The Quest For Off-Grid Living

I have come across a major roadblock in my quest for off-grid living. I cannot afford to build a power system that will handle the older electric appliances in my home and neither am I ready to update them. So what is a guy to do?

I need a plan. And the first step in that plan is to measure. We’ve talked a lot about measuring our power consumption because without measurements we are guessing. I actually thought that the max I consumed was maybe 6000 watts at any one time. “That is my peak usage” I said to a friend. But that was far from the actual.

Can you guess what my max usage has been to this point? Of course you can. Any guess will do, but any guess is likely to be wrong.

Actually, I don’t really know what the max is yet. I have been monitoring for a few months now and have seen numbers as high as 16kW, even if that was only for five minutes on one particluar day.

But, after gathering information on the various appliances around the house I can now come up with a number that would represent a worst case. And that worst case would come at a most inopportune time – in preparation of Thanksgiving Dinner.

That’s right. Once a year the turkey goes into the oven and all four burners are lit on top of the electric stove. The hot water heater comes on because the preparation dishes and baking pans are being rinsed or washed in hot water and the well pump kicks in periodically to pump up the water tank pressure. There are table cloths in the dryer and a lot of lights are on in the house because there is a lot of cleaning and sprucing up of the place for company.

So, what is the damage report?

  • two 8″ electric stove elements @2100 VA each
  • two 10″ elements at 3100 VA each
  • one oven at 6000 VA.
  • hot water heater 5000 VA
  • well pump 1200 VA after a mementary 2100 VA startup surge
  • clothes dryer – 5000 VA
  • ===============================
  • Worst case (maybe) is 27,600 VA.

Wait, I forgot about the 1500 watts of lights and other things that represent my baseline power consumption. Try 29,100 VA. Ouch. I’ll settle for that huge number for now because the inverters that I plan to use will handle some overloads for up to 30 minutes. Let’s see what they can do.

A pair of Outback 3648 inverters will give me 7200VA and I am allowed to add two more of these to provide up to 14,400 VA. I find myself still short by quite a bit. (six foot three is short?) (Part of the problem is the NEC in the good ole USA, but that is for another day.)

So there is the roadblock. I could not afford to purchase a system that handles the power draw, even if I could find one. And if I could, it would be a large waste of resources because Thanksgiving comes only once a year and some years we visit family. Remember, I have not logged a peak usage of more than 16kW so far, but even that is above the 14,400 VA limit or the proposed inverters.

No, part of the answer is to find more modern, lower power consuming appliances and replace the dinosaurs that I own before I even think about disconnecting totally from the grid. The quest continues. I will start looking for more efficient appliances and write about what I find. And who knows, I may be in for some lifestyle changes.

Stay tuned in and follow my quest for grid independence.