As time goes on, I’ve been getting more and more interested in figuring out ways to get less dependent on modern systems. And I know that I’m not the only one with this desire.
In recent years, living “Off the Grid” has become something that homesteading folks have been getting more and more curious about. I get emails from my readers all the time asking for advice on how to have off-grid kitchens or how to use alternative (aka off-grid) sources of electricity.
But what exactly does ” Off the Grid” Mean?
You don’t have to move to a remote forest location to go “Off the Grid”. When the term “off the grid” is used it simply means that you are not dependent on the public utility system. By living off-grid, you are choosing to provide your home with essential utilities like water, heat, and especially electricity.
To live truly off the grid, you will need to find alternative ways to provide your utilities. Heating can be done by burning wood (this is how we use wood to heat our homestead), and off-grid water can be as simple as adding a well (For more ideas, listen to Creative Off-Grid Water Systems from The Old Fashioned on Purpose Podcast), but the biggest off-grid topic is generating your own electricity.
If you generate your own electricity, it doesn’t have to mean that you are cutting yourself off from the rest of the world. It is simply allowing you some independence and freedom from modern systems. You will be gaining control of how your electricity is produced and where you would like to apply it.
Let’s take a closer look at why you might want to generate your own electricity, the best off-grid electricity options for homesteads, resources for figuring out the details for your off-grid options, and more.
Why Generate Your Own Electricity?
There are a few reasons people have started to consider generating their own electricity. Mainly the choice to do so is a personal one and everyone has their own reasons.
Potential reasons that you should consider generating your own electricity include:
- The cost of living is going up
- Controlling your electricity
- Power outages would be less frequent
- It can eventually pay for itself
- Environmentally-friendly option
3 Ways to Generate Your Own Electricity
There are different ways you can go about generating your own electricity; some methods are well known and used worldwide while others get less press. The three different ways that will be talked about here can be built on a smaller scale to use in everyday home life. They are: Solar power, wind power, and micro-hydropower.
1. Generate Your Electricity With Solar Power
Solar power is when sunlight is converted into energy that produces heat or electricity. When you are using solar energy to create electricity, you are using a specific technology called Photovoltaic. This is when solar panels are used to absorb sunlight and then convert the energy into electricity.
This is one way of producing electricity that has become very well known, you see more people placing solar panels in their fields and on their buildings. If you are considering adding solar panels to your homestead, keep in mind that sunlight is not consistent. Depending on where you live, a large amount of space may be required to collect light and convert it into enough energy to power everything you need.
If Solar Power is something you would like to add to your homestead, take a look at this Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar for more helpful and in-depth information.
2. Generating Electricity With Wind Power
Wind power is when a wind turbine is used to generate electricity. The wind turns the blades of the wind turbine, which rotate a generator to create electricity. Wind turbines are one of the simpler options to choose from when you are generating your own electricity. There are different sizes depending on your electricity needs.
If you like the idea of using wind turbines to create your off-grid electricity, you will want to consider the wind in your area. You can find wind information by asking local weather stations and airports for their wind data. Another tool that can be used to find out if your wind amount is worth the investment are state wind maps.
For a more in-depth look at whether wind-powered electricity is for you, take a look at this helpful Small Wind Guidebook.
3. Using a Micro-Hydro System to Generate Electricity
A micro-hydro system is a way to create electricity by converting energy produced by moving bodies of water like a stream. Water flows through a turbine that is connected to a generator that produces electricity.
A micro-hydro system will only work if you have a moving body of water close to the site you would like to power. Flowing water is constantly moving and is a very reliable source of energy but, depending on your location, can be a seasonal resource. Even if you have flowing water you will still need to do your homework. You will need to know if your stream has enough water and if it is flowing fast enough to convert enough energy to make a difference.
If you believe you have the perfect site for a micro-hydro system then take a look at Planning a Microhydropower System to find out your next steps.
Note: One thing to remember when you are thinking about electricity alternatives is that they rely on natural elements (Sunlight, Wind, Water) to provide energy. You can’t control these natural events and they won’t always cooperate. The best way to prepare for this is to have a backup generator on hand.
Choosing How to Generate Your Electricity
Going off the grid and providing your own electricity is no small thing; you really need to do your research and find out what methods will work for your location. For example, you don’t want to invest in wind power if you don’t have the right amount of wind throughout the year.
When you are deciding which method is right for you, you should remember that these choices rely on natural elements for energy for you to convert. If you don’t have the right source for your method, it simply won’t work. On the other hand, if you have multiple natural elements you don’t have to choose just one, you can consider combining them.
If you are interested in choosing solar power, you will need to consider the amount of sunlight your area gets throughout the year. If you are thinking about wind power, you will consider how much wind but also how strong it usually is in your area. To use a micro-hydro system, you will need to have a water source nearby.
It’s always good to also talk to your local community as well for some advice. Your local community of homesteaders and farmers might have tips on what works best in your area and where you can buy local supplies and/or use local companies to help you get setup for off-grid electricity (check out my article on how to cultivate a homesteading community for some tips and inspiration on how to connect).
Is it Worth the Investment?
If you did your homework and the method that you chose is a good fit, then converting your home to off-the-grid electricity can be an investment. The startup costs (money needed upfront) for generating your own electricity can be a little pricy but there might be different programs or grants available depending on your location. After the initial cost is taken care of, and everything has been done right, generating your own electricity should pay for itself.
For information on financial programs or getting the process going, start by asking questions at your local extension office, if they don’t have the answers, they can direct you to the department that does.
Are You Ready to Generate Your Own Electricity?
If you have done your homework and understand what method is right for your location, then generating your own electricity can be an incredible investment. You will be free from one system that might be holding you back from a more self-sustainable life.
If your goal is to live completely disconnected from the grid, then you should listen to Creating a Sustainable Off-Grid Homestead with Amber Bradshaw from my The Old-Fashioned on Purpose Podcast.
Do you already have a form of alternative energy powering your homestead? How has it been working for you?
More Tips for Unconventional Homesteading:
- Raising Old-Fashioned Kids in a High Tech World (blog article)
- Homesteading During the Golden Years (podcast episode)
- How to Preserve Food the Colonial Way (podcast episode)
- Creative Off-Grid Water Systems (podcast episode)