Living off the Grid...My Story

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

I am about to embark on a new journey with my 5 year old grandson and assorted critters, horses, chickens, dog and cats... I am sure we will add more as life allows.
I have made arrangements to move to a new home, 2150 sq feet stick built home on 1.3 acres that went into foreclosure and was sold to investors. I was not really looking for a new place, this just kind of fell into our path.
The charm of the new place is it is way out in the county, with awesome views all around, Solar and Haul water. It does not have a power generator as of yet, nor a wind generator but they are high on my list. Due to living in Sunny Arizona I know the Solar can power our house during the day, with the wind generator keeping a little charge at night. The power Generator will be in case of emergency, or if I wish to run the big central air unit on really hot humid days. The house is big light and is positioned so it has a wonderful breeze that cools the house. I know it is well insulated, it was in the 80's outside, 65 in the hall and the wall that gets the afternoon sun was cool to the touch.
Do I know about living on Solar? No Not really I did live in a cabin once before Billy and it was no big deal, single person does not use alot of electricity, so I know how to cut down.
I plan on collecting rain water for a garden next year, we have monsoons in the summer that I can catch a great amount of water. My neighbor will haul water for me, 750 gallons for $20 which means I can fill the tank for $60. I will be getting a trailer with a small tank on it to haul water for the horses.
Here is a picture of the house and I will be posting more and sharing links and information that I learn here..

Thumbnail by MissJestr
Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

Here is a long shot of the Solar and water tank room.

Thumbnail by MissJestr
Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

My primary source of heat for right now.

Thumbnail by MissJestr
Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Looking forward to following you in this adventure! How neat!

Frankfort, KY(Zone 6a)

Go Go go, MissJestr


Rocky Mount, VA(Zone 7a)

Rock on - big time!

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Okay ~ here come the questions... lol

Does the solar also provide heated water for your home?
For the heater, where is your firewood (?) source?
How much does firewood cost in your area?
Will you also have propane or natural gas access?
How does the water get pumped to the house?
How near are your neighbors?

Hope I don't cause "off the grid"lock!
Can you tell I can't wait for you to get moved in? How fun!

No Central, AZ(Zone 7b)

Congratulations on your endeavor. When are you supposed to move in? I have so many questions, if you don't mind my asking. We are trying to whittle down and also get set up for possible civic and economic problems in the near future. We currently have a 250 gal propane tank and a well (the pump runs on AC). We also get very hot here, although, after looking at, I am surprised to see we are actually hotter day and night except for nights for 3 months in the summer. Amazing. We average 2 more inches of rain a year. Our breeze comes from over the coastal range that divides us from Orange County (coastal).

We looked into putting in full solar for a house we built for sale in San Diego County back in 2003, but even with rebates it was very expensive. Here, I want to have MINIMUM of solar back up for the well, ( as that way we (6 people, 2 horses, 3 goats, 5 dogs, 2 cats and a bunny) at least have water. DH has been looking into a full house propane generator, but I figure solar is FREE and we have a lot of it and would have to buy propane commensurate with gas prices! Today it was 90 and as I prepare dinner, I am thinking about the solar oven I saw, thinking that could be used year around, not just for emergencies. I know they can be made also, but we are not very crafty, lol. There's even a Solar flashlight.

While you still have electricity to run your computer, here is great (now very long) story of a couple who bought empty property in the mtns of TN and built their small 'off the grid' house. Now, these 2 have been building houses, apparently, and have expertise. They built their place with very little help, while living in their motor home. They do have a lot of photos of their wind and solar set up (stayed with only solar) and all the battery backups need to run most efficiently. They do not have some of the big energy drainers like AC and microwave and they built the back side of the house into the hill, Anyway when they finished Lisa stopped posting, but I just went back and see it is still alive. It may be worth your while:

Here is another, living off the grid, in Australia, with lots of hints on how to reduce power and water consumption :

And another of 'city folks' living in Pasadena, CA (Rose Parade) and growing 6000#'s of food a year on 1/10 of an acre!

As a 'prepper' in the making, a website called Off The Grid News has a newsletter with lots of good info:

Now that I have probably inundated you, I will be anxious to watch/hear your progress!

Lynda, who has a sister with the last name Jester.

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

LOL Finished getting house ready to move tomorrow and then the animals later this week. Decided to go with auto waters to cut down on water loss from evaporating in the sun.. Thought the hot water was broke, my neighbor came over fiddled with it and got it going. The kitchen which is all the way across the house from it takes awhile for it to get hot so a decision is made to keep a bucket handy and when I need hot water fill up the bucket with the cold water and use it for dogs and chickens and plants.
Now to answer some questions if I can..
Does the solar also provide heated water for your home? no I have a propane tank, a small one 9 gallons and a 15 gallon one will get a few more. The hot water and the stove is all that will run on it.

For the heater, where is your firewood (?) source? I will get permits and go to the mountains about 40 miles away,. It is 5 dollars a cord and I am figuring 2 cords will get me thru. Also I am looking into the vent-less propane stoves, I used one in my old house and I only went thru 9 gal of propane for that and cooking every two weeks.

How much does firewood cost in your area? It is up to 200 a cord

Will you also have propane or natural gas access? Yes Propane

How does the water get pumped to the house? there is a 12 hp motor on a pressure tank. I am changing it out tomorrow to a 34 ho cause the 12 leaks and then I will get it fixed and have a backup..

How near are your neighbors? A few acres in the back and about a 12 mile in the front. There are some more a few miles away.

QuiltyGirl THANKS so much for some good reading.. Actually I was born and raised in Southern California, Orange County.. LOL I was a city girl.. I have lived in Arizona for around 16 years. Since we have alot of sunny days, alot of people are on solar here.
The main backup for the solar is wind, it is breezy here as well. I have a 13K Diesel gen coming next week when the electrician can come out and wire it in. I made a decision after talking with Neighbor Dave (Has been there since the house was built and knows all about it) that the gen will go outside the solar room. The next purchase is the wind gen.. I have a solar company coming out in May to check out my system, they are salesmen and will undoubtedly tell me I need so much more, but having a friend who is an electrical contractor and he specializes in solar, he has already told me what I needed. I did find out that diesel truck batteries are better than golf cart batteries, lucky for me I know a diesel mechanic who is checking with the battery salesman to get me prices on batteries that the shelf life has expired, they are still good and they will be 12 price. One diesel battery is like 2 reg batteries.

I need to find the link about making a solar oven with the windshield sunscreens and an old BBQ, it looked really easy.
Off to finish packing, everyone will be here tomorrow morning to move the house stuff, the animals on Tuesday.

PS Scored 20 or so panels from my brothers ranch and what I have I dont need to put up a hot wire right now.. SWEET

This message was edited Apr 16, 2011 8:42 PM

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

I forgot to mention... LIFE is Good for me... I am so happy to embark on this journey and teach Billy a few things along the way...

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

Made it to the new house, enjoying a cup of instant coffee watching the sun come up. Last night hooked up the TV to the antenna, I have TV... Did not run lights, instead used candles to see. The move was interesting, 5 trucks, 2 horse trailers, one flat bed trailer, horses and chickens are not here yet... Ran into my Diamond Back Rattler, it is a baby but it still was a snake... I only had two snake shots missed with the first, dead with the second. The property has many weeds, got to get a tractor out to drag it. Roper (the Dog) is still here this morning that is a good thing, I did bring cats, dogs 2 roo's and one hen, put the chickens in the garage for the night... Got to see about getting some pens up for them. Learned that water heater on propane heats way faster and way hotter than electric, almost scalded my feet in the bath last night...
Did find out that my laptop runs 60 watts to charge, used my battery down last night researching it and letting people know I was ok. So this am it is charging while I write this.
Got pressure motor changed out to a 34 hp till I can get the 12 fixed.
Did not turn the lights on in the master bath, they are Spotlights so those have to be replaced ASAP...

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

How fun! Thank you for staying in touch.

Quiltygirl ~ I use a different type of solar flashlight.
I also use a couple of solar battery chargers that charge D, C, AA and AAA batteries. I keep everything in the GH.
I also have a couple of small (10 LED) solar lights that work for night use in the GH but they are not really bright, only providing ambient lighting.

I just recently added a solar outdoor floodlight, powered by 60 LEDs. It is motion activated and I do like it. In warmer weather here, I need to see where I am putting my feet at night (snakes).

I mounted all the solar panels in the GH so they don't gather pollen or bird poop or receive storm damage. I hope to add another solar flood for a different location but must wait. It was a bit expensive.

We have also used the flowerbed type solar lights inside when the power goes out. They act like night lights to keep you from walking into walls. Easy to just put back outdoors in daylight to recharge.

MissJ ~ Put lights and more snake shot on your to do list! I hope you are able to get settled in quickly. Perhaps the temp setting on your gas water heater could be turned down. That might not be good for Mr Billy!

Life IS good!!! 8 )

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

Podster THAT is an Awesome idea about the garden lights, I have some outside along the fence but never thought about using them in the house... The hall is long and dark, also that would make a great light in Billy's bathroom, in a basket to hold it up... Take them out in the AM and put them back at night...

Got bulbs and shot on the list... Sure wish I had the wind generator, it is really windy here today...

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Patience grasshopper ~ LOL

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

Forgot to mention that a good friend of mine made me a back door handle (It was broke) for the sliding glass door out of a unused horse bit... It is way cool and will allow me to pick up the front of the door (It is missing a wheel) until I can get it fixed...

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Sounds like a fun challenge!

In the late 1970's and early 1980's I was a passive solar designer/builder. Lots of things one can do cheaply, like putting up a solar batch collector for free hot water. If you just use the collector when it's above freezing, you don't need a non-freeze medium and heat exchanger, making it very cheap. I plan one here in SW Virginia, to use April/May-October/Nov depending on seasonal weather, and will drain it for the winter.

The Appropriate Technology in the 70's produced a number of innovative and inexpensive ideas, made and put into use by ordinary folks before the corporations figured out they could sell "systems" and make money.

There's a website here that has some interesting ideas... I have lots more links, but have misplaced the disk at the moment.

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

Sweet Thanks Darius I will check it out...
Want to share a new resident on the ranch, dont eat much and uses no water.. Made by the same guy that made the door handle...

This message was edited Apr 18, 2011 8:34 AM

Thumbnail by MissJestr
So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

I should have posted this link for the Appropriate Technology pages at Appropedia.

What door handle?

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

The sliding glass door handle was broken and it is missing a wheel in the front so funds being what they are I cant replace the door right now and I wanted a unique handle for the door. So I asked a good friend that does horse shoe art if he could make me one out of horse shoes.. He didn't like the way they worked out, so he used an old horse bit that he had lying around. I will get some pictures of it when I can find the camera..

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Cool! I love unusual hardware, and even have a box of vintage brass and bronze door hardware from the late 1800's-early 1900's. I've lugged that $%^&* box around for 40 years, always saying it will go on the last house I plan to live in... I'm still hoping!

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

Podster... AWESOME IDEA about the flower solar lights, I have one in his bathroom and one in the front of the hall and one in the back of the hall where it T's and they work Wonderful...

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Great ~ that will work as least till y'all are comfortable with finding your way around in the dark. And the price was right!

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Podster, we have never found any solar lights that are really reliable. We have two mounted out on our dock and a couple by pathways, but they always seem to die on us. Our yard light doesn't work well either. What kind do you use?

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

The batteries don't work indefinitely. A friend bought some of the decorater yard lights that take a set of AA rechargeable batteries. The problem is, the replacement rechargable batteries cost more than buying more of the cheap lights would cost. What a waste to toss them and buy more to add to the landfills.

I do not know brands but will look. The two smaller ones I use in the GH were purchased at a local builders supply and at the time on sale for $19.99. They are probably 4 or 5 years old now. These also take AA batteries but I've not had to replace them yet.

I have only used the outdoor floodlight for a month now. The paperwork indicated it has a replaceable 6 volt battery. It came thru Gardeners Supply,38-340,default,cp.html I'll have to see if it has a brand name on it. So far I am happy with it and intend to add another but will be aggravated if I don't get good service out of it.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Thanks, Podster. I checked it out on Gardeners Supply. I'm usually pretty happy with things I buy from them.

Do these devices use AA batteries to store sunlight or are the batteries a backup?

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

They all have a solar panel to recharge the batteries so I guess you could say they are storing sunlight, no? Then they run off those batteries.

Does that make sense? You might be asking me something more intellectual than my midget mind understands... lol

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

pod, I bought 2 similar lights from Harbor Freight 2-3 years ago, intending to put them on my root cellar for light if I need to go out there in the dark. I thought I'd put one on the small gable over the door, and the other one inside, with both solar panels mounted on the roof. They are still sitting on the shelf inside the door, partly because I fixed the wiring that was already there!

I don't remember what I paid for mine, but not that much for both. I don't even remember what kind of bulbs are in them, nor what voltage... Probably much better lights available now.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

This one is so much brighter than most I have seen. It has 60 leds and now, I can see that snake I am about to step on. LOL

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

I picked up the cheap ones at Walmart a few years ago and brought them over from the old house. They are still working great I need to check out and see what kind of batteries they use. I am so happy with that tip you will never know..

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

Plugged in the fridge today to see what will happen, it is a Whirpool Limited edition energy saver. It ran for about an half an hour and its cold. We will see what happens. Until I get a full battery bank, I will shut it off at night. So I know that the batteries in the am can handle the TV Computer and Fridge...

No Central, AZ(Zone 7b)

Might want to see a snake before you are close enough to step on one, lol. What kind of snakes do you deal with? Outside of friendly snakes, we have rattlers and I don't believe they are out at night.

I really like the outdoor solar lights for use indoors idea. I bought some of those cheap pathway solar lights at WallyWorld last year for $3 and larger ones for $5, I think. They are still working. I like them as they are not too bright, a neighbor had some new ones years ago that looked like they had a runway going. I do not like lights on outside at night, unless a task is being done. Our neighbors are not close, as in a development, but close enough that I find their porch lights annoying at night. We have 1.5 to 2.5 acre parcels.

I have been reading a lot of solar and alternative ways of doing things at various sights and my mind is swimming.

MsJ - I am guessing you do not have a microwave, too much power, is the fridge electric? What about washing machine? I assume you will hang stuff out to dry. I was reading the Living Off The Grid (TN) couple's journal again and noticed they have a propane fridge and are limited on appliances they can run (like hairdryer, etc). I am thinking that the minimum I want to be able to run in case of emergency (short or long term) is 1. well, 2. one fridge, 3. one computer (laptops take less power, but we have the big iMACs), we could watch news, etc from the computer 4. then other short term appliances like phone chargers, etc.

I like your Miss Piggy!

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

It was a Diamond Back Rattle Snake and I now have a 12 count box of Snake shot and the gun is loaded. I deal with Rattlers and Mohave Green's I would love to see a Bull snake here, I would let that one live... I have to drag the property, and build up a little bit of the porch and get some snake away to put around the house and porch people swear by it. Also they say plug around the front porch with the rope that tie boats up with, I think it is hemp, in cracks cause snakes dont like to travel across it.

Nope no Microwave, the stove which is propane is not plugged in for the electric lite and timer, works fine. I dont use a hair dryer or a curling iron so thats a non issue.
I am going to try out the washing machine during the day on Saturday, if it does not work yet, I will get the generator going and try it again, although I understand that they dont use much electric. Its the timers on alot of appliances that are the hogs. I enjoyed a pot of Camp fire coffee this morning, Maxwell house filter packs put in the coffee pot full of water at night and in the morning turn it on till it is hot... I love that kind.
Propane fridge is not in my budget right now and getting that one that was promised to me is still there wanted to try the elect one first, as the freezer compartment is not very big on the propane. My neighbors all have elect fridges and turn them off at night when they go to bed.
I know at night without the fridge, I can run a computer, TV and lights. We will see tonight what the fridge does to it.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

I enjoy your thread. It is most interesting to follow your experiments. I am always looking for new thoughts and ideas and only wish solar was in this budget. Being "green" is not for those of us that are financially challenged!

Snakes in east TX that I'd rather not step on are coral, copperhead, canebreak rattler and water moccasin. Course I'd rather not step on any of them, even the nonpoisonous! LOL

MissJ ~ did the one you encountered rattle? In the four years we lived in AZ we never saw one but here there are some big and beautiful rattlers. I have recently been told that (for whatever reason) rattlesnakes have quit rattling.

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

I can answer the reason the rattlesnakes quit rattling. The reason is because all those which did rattle where killed now only those which do not rattle live and breed. It is happening here in Florida also. The Coral snake is less likely to bite you as they are so small it is hard for them to get a hold of a person. The water moccasin is the one I am most worried about as they have a very bad attitude.

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

Yes Podster it did rattle, it was greenish and had I not been looking ahead of me I prolly would have stepped on it. When I hollered that is when it coiled up and started rattling his tail and hissing.
I had not heard of them loosing the rattle...

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

They still have their rattles they just do not use them, though if you bet very, very close they might still shake the rattles.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

That is one of many reasons I had heard... another was that the wild hog population was drawn to that sound for food and another was it is too dry? Who knows...

I agree on the coral being the least likely to bite. The one I dislike is the copperhead. They have excellent camo, blending in with our red clay and red pinestraw. I know more folks that have been bitten by the copperhead than all the rest put together. May I never have the pleasure.

Greenhouse_gal ~ I looked but find no names on the solar lites I have. Guess they weren't proud enough of their merchandise to put their name on them. 8 )

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

Ok so I googled snakes in Arizona and this is what I found for Venomous
But the one for the western diamond back in Mohave County (the county I live in) DID NOT have the black band on the tail.


This message was edited Apr 19, 2011 6:57 PM

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Great site with some really creepy photos. The stuff nightmares are made of...

No Central, AZ(Zone 7b)

Eeewww is right. We have killed some rattle snakes on our property - when we first cleared and then a couple years later. One was killed by 14 yo DD and her friend. Her friend was all jazzed and told her dad when he picked her up that she must have learned how to do it on Survivor Man TV show. Our neighbor is between us and the Coastal mountains and he gets more 'critters over there. His dogs have a kennel (ours luxuriate indoors) and one dog has been bitten more than once. I have seen some grass snakes, mostly they startle you! I have never heard that some do not rattle anymore, that is disconcerting, as I listen for that sound in the garden! Snake shot, never heard of that, but I am not a gun person.

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