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This will apply to any state, really, but with the cost of extending electricity to your bug out land here in Colorado, it's best to find alternatives to the electric grid. Here in our local area to have electricity extended to your house is $3600 a pole, and the poles cannot be more than 300 feet apart. You can see that half a mile of electric line will cost you $30,000 or more. You can buy a lot of non-electric appliances and solar panels with that! Best of all, you'll probably get a lot of tax credits too. Actually best of all is that if S does HTF, you'll be able to carry on as usual.
The first goal of any off grid electrical system is to reduce the electrical usage of your household as much as possible.
How to do that you say?
Non-electric or hybrid appliances. Let's talk possibilities, starting with refrigeration.
With a propane refrigerator you get a lot less for you money in terms of size and luxuries than you do with an electric unit. It's the price you pay for refrigeration where there isn't any electricity. But let's face it, a cold drink, ice, and preserved food are worth it.
http://www.realgoods.com/product/home-o ... gerator.do
This is one of the cheaper units I could find. $1299 for 6.0 cubic feet of refrigeration, and 1.7 cubic feet of freezer space is pretty steep. But when you consider that it runs on 1.5 gallons of propane a week you actually get a pretty good efficiency from it. If you multiply that out by 52 weeks, you get 78 gallons of propane. And hey, if you buy two of them you get 12 cuft of fridge and 3.4 cuft of freezer for 156 gallons of propane a year. With a 1000 gallon propane tank dedicated to refrigeration, that's almost 13 years of refrigeration with 1 fridge, or 6 and 1/2 years of cold with 2. Of course if you build a cold house and just use these in the warm Colorado months, you could even extend that.
There are propane freezers too, you can figure you'll pay a lot more than you would for an electric unit. But let's face it, you're going to want to can and dry all the food you can, so using up propane that you might not be able to replace if SHTF might not be your cup of tea. So how about electric options?
The best way to go is 12 or 24 volt DC. Why? Because you can cut the losses of an inverter from your solar panels to your freezer. Something like this:
http://www.realgoods.com/product/home-o ... +8.1+cf.do
This freezer uses 240 watt hours per day. I am not a solar energy expert, but if I have it right that means it runs, literally, on 240 watts of juice a day at 90 degrees Fahrenheit, or the energy of 2 120 watt bulbs left on around the clock. Since Colorado has 5 hours of usable Sun a day in the winter, you have to be able to produce 240 watt hours in 5 hours. 240 watt hours divided by 5 hours of usable sun = 48 watts of solar panels. This freezer should easily run on a 100w solar panel with appropriate battery storage. That almost makes the $1299 price worth it! Well, actually, in my opinion it does make it worth it.
Everyone who knows about solar please chime in and let me know if I got that wrong. But that's my understanding.
How about drying clothes?
Well, in the Summer there is the line method, which is the best of all. Out the cost of some good clothes line, a couple of poles, and a bag of clothespins and you get the best smelling free dryer around. But what about in the Winter? You can do the same thing, but in your house. There are some, however, who are going to want the convenience of a regular clothes dryer while they can have it.
Pretty much everywhere I check the propane people are saying that propane dryers heat up faster, and give a softer and less wrinkled dry to clothes than electricity. In a bug out land situation, unless you can afford a very large solar array, electric dryers are going to be out of the question. Clothes dryers typically use 1800-5000 watts and that is AC. You'll lose significant juice as you hop up a 12v DC solar panel current to standard household current levels. You're still going to need electricity to operate the tumbling motion and the sensors, however, from what I can tell that is a very small part of electrical consumption in a dryer. Propane dryers use, typically, 38kw/h a year vs. 966 kw/h for electric dryers.
http://www.wapa.gov/es/pubs/fctsheet/ap ... fctsht.pdf
Washing the stank out.
You simply can't get around needing electricity for your standard clothes washer. But you can get the most efficient washer possible and change a few habits to reduce electrical use. You can get a tub and washboard, of course, but if you want a machine to do it for you there are still options. Get a front loader. They use less water which means your well pump will pump less. A front loader will use 400kw/h a year, vs 1000kw/h for top loaders. You're still going to need a heft solar array for that, but it is an option you have at your disposal. Personally, I think I'd go with the washboard and tub, and just use the propane dryer only when absolutely necessary.
The best way to watch TV at bug out land is to watch a laptop. I am assuming you'll be watching DVDs or downloaded YouTube style videos, or maybe home movies. An LCD big screen will eat up 200w or so, while an average laptop is designed to be as efficient as possible and will use 50-75w. You get the added bonus that it's a computer, of course! If you use it 2 hours a day, that adds 6-8 kw/h to your needs over the course of a day.
Unless you have a cistern with runoff collection, you're probably going to need a well. You can always get a hand pump and haul your water to your house manually. If society goes down long term, you're even going to want to have that option open to you. But in the meantime, you're probably going to want to have a well pump. They are generally energy hogs, but you can find those intended for off grid homes. Here is a 120w 12v DC 1/5 horsepower well pump that you can run when you need it.
http://www.survivalunlimited.com/waterp ... arpump.htm
It pumps 1.5 gallons a minute at 240 feet. You're probably not going to get any better than that. Considering that the well pump doesn't run continuously, you'll probably not need to put up a huge solar array for the pump. This pump is $775, which is a lot more than a AC pump, but if SHTF you'll be happy to have the water.
You might also consider something like this:
A backup hand powered pump for the day your well pump dies or if you're just short on power due to overuse or cloudy days.
Speaking of water, you're going to want to heat some of it for hot water in your bug out home.
An electric water heater, 40 gallons, will use 4500-5500 watts of power. That's simply not going to work for bug out land that is off the grid.
A solar water heater might be your cup of tea.
http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/w ... opic=12850
Or maybe the type of water heater that uses propane would suit your needs. Tankless would probably save LP gas in the long run.
http://www.tanklesswaterheatersdirect.c ... rs-gas.asp
And, the best of all in my opinion, the wood fired water heater. Heat the water when you need too with your own wood.
http://www.lehmans.com/store/Stoves___C ... 3236383435
Ideally you're going to use a wood stove, you'll be able to use resources on your land that are renewable and only require the power you personally use to cart it into the house. There are propane options, but you will eat through your supply that would probably be best to use for refrigeration or winter clothes drying. Wood pellets or corn are an option, but let's face it, a simple wood stove is easiest to feed and you can cook on it if you need too. Which brings us too:
A propane cooking stove is pretty efficient. Think about how long your grill cooks on a single tank.
You can make these burn fuel at the rate you want simply by adjusting the flame and by using alternative methods to heat your food. On top of the wood stove, for example. There are so many options for an LP stove that you pretty much determine what you're going to buy depending on what budget you have, and just go get it. Unlike refrigerators, LP stoves are pretty comparable to electric or natural gas.
You could just go with a range if you didn't need an oven, of course.
There are also the old school stoves.
http://www.antiquestoves.com/general%20 ... .index.htm
These will not only allow you to use your wood on your land to cook, but the residual heat will flow into the house as well. Some of them look pretty cool too, I particularly like the Baker's Oven. I bet that thing makes a killer pizza! Best of all, no electricity required.
Your typical electric range uses 4000-5000 watts.
So what do we need electricity for if we use the most electric efficient appliances?
Laptop for TV/Computer
For operating the tumbling of the clothes dryer.
Probably an in house water pump to provide pressure to your faucets.
A clothes washer if you use one.
Lighting, unless you use kerosene or propane lamps. Candles work too.
Potentially for fans to move heat or cool air about the house.
Small kitchen appliances.
I think it's fairly obvious that by looking at the resources available at your bug out land, wood, water for micro hydro power, or even geothermal for heat you might be able to save a lot of money on a solar array for your electricity. Generator usage can be kept to a minimum as well. 1000 gallon propane tanks can be found used, and they'll last a long time if you use the LP sparingly. Propane is the longest storing hydrocarbon fuel, a tank should last 15-25 years depending on temperature extremes.
If I had my way, I'd have an 1200sq foot or so cabin, with one of those Baker's ovens for heat, a solar or wood fired water heater, a propane dryer, 2 of the propane refrigerators and 1 of the freezers, and electricity in the kitchen and the living room for small appliances. A separate solar array for the well pump with spare panels. Ideally any of your electric items would have backups so that as things break you have a spare. Probably not practical for big appliances, but for small things like a laptop or a radio it's probably a good idea. Ideally I'd have 5 of those 1000 gallon tanks on hand for at least a decade of power. And a propane powered truck.
Expensive? Yes, but the money spent will keep your life as civilized as possible for as long as possible. If you have it, you might as well consider it an investment in insurance. Insurance for living well as opposed to living in 19th century conditions.
Have I forgot anything? I spent way too long writing this so it's possible something slipped through the cracks. Let me know if I have and I'll add it in.
Great work, Crusis! My compliments, lots of good research for folks all in one spot.
Waste anything but time, time is running out.
Looks good, a lot of info to digest for sure.
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Very well done, Crusis. The newer propane stoves all seem to either have pilot lights, which will end up using a third of the propane used per tank, or have electronic ignitors, so you really have to search out a good one or an old one that you can shut off the pilot lights and light in alternative ways. I use a 1950 propane cookstove and a match or woodsplinter lit from the wood heater. A thousand pound tank will last 3 years on it and tha tis using it for a very large amount of canning and baking. Check out Sam's Club for a propane fridge. IF they have any, they run between $750 and $800 so are worth checking out. There are larger propane fridges, clear up to the size of most modern electric ones, but the price is horrendous. ABS in Fairbanks handles them and not a clue where they get them. We have not had that good of usage in the fridges on propane. Usually a thousand pound tank lasts one year, barely.
Great post crusis, gives one lots to think about. One of the most readily available fuels is Propane. In a natural disaster Propane ranks at the top for accessibility and usually is the one fuel that can easily be found when the grid is down or Natural gas lines have been disrupted. As you pointed out it is the easiest fuel to store with the longest shelf life of any of our conventional fuels.
A good thing to have is the hardware required to fill smaller tanks from the "Mother " tank. This may come in handy when you need a source of transportable fuel such as a remote heat source for a greenhouse. Another plus is that most Natural gas appliances can be converted for use with propane.
In Georgia there is an abundance of 1,000 gallon used Propane tanks as a result of the poultry industry using them for fuel. The conversion to Propane fuel for vehicle use has been going on here for a number of years so the kits and mechanical know how are not difficult to come by.
The idea of having Propane as a base fuel source with additional energy needs being met by solar, water and wind has a definite appeal to comfortable off grid living.
Thanks again for posting the article and raising the awareness level.
Leader zone 5, Clarke County
You still use clotheslines in the winter, it's just slower.
The subject is bug out land electricty, solar can be very useful, but cheap isn't one of reasons. Typical paybacks on solar are longer than the life of the system, even with tax breaks or subsidies.
Wow, I didn't mean to chase off the poster that was promoting all the green feel good stuff. Edited 11/16/2011
When I lived in Eastern Oregon, we line dried outdoors all the time, in winter and the clothes dried very well after freezing. So when I moved to Interior Alaska, I thought it would work the same. I am not sure why, but it doesn't. I can hang wet clothes out here in October and bring them in in March and they are still frozen stiff and thaw out just as wet as they were when I hung them out. Plus I have to be careful not to break them if i take them off the line and bring in to thaw while still frozen. Oh yeah, wet hair will freeze and break if bent, too.
I think wind turbines deserve more elaboration. Buying them ready made is an easy way to get one up and running fast, but making them from scratch is a skill set that can be learned by anyone with a small workshop and simple tools. There are many resources of info for this, books, courses, and youtube vids. If anything goes wrong with it you will be able to make the part you need and fix it yourself. you could stock up on the materials now even if you don't intend to build one right way. things like wire, magnets, epoxy, bearings, and maybe some turbine blades. the rest can could be scavenged later if necessary. This is why I believe wind has a leg up over solar panels. you build several small ones that turn easy in low wind to charge you batteries. not to mention its way cheaper.
Thanks for the links Crusis. You did a good job on the calculations except i did not see any parasitic loss factor. That gets me every damn time.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change that survives.” Charles Darwin
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What if you did not have to give up that nice big electric refrigerator in order to get your electric consumption down?
On January 1 of this year we got an unwanted New Years present. Our refrigerator died. I did some quick research on-line, asked my wife what was the most important features for her, and in a few days we had a new 26 cu.ft. refrigerator. It is a real beauty with french doors, freezer on the bottom (which we really like), and like most better refrigerators it has water and ice through the door. The model purchased was selected based on features other than power consumption.
After we had it for a bit I decided to look at the power consumption. I already knew it used LED lighting instead of the old fashioned light bulb, and that it was virtually totally quiet in operation without the noisy compressor of the old refrigerator. When I looked at the US Government EnergyGuide sticker that had been on the front I was in for a shock. The estimated yearly energy use was 519 kWh. Converting that into Watts, it came to just under 60 watts of power on average. In other words the energy use was about the same as running a 60 watt light bulb 24/7.
I now have the fridge plugged into my Kill-A-Watt power meter and I will gather some real world numbers. So far it appears that the running power consumption is about 120 watts and the VA (which is what you need to use when sizing inverters and generators) is well under 200 VA. After a day of running I will report on the actual power consumed on average over the day.
This is a Samsung model RF267AEWP if anyone wants to look it up.
This shows that it does not have to take a huge amount of power to run a modern refrigerator. You might not have to go propane in order to have cold storage for your food.
I realize this thread was started over a year ago... but so much good info on here!!!
We are lucky to already have a 500 gallon tank. Our cook stove is propane as is our hot water heater. However, after reading this thread, I am thinking of looking into a very small propane refridgerator.. like the ones used in small campers. This would at least allow me to keep milk cool and have a bit of ice on hand.
Also, for those who have to have crucial meds to be kept chilled ( insulin ).. at least a very small, inexpensive camping type of propane fridge would do that.
Probably the one thing i would stuff into the tiny freezer is as much "real" butter as possible.. I know I will miss that... and I dont think we are getting a cow anytime soon.
But the smaller fridge seems a very real possiblity.
We already use our clothesline 80 percent of the time summer AND winter. One of my preps is about 300 extra clothespins.
We already heat solely with wood.
We have a wood cook stove sitting in the summer house for when the propane gives out.
Probably in a shtf scenario... we would fire that up and use it as much as possible to save as much of our propane as possible.
"Earth Laughs In Flowers" Raph Waldo Emerson
"What we have loved, others will love, and we will teach them how." William Wordsworth
"Growing your own food is like printing your own money." - Ron Finley
look in to clarified butter, I think there is a thread around somewhere and there is a youtube video on canning butter that explains it all quite well. Clarified or canned butter will keep for 5 years without refrigeration, this will allow you more room in the frige.
Waste anything but time, time is running out.
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