J & I used to always say, "someday, we will live off the grid." Not because we wanted to prep for doomsday or a zombie apocalypse, but simply because we thought it sounded cool.
We got our wish. The lodge we are minding this summer is off the grid. We don't get mail here, have no phone service (not even a landline, much to my chagrin), use propane lights and gas stove, have a fat mouse named Marty, all that good stuff. And while we can admit it is pretty "cool," there's a huge learning curve that goes with it and it is harder than you think.
If you want a little lesson in off-grid living and electricity usage from someone with only 7 weeks of experience, read on.
The house/lodge uses a combination of solar, wind and generator backup. All of these things store power in about 12 batteries (each 12-volt) in the basement.
The average US household spends 54% of their utility bill on electricity and uses up to 30 KWH (kilowatts of power for 1 hour) per day.
Our solar power only produces about 5 KWH/day.
Our wind power only produces about 5 KWH/day.
We've already told you how we had to give up energy suckers like coffee makers and toasters. And of course no TV. You can consume 1 KWH in 5 hours with a TV! But, this house is large (at least 8,000 square feet) and is a business, so some of what we are learning wouldn't apply to smaller households, or a tiny house, for that matter. Basically, it takes a lot to power this baby.
We've been getting better about not running out of electricity each day. And that's where the generator comes in. It gets trickier when we have guests and we have to figure out how much electricity they may use (there are real lights in their bedrooms) and how long we have to run the generator without disturbing them too much. We've gotten conflicting information from the owners and their sons about how long to run the generator, but we typically run it for at least 3 hours/day and that gets us through 1 day. J & I hardly use lights and only plug in our electronics when the generator is on, but there are things (chest freezer, fridge, water pressure needed to flush the toilet, weather webcam) that just draw the electricity constantly.
Let's just say, we learn as we go. As soon as we think we have it figured out, we realize we don't.
The other thing I like about being so remote is we are doing more and more home cooking. With no grocery store within 3 hours (one way), we have to get creative. With flour, sugar, oil, water & yeast, you can do so many things. After 4 attempts, I finally mastered bread making. (I lie. Mastered is the wrong word. I've failed a few times after that. Bread is so darn weather-dependent!)
We also pick what we can from the wild and are getting better at foraging for our food (pictured below: chanterelle mushrooms).
The one area we haven't ventured into is fishing and hunting. We had a family staying here in one of our cabins a few weeks ago and they caught so many fish (perch) everyday from the lake. So many that I think that's all they ate.
We are still doing our human-powered shuttles regularly, trying to preserve Big Bird's health and tires. You should see the look on some guests' faces when they finally arrive here. They just had no idea roads could be this terrible! Then again, there is always the option to come via float plane!
And that's my take on off-grid living so far. Just like backpacking, it makes you appreciate the little things even more. I don't mind line-drying our laundry, but I also love the luxury of a dryer.