income. Many utilities make all their money on the distribution and tie in charges, actual power is almost a pass through.

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  11. #11
    Lifer
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    I have personally built or retrofitted 5 houses now geared towards using solar as much as possible and many others that i have been a consultant on. I could write a book on it but i will try to hit some of my bigger topics to keep this simpler or i will just write and write. I will leave out technical stuff too.

    The secret to making it work is to not take your entire house off grid, just most of it. Keep the grid power and use it as little as possible. Solar and batteries really arent expensive until you start saying that you need to run your fridge and electric hot water. Oh and dont forget about ac in the summer. If you just look at all your smaller use items solar really isnt bad expense wise. Incorporating everything can get tricky in some cases though.

    The number one thing to do first before a penny is laid out is to make sure you are using power wisely. All led lighting, shutting off lights when not used, dont leave chargers plugged in etc. Get that bill as low as you can get it yourself. Go buy yourself a killawatt and plug it in around the house. You may be shocked at what some items are really costing you in power.
    In my house once you take away the heavy hitter items like heaters and appliances do you know what is my highest electrical use item? This is in a modern 4 bedroom house with everything being 5 years old or newer. Its my ps4 pro playing re7 in vr. Yup, who would have guessed. It is more than double the power useage of my next biggest item which is the 50" i play it on. Something like 700w to play that game just from the ps4.
    Once you know everything you are dealing with you can make a plan. Do an energy audit either yourself or book it with the electric company. Most of them do it free and give you a bunch of free bulbs and stuff. If you have kids watch them closely. Kids tend to really bring up electric bills without being noticed.
    I recommend people to go buy the cheap $200 solar kit and battery from harbor freight and learn to use it. You will find out quickly what solar can and cant do as well as give you a better understanding of orientation, sizing, power creation and power consumption.

    One of my houses is entirely off grid in new york and my solar system with batteries was less than 5k. 2.5kwh system with 300ah lithium batteries. Heating is done by woodstove or propane. Fridge is 12v dometic. Cooking is propane. Its a no frills place though so no massive tvs or microwaves, just solid basic living for 2 people. It works absolutely perfectly mostly. Sucks if i need to weld or something. I use a generator in times of need which actually dont come up much. Maybe like 50 hours total in a year, if that. Thats not much gas. Much of the house is DC.

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  12. #12
    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by boosten lebaron View Post
    I have personally built or retrofitted 5 houses now geared towards using solar as much as possible and many others that i have been a consultant on. I could write a book on it but i will try to hit some of my bigger topics to keep this simpler or i will just write and write. I will leave out technical stuff too.

    The secret to making it work is to not take your entire house off grid, just most of it. Keep the grid power and use it as little as possible. Solar and batteries really arent expensive until you start saying that you need to run your fridge and electric hot water. Oh and dont forget about ac in the summer. If you just look at all your smaller use items solar really isnt bad expense wise. Incorporating everything can get tricky in some cases though.

    The number one thing to do first before a penny is laid out is to make sure you are using power wisely. All led lighting, shutting off lights when not used, dont leave chargers plugged in etc. Get that bill as low as you can get it yourself. Go buy yourself a killawatt and plug it in around the house. You may be shocked at what some items are really costing you in power.
    In my house once you take away the heavy hitter items like heaters and appliances do you know what is my highest electrical use item? This is in a modern 4 bedroom house with everything being 5 years old or newer. Its my ps4 pro playing re7 in vr. Yup, who would have guessed. It is more than double the power useage of my next biggest item which is the 50" i play it on. Something like 700w to play that game just from the ps4.
    Once you know everything you are dealing with you can make a plan. Do an energy audit either yourself or book it with the electric company. Most of them do it free and give you a bunch of free bulbs and stuff. If you have kids watch them closely. Kids tend to really bring up electric bills without being noticed.
    I recommend people to go buy the cheap $200 solar kit and battery from harbor freight and learn to use it. You will find out quickly what solar can and cant do as well as give you a better understanding of orientation, sizing, power creation and power consumption.

    One of my houses is entirely off grid in new york and my solar system with batteries was less than 5k. 2.5kwh system with 300ah lithium batteries. Heating is done by woodstove or propane. Fridge is 12v dometic. Cooking is propane. Its a no frills place though so no massive tvs or microwaves, just solid basic living for 2 people. It works absolutely perfectly mostly. Sucks if i need to weld or something. I use a generator in times of need which actually dont come up much. Maybe like 50 hours total in a year, if that. Thats not much gas. Much of the house is DC.
    Good talking points! Thanks!

    I did an energy audit a couple years ago and got all LED's and such installed. I do mostly oil baseboard for heat but have a woodstove to supplement when I am home. Too cheap to use air conditioning in the summer but I run the ceiling fans all the time. Don't have any video games and might use the TV twice a week for a couple hours. No kids, just the two cats and I. I do have a freezer that I don't really use in the basement that I have been meaning to get rid of though. Still plugged in for whatever reason.

    Harbor freight panel is a pretty good idea to try to get a feel for what is going on. Might try that out!

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  13. #13
    Lifer jasnmar's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    You should also check into the legality of doing this with your town.
    Technically it "mostly" isn't illegal to do this, but some places won't grant, or will revoke, an occupancy permit without a connection to the electrical utility.
    Local building department / inspector should no the rules for this in your particular town.

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  14. #14
    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    What if you don't pay them? Lol.

    What are they going to do shut off your electricity?

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  15. #15
    Lifer G21forme's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by csmutty View Post
    Good talking points! Thanks!

    I did an energy audit a couple years ago and got all LED's and such installed. I do mostly oil baseboard for heat but have a woodstove to supplement when I am home. Too cheap to use air conditioning in the summer but I run the ceiling fans all the time. Don't have any video games and might use the TV twice a week for a couple hours. No kids, just the two cats and I. I do have a freezer that I don't really use in the basement that I have been meaning to get rid of though. Still plugged in for whatever reason.

    Harbor freight panel is a pretty good idea to try to get a feel for what is going on. Might try that out!
    Make sure to go with mc4 connections, just makes life easy. Currently have a 100ah deep cycle solar generator with a 100watt panel mounted to the roof of my wagon for camping. You can do the math all day long but it's the real world that'll let you know what's what.

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    Lifer jasnmar's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by csmutty View Post
    What if you don't pay them? Lol.

    What are they going to do shut off your electricity?
    In some locals having your electricity shut off is grounds for the city condemning the building.
    Same can be true for Water.
    I know you aren't in St. Paul Minnesota, but for example: https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/s...emnation-unfit
    https://www.cityofdekalb.com/1223/Condemnation-FAQ

    I strongly suspect that in your neck of the woods this won't be a problem, however, it's worth a phone call before spending money on this if you plan on going "off grid".

    The City (who condemns buildings) and the Electric supplier may or may not be separate entities (some cities are the electric supplier within the city), but there is a relationship between the city and the electric supplier (generally), like most other utilities.

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  17. #17
    Rookie Rada's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Another potential hurdle to think of is if you have a mortgage the bank will likely get queezy. Your home owner insurance may too. Might be a simple shop around to fix that.

    Good luck. Interesting stuff

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  18. #18
    Lifer TIMMYDUCK's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    A friends off -grid CT most recent electric bill.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Off-Grid Electricity-july-bill-jpg  

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  19. #19
    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    If that's true they are crooks.

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  20. #20
    Lifer TIMMYDUCK's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by csmutty View Post
    If that's true they are crooks.
    It is because they have to have the metered connection and that is the price , said it was 12 dollars in June.

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  21. #21
    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by TIMMYDUCK View Post
    It is because they have to have the metered connection and that is the price , said it was 12 dollars in June.
    So he isn't off the grid then.

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  22. #22
    Lifer
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Just to add something else to think about. For the most part solar hot water has the highest rate of return. Solar electricity generally has a 15 year payback before you break even on money spent and money saved. After that is when you technically start saving money. Solar hot water is typically 8 years before you break even and start saving money.
    Where we live you would need either a glycol system or a drain back. Both are fairly cheap and easy to retro fit into existing systems.

    I would do solar hot water before solar electricity. In weather like you have right now you would create all the hot water you could ever use.

    What is your current hot water system? I'm assuming it indirect off the boiler. Imagine shutting your boiler down in april and restarting it again in november. So much fuel and electricity saved. Right now it's just sitting down there idling, waiting for a call so you can take a shower or was your dishes.

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  23. #23
    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by boosten lebaron View Post
    Just to add something else to think about. For the most part solar hot water has the highest rate of return. Solar electricity generally has a 15 year payback before you break even on money spent and money saved. After that is when you technically start saving money. Solar hot water is typically 8 years before you break even and start saving money.
    Where we live you would need either a glycol system or a drain back. Both are fairly cheap and easy to retro fit into existing systems.

    I would do solar hot water before solar electricity. In weather like you have right now you would create all the hot water you could ever use.

    What is your current hot water system? I'm assuming it indirect off the boiler. Imagine shutting your boiler down in april and restarting it again in november. So much fuel and electricity saved. Right now it's just sitting down there idling, waiting for a call so you can take a shower or was your dishes.
    Hmm fair point. I'm guessing it isn't that expensive to install either. I'm going to do some research on that.

    Right now my domestic is oil furnace same as my heat. I generally go through a tank and a half or so a year with heat and hot water.

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  24. #24
    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by boosten lebaron View Post
    Just to add something else to think about. For the most part solar hot water has the highest rate of return.
    Weird. We had some quotes for installing a solar hot water system to replace our 30 year old oil-fired tankless coil system. ROI was not there. Materials weren't bad. But installation was. Maybe it is easier on some homes. But for our 2-story cape we were looking at opening walls to run pipes and chases, loosing closed space, risking leaks in he walls, etc. Everyone we talked to said those systems were hugely unpopular these days, especially for retrofit. PV is just too good and too flexible.

    We talked with a local solar & alternative energy installer. They pushed a PV electric system with heat-pump water heater and mini-splits for climate control. We weren't ready for the splits. But we did get a quote for a 5KW system plus some additional work required for our situation (new sub-panel, water heater) for $18.5k before incentives. After incentives they estimated our payoff was in the 16-17 year timeline if we paid cash up-front. Much longer if we financed it. They water heater they quoted was also an exotic unit imported from Europe.

    In the end we went without the PV. I found a much less expensive heat-pump water heater. We would like to revisit the solar system one day but just haven't gotten to it yet. The water heater has maybe added $10-20/mo to our electric bill. And I now shut my boiler down completely every spring and cold-start it in the fall. I don't know exactly how much oil I am saving but it ain't nothing. So far I am delighted with the water heater. They are very common now. I bought mine at my local home-depot. We also have all the hot water my 6 year old can handle. A cool side-effect of the heat pump unit is that it knocks down the humidity in the basement.


    So many factors drive payoff. I think the math would be even worse for us now as I think our consumption has gone up. I wonder if the 5k system wasn't way undersized for us. I think they caught us at a weird time and our utility bills weren't showing the whole picture. On the flip side I have cut some trees and think the performance of a PV system would be better than they estimated.


    Smutty, were I you I'd get a couple quotes for a grid-tied PV system. Battery costs and maintenance headaches aren't attractive to me. Use the grid as your battery.
    Later consider a heat-pump heater and start shutting your boiler down 6+ mo/yr. I bet the impact on your electric usage is negligible and the oil savings pays for the heater quickly. (Although maybe not at <$2/gal oil prices!)

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  25. #25
    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Re: Off-Grid Electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by nhbubba View Post
    Weird. We had some quotes for installing a solar hot water system to replace our 30 year old oil-fired tankless coil system. ROI was not there. Materials weren't bad. But installation was. Maybe it is easier on some homes. But for our 2-story cape we were looking at opening walls to run pipes and chases, loosing closed space, risking leaks in he walls, etc. Everyone we talked to said those systems were hugely unpopular these days, especially for retrofit. PV is just too good and too flexible.

    We talked with a local solar & alternative energy installer. They pushed a PV electric system with heat-pump water heater and mini-splits for climate control. We weren't ready for the splits. But we did get a quote for a 5KW system plus some additional work required for our situation (new sub-panel, water heater) for $18.5k before incentives. After incentives they estimated our payoff was in the 16-17 year timeline if we paid cash up-front. Much longer if we financed it. They water heater they quoted was also an exotic unit imported from Europe.

    In the end we went without the PV. I found a much less expensive heat-pump water heater. We would like to revisit the solar system one day but just haven't gotten to it yet. The water heater has maybe added $10-20/mo to our electric bill. And I now shut my boiler down completely every spring and cold-start it in the fall. I don't know exactly how much oil I am saving but it ain't nothing. So far I am delighted with the water heater. They are very common now. I bought mine at my local home-depot. We also have all the hot water my 6 year old can handle. A cool side-effect of the heat pump unit is that it knocks down the humidity in the basement.


    So many factors drive payoff. I think the math would be even worse for us now as I think our consumption has gone up. I wonder if the 5k system wasn't way undersized for us. I think they caught us at a weird time and our utility bills weren't showing the whole picture. On the flip side I have cut some trees and think the performance of a PV system would be better than they estimated.


    Smutty, were I you I'd get a couple quotes for a grid-tied PV system. Battery costs and maintenance headaches aren't attractive to me. Use the grid as your battery.
    Later consider a heat-pump heater and start shutting your boiler down 6+ mo/yr. I bet the impact on your electric usage is negligible and the oil savings pays for the heater quickly. (Although maybe not at <$2/gal oil prices!)
    Bubs do you have a link for what you got? Only kicker is that I have 100 amp service currently. I had planned to upgrade in the near future but bicycle purchases keep delaying that.

    I had a quote for solar a couple years ago and with my roof facing east west it was a no-go in terms of payback. My roof is also pretty old, so I would want to replace that before going solar (thinking next year for that).

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