Going Green? Off Grid Energy Efficient Homes

off grid energy efficient homesIt may seem obvious that an off the grid house would automatically be energy conscious, but that isn't the case. The best off grid energy efficient homes rely not only on quality infrastructure but good habits as well. Yes, solar power is renewable. Geo-thermal is energy is inexhaustible. Wind keeps pouring in as long as the fan blades keep turning. 

However, in order to be used, the energy created by these resources must be stored and available. Therein lies the issue- limited storage capability and using it conservatively so as to not drain it away. In this article, we will take a look at how to best create off grid energy efficient homes and look at conservation methods that can applied anywhere to reduce energy consumption.

Off Grid Energy Efficient Homes

off grid energy efficient homes
It is actually a lot of fun speaking with people about our homestead operation. Beyond the garden and the livestock, folks are curious how we get along not being tied into the grid. We will share our stories about our well water and solar panels and also mention our backup LP tank for good measure. Each time we discuss our set up, we always mention off grid energy efficient homes and how they must be managed.

Off grid energy efficient homes rely on the energy stored on property and segregated from the larger power grid. Our set up is solar, and though a sunny day means we can run as many electric-sucking devices as we wish, we still need to be conscious of what the battery is holding for when the sun goes down. Limited direct sunlight in the winter is also a concern, so our habits are becoming a bit extreme in the sense of conversation. A room not being used is a room that has all the lights out. Instead of running the bathroom fan to clear the air, we use scented candles. Instead of turning on a reading light, we move to a better location where the natural light suffices.

Building a House off the Grid

building a house off the grid
Our homestead is a 2008 construction and was built with the latest in solar technology, from the collection panels to the batteries. The system is extremely efficient to a point where it practically runs without attention. Building a house off the grid means incorporating the best energy efficient components you can afford to ensure a well-designed system. Our well is drilled to 650 feet, far below the frost line to prevent frozen pipes and any suggestion of going dry. The 200 gallon LP tank is topped off every month and is used to run our two stoves, how water heater and the clothes dryer. Some point out we could save more energy if we air-dried our clothes, but as a modern family of six that time-consuming task just isn't in the cards.

Building a house off the grid with energy usage in mind also means the physical structure of the home comes into play. Large double pane glass windows add light and heat, even during shortened winter days. A single wood stove in the living room heats the majority of our open concept house, drawing warmth up the cathedral ceiling to the loft where the girls share a bedroom. In the finished basement, a wood pellet stove heats our office and son's bedroom.

Modern Off Grid Living

modern off grid livingModern off grid living is a blend of old world values and the need to create income, as well as an awareness of raising kids in the 21st century. That means the inevitable internet connection and satellite tv become part and parcel with the vegetable garden and chicken run. As we run our businesses from the homestead, a reliable internet connection is essential to stay connected and maintain our income stream.

In raising our kids, of course the option exists to remove them from the internet and television, which we still moderate, but then they would be missing the skills and social connections that will serve them later in life. There are a thousand theories and practices concerning modern off grid living and these are simply ours.

Self Sustaining Tiny Homes

self sustaining tiny homes
There has been a great deal of interest in the self sustaining tiny homes movement, where homesteaders move to reduce their footprint by living in scaled down environments. Many of these homes are mobile and rely on an extreme measure of energy and water conservation. The draw of tiny homes derives in part from embracing minimalism and enjoy the added economic benefits as well. A very small house has very small bills in relation to a standard home with a foundation and large infrastructure.

Self sustaining tiny homes incorporate balanced solar power collection with deep cycle battery banks and pair well with LP tanks for heat and fuel. Integrated water tanks provide washing and drinking needs and chemical toilets take care of the waste. To date, we have never seen an unattractive tiny home, as the smaller design allows for more detail and creativity in construction. Ornate doorways, story-book awnings, stained-glass windows and bright colors define the architecture.

Off Grid Shed Houses

off grid shed houses
With our appreciation of off grid energy efficient homes, our next step is to pair the wood shop with a she-shed down by the lake as a writer's retreat. Off grid shed houses are where we are heading, with large windows and plenty of seating and bookshelves surrounding a cast iron, pot belly stove. A small porch will be part of the design as will an appropriate solar array to power any lights or amenities that go in.

Our dream had always been to embrace a more self-sufficient lifestyle, and we would love to hear from you with your off grid energy efficient homes advice and stories. Please add to the conversation by sharing your comments below.