Alternative Appliances for Off Grid
Living off the grid means taking control and monitoring your home’s power usage so that you have power when you need it. Because when you live off-grid, you are your own power company, for better and for worse.
Since you are responsible for producing all the power needed to keep your home running, it is in your best interest to reduce your electrical use as much as possible. Your system will need to provide power for your entire home, so every load counts and certain loads are unrealistic for off-grid. For the large energy-consuming appliances – heating, fridge, stove, washer, dryer, and hot water heater – you may want to find as many non-electric alternative appliances for off grid as possible.
Heating is typically the largest electrical load in a home, making it less than ideal for those living off-the-grid. Fortunately, there are many other options for heating your off-grid abode that don’t require electricity. Wood burning stoves, furnaces, and fireplaces are obvious options that provide suitable heat and are relatively inexpensive to purchase and install. Also, depending on your location, you may have plenty of wood to keep your home heated. Propane stoves and furnaces, or pellet stoves are other options that may work well for your application. Using propane might be your most practical choice if you have other appliances that require propane, like a generator. If you decide to use a gas furnace or heating stove, be sure to account for electrical components such as ignitors and fans when considering your total loads.
Using electricity to heat hot water is not practical off grid due to the tremendous amount of power it takes to keep water warm. The good news is gas hot water heaters are comparably priced with electric ones, and they work great. You can even get an instantaneous gas water heater so you don’t have the propane expense to keep water hot in a large tank.
It may surprise you, but an electric dryer is on average the third highest electrical load in an all-electric home. Off-the-grid, it makes more sense to choose an alternative. Because most of us prefer not to hang our clothes on a line year-around, a high efficiency propane clothes dryer may be just what want.
When it comes down to how you want to keep your food cold, your choice may come down to where you want to spend your money. You will want to determine whether the ongoing cost of propane used for running your refrigerator and freezer is more than the cost of adding a few additional solar panels to power an efficient electric one. If you decide to use solar to power an electric refrigerator, you will find that your propane costs will go down in the spring and summer when you generate more power from your solar. Then in the winter, when you aren’t producing as much power from solar or wind, you may find that you use your generator more often to power your refrigerator, but at the same time you can be powering all your other loads and recharging your batteries, making your propane use more efficient than just running one appliance.
Cooking with electricity is another major power guzzler, especially when you’re using the oven or simmering something for hours. Many people prefer gas cookstoves, but remember that many of today’s gas appliances use electronic pilots and igniters which can use a lot of power. If you opt for a standing pilot stove, make sure you investigate the safety features in the event the pilot ever goes out. And be forewarned, most standing pilot stoves still use an electric ignitor when the oven is being used.
If you live in a climate where air conditioning is a necessity, make sure you do your investigating before you go off grid. It could make your off grid power investment considerably higher, and your ongoing generator costs more too. Most people living off the grid choose to use fans instead of air conditioners to keep the sweltering heat at bay.