Alternative Energy for Preparedness or Off Grid Living

Alternative Energy Sources

Alternative Energy. Alternative to what?

For this post the context will be alternative energy for ‘getting things done’ that ordinarily rely upon the electrical power grid.

 

Solar Energy

Solar energy for electricity
Harnessing the sun’s energy with Solar ‘photo voltaic’ (PV) panels. I have been doing this for years. Love it! Most quality panels are rated for 20 years or more. That’s a long time after the initial outlay where ‘free’ energy from the sun can be converted to electricity!

Related:
The Four Essentials Of Off Grid Solar

Soar energy for cooking
A solar oven! I’ve built a few of them over the years and they’ve worked out great! You can also buy them. Years ago I bought the best one at the time, and I still use it. Gets real hot!

All American Sun Oven

Related:
Cooking Without Electricity – Solar Oven Cooker

Solar energy for heating water
The sun’s radiant energy can be harnessed for heating water. There are a variety of ways to flow water through pipes exposed to the heat of the sun and stored in a insulated water storage tank.

Solar energy to southern exposure heat
A supplement to heating one’s home is a southern exposure design with lots of windows (in the northern hemisphere). Our primary ‘living room’ has a exact southern exposure and really warms up nicely when the sun is shining. It makes a big difference during the winter (if the sun’s out!).

 

Wind power

Wind energy can be harnessed with a wind turbine generator. There are geographical regions which are more beneficial than others in this regard (some places are just plain windier than others!). There are a number of manufacturers tailoring to off-grid wind turbines. This would also be a great supplement to a solar off-grid system to keep a battery bank charged up.

Water power

If you’re lucky enough to have a source of running water along a long enough vertical drop, you could build yourself a ‘Ram pump’ (Hydraulic ram) to potentially move water up a hill to a cistern (water storage) or to a garden, etc..

An ordinary generator

I know it’s not alternative to petroleum fuel, but it is a temporary alternative to the power grid. Many of us already have one. It’s a good thing to have on hand!

Battery storage

The right batteries (and number thereof) combined with the right components (inverter, charger) will provide a source of alternative energy storage. The batteries will need to be recharged.

Thermal mass

Geothermal energy
Some home heating systems take advantage of geothermal energy below the ground. Always warmer during the winter than the air temp above. Pipes running down deep to capture that heat and return it to the surface.

 

Other related Alternative Energy Thoughts

A Spring House
A classic way to get good water for the homestead AND a nice Refrigerator-Cold Storage effect. A high humidity storage (root cellar rules apply).

Composting Toilet
There are a number of them out there for purchase in the retail market. You might say it’s an alternative to the requirement of pumping water to a conventional toilet.

Solar Oven
I have ( ONE OF THESE ), and it has been a great attribute to overall preparedness. Really enjoy cooking with it when the sun shines!

Wood Stove
A great source of alternative energy heat AND cooking food.

Root cellar
A root cellar can keep the food inside COOL, lengthening the shelf life of your garden bounty!

Wood Gasification
A process of converting the burning of wood in order to fuel a combustion engine.

 
( Browse our Alternative Energy Category Articles )

 
Okay, any further ideas or clarifications on brainstorming “alternative energy”?

Similar Posts

84 Comments

  1. For the most part, we have given up the idea of alternative energy. However in reading this article it has given me a new idea. First of all we are still dealing with occasional flooding. The spring run-off at the south end of the house has shifted in the past month. It now flows less than 15′ from the south eastern corner of the house. I will have to deal with this in the spring.
    First of all, we determined that our ground level water is way too high to even think about a root cellar, however a spring house is not out of the realm. Does anyone have any experience with spring houses?

    1. PG
      I pretty much gave up on it cause i cant afford it, unless money falls from the sky, aint happening.
      Do have generators, couple 3500w inverters and my big Miller Trailblazer that is rated as a gen set at 11kw, learned with my last welder that they are not all rated for continuous duty as a generator. Was part of the criteria when chosing this one.
      So going to hope that grid sticks around, otherwise its 1800s for me n mine.

      1. There are simple, inexpensive ways to take advantage solar energy. Consider solar air heating to lower heating bills. Lookup “solar downspout heater” on Youtube. You can get solar lighting for a few dollars by sticking a a solar path light out during the day and using it to read by at night. Harbor Freight has a set pf 4 for $11. The cheapest solar kits are about $200 dollars. Tack on an inverter for about $70 dollars and a few used batteries and you can power a couple of necessities for grid down. I ran my freezer during super storm Sandy off a 100 watt solar system and used blocks of frozen water to cool the main compartment of my main refrigerator. The key is storage.

        1. Winston,

          There are simple, inexpensive ways to take advantage solar energy. Consider solar air heating to lower heating bills. Lookup “solar downspout heater” on Youtube.

          This one is both easy and inexpensive to build and works quite well. It’s passive and I’m in process of building a few more of them now.
          DIY Solar Heating with the Heat Grabber
          https://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/diy-solar-heating-zmaz77sozgoe

          You can get solar lighting for a few dollars by sticking a a solar path light out during the day and using it to read by at night. Harbor Freight has a set pf 4 for $11.

          Dollar Tree quite often has them for $1.00 each. Inside they usually have an AA NiMH battery, so they can also double as an inexpensive solar battery charger along with lighting.

          The cheapest solar kits are about $200 dollars. Tack on an inverter for about $70 dollars and a few used batteries and you can power a couple of necessities for grid down.

          I have the Harbor Freight 100 watt system I got using their coupons for around $150.00 total. It comes with a charge controller, so all you need is some batteries and an inverter.

    2. Peanut Gallery
      I have an operating spring house. Water temp is 52F. 6ft long, 2ft wide, and can be from 2in to 10 deep. inlet is on the bottom and outlet can be adjusted for an acceptable depth. Super insulated to an R factor of 28, because it can reach below zero here for extend lengths of time. Have had a small icing problem at -10F. My water feed is only 1gal per min, total capacity at 10 inch depth, which is about 120gal, so it takes 2 hr to change out entire tank.

      It works. I use only glass containers, custom fitted with weights to prevent floating. I use sterilized granite rocks for weights inside of Ziploc bags. I bought, from E bay, porcelain lids for wide mouth qts and gallons. These are very hard to find, and very expensive. The reusable plastic canning lids will work also. Although, the don’t make gallon. the tin lids rust, and contaminate to food and water.

      Hope this helps. God Bless and Gods Speed to you.

      1. Thanks Stand, that sounds like exactly what I need. I guess the next step is to research designs.

      2. Stand my Ground,
        Growing up in western PA I had an uncle with a springhouse that sounds similar. He kept fruits and vegetables in containers in the cool house; but, primarily he kept milk cold. The milk was stored in the classic stainless steel milk tanks with a friction fit lid that sat in the cool flowing water to keep the milk cool. The water was generally in the 50° range and the depth when I saw it was around 4-8 inches and constantly flowing from an active spring.

  2. Our new garage/canning kitchen/ loft has insulated 6″ floating concrete slabs with 1/2″ PEX tubing inserted in them. I scrounged three big solar water panels and plan to use the slabs as heat sinks to keep the temperatures moderated in the new building. Also plan on running the circulation pumps off of a single solar electric panel.

      1. Ken;
        We have done a few “Floating Slabs” here at work, usually use a 2″ thick “Blue Board” not the white Styrofoam. Blue-Board is a LOT more “dirt” and rotting resistant, made for ‘ground’ contact.
        Minerjim’s setup is a nice way to go….. Also that Circ pump wont need to be very big, just a constant slow flow, maybe 1/2 CFM

        1. NRP,
          Yes, blue-board is the way to go if you can afford it. the Isocyanate board ( kind of a yellow -orange) has problems with moisture, which is why mine is wrapped and sealed in a fiberglass mesh poly film. It was about 1/3-1/4 the cost of new Blue-board from a recycle company but has a very high R-value. Besides, I will not have ground water getting into the foam under the slab, I am 100 miles north of you in the desert. (Also the perforated radon vent piping is below the insulation and will vent any moisture that comes in.) I agree with you on the low flow circulation pump, nice and easy constant flow. Will have to put some of your”organic parts cleaner” in the system to protect from freezing.

      2. Ken,
        Yes. I was able to purchase recycled 2-1/2″ isocyanate foam panels at a greatly reduced price from a recycle company on Craig’s List. ( total insulation value R- 11) They were sandwiched in a sealed poly vapor barrier and set on top of the gravel underlayer. Wire mesh was set on top of this, and the pex tubing zip tied to the wire mesh. Poured the whole thing over with 6″ of fibre concrete. Beautiful slabs.

        1. Minerjim;
          One might add if they are doing this themselves, make DANG sure you fill the pipe with water BEFORE pouring the concrete, imagine all that 3000 feet of pipe floating to the top of the Mud….. NOT good.

          1. NRP,
            Yeah, 1/2′ pex tubing does not have much buoyancy in concrete, besides I zip tied it down to the steel mesh, which was in the lower 1/3 of the slab. Also used fiber-crete which further prevents the tubing from rising, if it could. filling with water is good, but then you have to get it out so it does not freeze. Normal practice is to pressurize the PEX with air and put a gauge on it to make sure it is not punctured during the pour. But this new PEX is so resilient, that is not much of a worry anymore. I would still do it for the stuff that has an aluminum layer in it as it can be crushed.

    1. MinerJ
      If you are installing a wood stove in the garage you could also run coils in that, will circulate the water all on its own.

      1. Tommyboy.
        Yes! I have thought of that. I also picked up a 30 gallon stainless tank with a copper heat exchanger tube inside at the local scrap yard. Came out of the local chocolate factory. Think I paid something like $40 for it. I can put that in the circuit between the floor slabs and the solar collectors and valve in a line from a wood cookstove reservoir. Would have to add another circulator pump, but that is no big deal. Main idea was to have the solar part ‘self-sufficient’ and run all the time to keep the floor moderately warm. The add on heat from a wood stove would be handy when we can or butcher in the winter.

  3. Wikipedia;
    The recognition of electromagnetism, the unity of electric and magnetic phenomena, is due to Hans Christian Ørsted and André-Marie Ampère in 1819–1820. Michael Faraday invented the electric motor in 1821, in 1879 after many experiments, Thomas Edison invented an incandescent light bulb that could be used for about 40 hours without burning out. By 1880 his bulbs could be used for 1200 hours.

    My God how far have we advanced in a hundred and forty years.… Now we can’t function without a Smart Phone and a $250 electric bill for the house.

    Our lives are much better with the advancement of Medicines and all the other things that Electricity has provided (refrigeration, heating, communications, so-on), BUT how far have we traveled from living with Nature and understanding Life. We no longer go watch the Sunset, we sit on our azzes and watch it on the Discovery Chanel. We no longer listen to the sounds of Nature; we blast our ears out with Rap (wont call it music).

    So reading this article I truly wonder how far we have come, and is it for the better or not so much? Average life span now is 78 years 7 months, was around 25-30 years of age, we now have cures for many MANY illnesses and probably don’t usually die from a common cold, and yes there will be a cure for Cancer, all contributed to Electricity. It (electricity) has also made us lazy, and stupider. We have forgotten so many ways to live and to live with this World/Nature, we simply blast by at 75MPH heading somewhere else.

    Honestly we are so dependent on Electricity is/when the Grid goes down (and I believe it will), and we all know the estimates of 95-98% of the population of the US would die off within one year. Yet there are many countries and millions of people that live to this day without electricity.
    Do they live as well as we do? Only you can decide that.

    Ok, enough of my RANT.

    I believe that each and every one that visits this BLOG should really take a very hard look at how we are living, at how hard we are dependent on Electricity. Try finding alternate ways to do “stuff” (cooking, heat, lighting, even food storage). 5 years ago my electrical Bills were running $180-$200 per month, now around $40.

    Here are a few of the things I have done;
    I have converted lighting to LEDS, and actually have found the “Off” position on the switch.
    I have installed power strips on all electronic devices (TV, VCR, Stereo, etc.) all the stuff that is still running even though it’s “turned off”
    I use 95% wood for heat, only use the furnaces when I leave for an extending time, even then I set them at 50.
    I have actually wrapped my 3 Freezers in 3 inches of ISO Insulation, now they run 1/3 the time.
    All my laundry is now Air Dried, not using the electric Dryer anymore.

    Ken asked the question “Alternative Energy. Alternative to what?”

    My answer is to STOP using electricity as much as possible
    AND to have little things like a Solar powered Radio, a Solar Battery Charger, a Solar oven as Ken suggested (BTW, you can also cook in that sucker, not only bake), how about digging that Root Cellar? And canning, curing, or dehydrating all that food rather than freezing it?

    Solar power for the home does NOT need to be that $25,000 system that Ken has, a little 2 panel system works well for 1/10 the cost. BTW, do you have a Garden; I call it a solar food production facility hehehehe

    Ok off the Solar, how about living with Nature? At my home the outside temps are roughly 30-40 degrees lower at night. Do you open the windows at night to cool the house off, than close them in the day to keep it cool? Or do ya just turn up the AC? Do you put on a coat or long-johns inside if it gets really REALLY cold and just keep the house at 50, rather than 70?

    So yes, Insulation IS an alternative to electricity. So is living with Nature, and what God have has provided not only what Man has made.

    Is 600 rolls of TP really enough? Do you have alternate ways to replace that TP when it runs out?

    Don’t ya hate it when a comment has a larger word count than the Article? HAHAHAH
    Dissertation over :-)

    1. Wrapping a chest freezer with insulation as you mentioned sounds interesting! You using a foam board insulation? How did you attach to sides (and top?).

      By the way, when I put my solar system in, it did NOT cost that much money as you suggested. Just sayin…

      1. Ken;
        Yes just used Foam Board, used to be called Thermax with a foil facing.
        A little Construction Adhesive and sheet metal corners worked great. Will admit it don’t look bad, and keeping them covered with a Tarp ya don’t notice them so much
        FYI the 3″ Thermax is right around R-28ish, about 2 times the normal freezer R-value

        I was wondering if you would catch that estimate on your Solar Cost :-) Would honestly guess around $10-$12K though??????

        1. Got quoted on a grid tie system that would run the house and shop including the walkin refer, 65k
          Yea, riiight, ill be on that one,,,

          1. Tommyboy;
            $65K !!!!!! are you kidding me? OUCH!!! not only ouch but OUCH!!!!
            Did they take payments? HAHAHAH

        2. I might just try that… Thanks.

          Oh, and that solar system probably cost me about what you said in your last comment. I couldn’t afford it on today’s budget, but back then I was able to pull it off ;) In fact I’m looking out the window right now and see that I need to go sweep the snow off them again…

    2. Good post NRP
      Personally im not thrilled with what they call “progress” IMHO we just got screwed, i look at the kids who cant do anything without a computer,
      Even simple stuff, heres a for instance,
      Im getting into making shoes, boots, leather goods, typically this is all hand work, some machine sewing, but the design and pattern making is all pencil and paper or in my case sharpy n paper, so for the heck of it since i am adept with AutoCAD i figured i would look into a shoe design software some makers are using,,,15k just for the basic program,,,
      The full architectual desktop from autodesk isnt even that much and could 3d model this stuff,,,
      But that takes us back to whats going on, i can draw stuff then turn it into a product, do you think todays kids can do that? Big difference doodling on a jotpad that is all electronic than taking a soft lead pencil and sketching, you see it in the architectual design world a lot now as they slowly are dropping hand work requirements from degree programs.
      In my experience, just because you can do it on a computer screen doesnt mean you can do it yourself unplugged.

      1. Tommyboy, again;
        I use Cad a lot at my work also, an old 2000 version, wanted to “Upgrade”, $5K. ahhhhh no thanks, I’m good :-)
        Ever been to a ‘gathering’ whereas the “kids” sat around texting each other that were in the same room ???? NOT in my house ya don’t. Communications skills are shot with the ‘younger generation’, they cant even use complete sentences anymore. UGHHH
        Sorry Ken, a little off subject, it’s just frustrating as all get out.

        BUT, maybe we can use all that wasted energy and use it to row a ship across the ocean as in the old days??? hehehehe

        1. NRP
          I took a class on auto cad at the local community college, The class was $125. but I got a license for the software and support for 3 years. I’m going to take the class again next year [third year] and renew again. Much cheaper than buying and the teacher has helped with problems I had.

        2. I stayed with a friend of my sister for a couple days at one point. She and her finance would spend most nights sitting on opposite sides of the room playing a game together on the internet. This is a relationship?

      2. Tommyboy,
        Ahh for the days ( and nights!) with a drafting pencil and straight edge in my hand!!!! I have cheap version of turbo-cad, but still enjoy doing drawings by hand. These young engineers that come out of school these days don’t even know how to hold a pencil, let alone draw a good enough sketch for a fabricator to build something. don’t get me started on the rest of it, I agree with NRP, electricity has made us lazy.

        1. When I moved I gave the remaining precision tools mics and calipers) to a guy that was working with his grandson. He was ecstatic to get them. I had tried giving them to some of the ‘youngers’ the last couple of years and they weren’t interested unless they were digital. Had no idea on how to read them.

          1. Aka,
            It was nice you passed them on to someone you know would use them. Electric digital is nice, but useless without power or if the chip goes paws up. I have an old Gersner mechanics box with all of my Grandfather’s calipers and micrometers. It’s now my treasure chest!

    3. NRP,
      Do you have old freezers with the coils on the back or what? the new freezers reject heat through the outer skin, so I would worry about covering it with more insulation, that would cut back on the heat rejection. Have to study that a bit. BTW, I went to my ASHRAE Fundamentals book, could not find the R-Value of a roll of TP. I am guessing about an R-4 per inch????

      1. Minerjim;
        2 of the freezers are Uprights, the coils are under the bottom,
        the one that’s a chest freezer has separate coils at one end on the bottom. I can afford the new fancy ones… HAHAHA

        1. Hey, those old freezers are great, they seem to last forever. Not like the newer ones built overseas these days.

      2. Hmmm, I didn’t know that about ‘new’ freezers. I have two different model chest freezers. The outer skins always feel ‘cool’ to the touch. Will have to look into that.

        1. Ken,
          Seems each one is different. On the newer units heat rejection coils can be on the bottom, sometimes in side casings, where you cannot see them.(The older ones seemed to have open coils, mostly placed on the bottom and backs of the units.) With the newer refrigerants, and with the heat rejection coils spread out, it might not feel warm to the touch. My new freezers never feel warm. But that heat is coming off someplace! Just do not want to block it coming off with added insulation.

    4. I guess in some ways we have progressively regressed. Or perhaps that’s regressively progressed. Maybe a little of both.
      Should have made sure to pass down certain skill sets to the succeeding generations.

    5. Man, NRP, you read my mind! I’m classified as a millennial, but I always try to be antithesis of that. I live just like in your article. Cold? Put on a coat! Hell, most millennials don’t even have coats, but wear paper-thin Chinese made hoodies. I asked my youngest sister what would happen if her car broke down in winter and her fart phone was dead and she said she didn’t know. I asked if she had a coat and she didn’t…said it was ‘uncool’. You’ll be cool in the winter without a coat, although not the way you want! My house is pretty much whatever the temp is outside…although I use my woodstove if it’s going to be below freezing, but no A/C/Central heat. My sister opened her windows for a grand total of 3…yes, three! days last year. otherwise her A/C/heat is running 24/7/365. People look at me like I’m crazy for living without A/C when it’s 104 in the summer, but your body adapts wonderfully to it if you go from spring to summer with as little manufactured climate as possible. It’s the reason why people bitch about it being hot/cold when they go from manufactured climate.

    6. You mention Edison bulbs in 1880 that lasted 1200 hours. This seems to be the life expectancy for the cheaper LED bulbs out there– LOL!
      So much for 140 years of progress….

  4. A little wind, a little solar, played with woodgas home made of course. I truly envy those with a constant or nearly constant flow of water ie; creek or gully or river. I would love to play with the possibilities of hydro-electric. If available it would be the best of all.

    Was having a pool party the other day (8-ball) in the garage. A bunch of us old guys get together and play partners, every other shot. Gives lots of opportunity to rib your own partner for a bad leave. We play a quarter apiece each game. Basically we just pass the same quarters back and forth. No one ever wins much and no one can get mad over a quarter. Well, the power went out and one of the guys commented “guess that’s it for the day.” It took about 30 seconds and an extension cord to the pool table light, plugged in to the solar/wind outlet and the game continued. So yea, I like having some easy back-up, even for short duration situations. This one was about 3 hours.

    Long term outage would be a challenge for ALL of us. The old ways would quickly become the new way.

  5. If & when the electricity goes away we have a wood stove for heat and cooking. We also have a propane kitchen stove and 5 years of propane for it. Kerosene and propane lanterns , candles and flashlights for light and limited warmth .We also have a kerosene room heater. We have a generator that we consider a temporary power source because of fuel supply . We can keep freezers running till we can or dehydrate the food in them .
    Our nation is almost entirely dependent on electricity for survival. It will be a very” dark” time for folks without alternative power sources.Things will get ugly and probably deadly. Seeing what well fed shoppers do on black Friday does not instill much faith in the population .

  6. HI ALL ,, and you too NRP ,, HA HA ,,some thoughts from experance,been off grid for most of 40yrs, having power is a force multiplier ,,,,,, NRP ,,put a ‘save a watt ‘meter on your freezer ,you may be using more power by using the insulation ,,if as Minerjim pointed out ,,,
    ,,,,,something to think about for a root celler if you have a ground water problem ,you most likely could use ground tubes to cool a well insulated above ground storage box/room ,,done right that would hold at ground temperature in the heat of summer or dead of winter ,,you could use a heat riser pipe or a small muffen fan on a small solar panel for the air flow ,, the same type of system is helpful heating and cooling a liveing space
    As for genrators watch out for inverter controlled ones ,i have seen problems with those ,,, in the form of weird power patterns ,,
    As for hydro power I still have a under shot floating wheel setup out in the shed ,only one KW but worked very well ,,atleast till TPTB saw it ,,,,something about needing a permit to use the river ,,go figure,,,,,
    Wind power ,,,worked ok till the wind stopped. I for one didn’t like the noise,,
    But other than that ,, and high wind eating it was good
    Solar ,, the main problem I have is cost and damage from hail ,and let’s not forget the rifle bullets that seem to gravitate to them ,,,,,,
    Over the years. The best solution has been a industrial diesel engine gen set
    And in the long run the cheapest ,and I can grow my own fuel if need be ,,
    ,,,all of the above are from my personal experience ,,,what works for me ,,
    ,,,,,one thing I left out was my experiment with a small micro nuke ,,yes it can be done , BUT the gov tends to get VERY unhappy ,,,,that’s a long story in its self,,,,
    MINER JIM. What are the health hazards in a old silver /galena mine ?
    ,,,,,,,tea and fresh made Apple sauce

    1. 0ldhonesteader aka Old-Fart :-)
      Been there, Done that, the ‘power’ used when “on” was the same, so no problems with power consumption, or overloading the Freezer, just better insulation, hence lower overall power usage.
      BUT one had better know the “stuff” they have before modifying it.

  7. As a side note about Power consumption, Heating and Cooling and Alternate Energy Sources.
    I’m a HUGE fan of insulation, and over insulating especially a Home.
    Building Code here is R-30 in the ceiling/roof and R21 in walls for a normal home….
    I always suggest doubling that, or close to it; the long-term $$$$ savings is unbelievable.
    Electrical cost along with Nat/Propane Gas will keep going up. Being “Off Grid” is no different, the amount of ‘Wood’ needed to warm a home that’s super insulated compared to a ‘normal’ home is amazingly lower. Think about that 10 cords of wood being only 5 cords or less.
    Think it as wearing a Down Coat as to a Cotton Coat. No difference in insulating a home/structure.
    Sure it cost more initially, but the norm is the payout is right around 4-5 years, think about that, a better payout than a Grid Tied Solar Electrical System.
    YA want to save money in the long run, and be more energy independent?
    Insulate the stuffing out of the insulation.

    1. NRP, How do you get R21 in a 2×6 wall without spraying? I bought R19 rolls and installed them for my barn/garage/shop which are designed to fit in 2×6 framing. Is there something else? Thanks.

      (Or maybe the 21 comes from also adding in the R factor for the sheathing, siding, sheetrock?)

      1. Ken:
        Its the total wall R value, including rock, sheething and exterior finishes.
        But as you mentioned, Spray Foam is the ticket.

    2. NRP,
      We have just spent our first year in our new home. Code for the ceiling insulation is R-49 and I whined at the additional cost during construction . However after a year with our winter lows down to 0 degrees and the summer highs up to 112 degrees it has proven to be great . Our old home was a 1978 trailer with 2×4 walls and ceiling ( R-13) , aluminum windows and 950 square feet New place is 1500 s.f. with R-19 walls, vinyl windows and R-49 ceiling .Our electric bill is less and I use the same amount of wood to heat more square footage. You are right, insulation can make a huge difference .

  8. I have made my own small test wind turbine and installed it for study. After one year I found that we receive enough wind to generate electricity 5 months out of a year. Solar is about the same. I have made an waste oil furnace that uses cooking oil and old motor oil to heat copper water coils that heat the pool or the shed if needed. Also made a biogas generator to make methane gas that can be used to heat cook and generate electricity. Of all of them the biogas was the easiest and the cleanest to produce. It used waste from the yard and garden and chicken poo. Only problem with it is that it is the most dangerous also.
    “Solar cost are coming down but still it is not something that most people are willing to shell out the money for when it takes years to get a payback. I have even looked into building my own panels from the leftover cells when the panels are made but it is still a cost issue. If you are building a new home verses retrofitting an older home it is a lot easier to find the money to do solar. I think oldhomesteader and Ken hit on the right idea and that is to look into multiple ways and not just go with one. Just my opinion. Good comments all. I will have to look into the freezer insulation.

  9. Speaking of Solar Energy.
    I believe CA has passed a new building code requiring solar on all new homes at an additional cost of 10k per home….
    Talking about forcing an issue huh?

  10. Has anyone experimented with REAL alternative power sources? Totally away from the usual solar/wind/grid?

    1. LAUREN,,,,,, experimenters have been playing with home micro thorium molten salt reactors for years ,, based on info,from Oakridge Nat. labs from the 1950-60s ,, that is the ultimate off grid power system ,,ten years on one fuel load ,99.9 %burn down less than a 1/4of a teaspoon of waste after 10years ,,ok so you need trained personal. ,,, I don’t see that as a problem ,,,,,obtw the waste can feed for the next run. ,,, WE HAVE THE SYSTEM’S NOW ,,YOU JUST CANT HAVE THEM ,,,,would be no reason to have the grid ,,do you smell a rat yet?????

      1. Sure. Right from the beginning it was about money, and I see nothing to indicate that has changed. Systems were in process, experiments being run in the early 20th century, but they were all shut down by the owners of the big electric plants (Westinghouse, specifically).

        But those things are still possible if people are willing to look beyond the “accepted” and acceptable. I’m curious to see what people have tried, and how it worked. Most of the tests being run at the moment (at least what I can find) are based on a 19th century paradigm. We need to actually question science rather than accepting that our current understanding is wholly accurate.

        1. LAUREN ,,,,,,,in my early years I was blessed to have spent much time in the care of the son of one of Nikola Tesla ,asstants ,,,other kids played ball and games ,, I got to see magic , got to be around Dr.teller ,at U of Chicago. Got to ask questions and got answers ,,,,,i never learns to play with baseball’s or football’s. But knew how and why things worked that most people don’t even know exists,,,
          Yes your right,,things have been done ,and are known ,,, AND suppress.

      2. Homesteader,
        The one i like thats farm related is a digester to capture methane gas from manure,,
        I believe it also generates a fair amount of heat, for yall up in the cold country this could be good,,,heat from the process to heat water and your living space and methane to run a generator for lights and other appliances and possibly a stove,

        1. Tommy ,,, am vested in bio digester ,,,problem is keeping it fed and in low temps production falls off. And then the gas will kill you and you won’t know it or just go bang ,,, no thanks

          1. Could a methane digester be installed in Washington? If it went bang, no big deal.

          2. – me –
            Washington already has biogas heaters providing hot air. These are known as “windbags” and are part of the poor reputation biogas heaters enjoy!
            Papa S.

    2. Lauren,
      Look into thermoelectric generators. Using heat from a fire or lamp to generate electricity. Have been used to power radios in the past. They use Pelltier junctions, which have to be hot on one side and cool on the other to work. You can find these on eBay fairly cheap, that bbc will generate a few watts to run a radio or maybe some led lights.

  11. I have a slow running Creek near by and been thinking on a project to be able to run an alternator to charge 12v batteries.
    I’m wondering if I channel the water, if it would flow faster, with more pressure to spin an alternator?? An alt is only good at how many RPMs?
    The creek is only 6 inches deep at the max.
    Too many idea/projects so little time☹️

    1. JOE C ,,,,,,,a under shot wheel might work ,,,how wide and how fast is the flow ?,,, if you can give me the info and numbers I can give you a idea of what your potential is ,,,,, you need some real drop to use a pelton wheel ,,,, will help as time permits,,,,

      1. Oldhomesteader,
        Thank you, sir
        All I can give is the creek is aprx. three foot wide.
        How fast the flow I do not know.
        And a BIG drop is needed from what info I have gathered.

        1. JOE c ,,,,,,,let’s talk about it ,,,first I need to know how much water you have ,,you need a constant stretch ,,,measure say 10 feet of run ,though a stick in and time How long it takes to cross the distance,,,with that I can tell the drop and how much water power you have ,,do this two or three times ,i need that and the face of the water (w×h ) ,,,,then we can decide what will work and how much power you can harvest ,,,,,can you build a flume there ? even if only 10foot long and run the flow of the creek through it? You can mount a under shot wheel on that ,,,till I know the water flow it would be hard to even guess a power out put ,,,but for fun in past experience I’m going to guess ,, only a guess,,,that 3 to 5 hundred watts might be possible ,,, it not much BUT a lot less money than solar panels and if the creek is steady year round ,that’s a lot of power ,remember that’s 24/7 to charge batteries ,
          Also how far to the house?
          Hope this gives you something to start with ,,,
          Tea and chocolate

          1. Oldhomesteader
            Yes thanks
            I’ll try to get the flow rate and measurements this weekend

  12. Hit “post” too soon. As NRP said above, we’ve made enormous advances in the USE of available electricity, but essentially with the electrical grid we’re still working on the technology that was invented in the 19th and early 20th centuries when it comes to power generation.

  13. I remember reading an article a few years ago where a person had a solar heater set-up in his garage in Montana. He cut out a big section of a wall of the garage where it was open at the top and bottom on the inside. Cold air would enter from the bottom get heated then exit out the top without the use of a fan. The article was in Mother Earth News. So after the cost of installation, it produced free heat.

    1. A neighbor created something like that a while back–black painted soda cans inside a plexiglass case. The temps coming out the top were some 30 degrees higher than the outside. It was a small test, but it worked quite well.

    2. I’ve made a couple of the solar heaters before. The beer can type. Instead of just cutting holes in the cans, I cut fins sort of like turbine fins. It slowed down the air a bit and made it swirl in the can tubes. On a 40 degree day, I put a digital BBQ thermometer in the discharge duct. It got up to 208 degrees F.

          1. He had a polycarbonate outer and a black interior. I guess the concept is through a thermosiphon where warm air exiting the top pulls in cooler air from the bottom. Remember, heat rises.

    3. Ive seen that article,
      A friend in co did something similar in his house, south facing wall, black granite tile behind thick glass, went at bottom and top, he also had a long hallway that was on that same south facing side of the house, had black granite floor with stone on the wall, glass on other wall with glass over the top, wall that the stone was on was concrete, had fabric on the walls on the inside of the bedrooms, his hear rarely came on in that wing of the house, he had a similar setup in his entry, 2 story atrium with black granite on a 2 story concrete wall, super efficient heat storage, was pretty cool looking too, house was awesome, totally off grid.

  14. Alternative energy – an alternative source of electricity beyond local utilities and readily available fossil fuels?
    Or, as Lauren asks, REAL alternative power sources?

    How about muscles – the ultimate bio-digesters? Mine, donkey, horse, cow, goat, and dog. They’re quiet and already converting vegetable matter to calories of energy. Much less exhausting having an animal drawn cart for moving loads like firewood, water, harvests, feed, and waste.

    When I started in on this place the first thing I did was replace the carpet in the house with vinyl plank flooring. Miss the cushiness but without power it’s no fun trying to keep wall-to-wall clean; but simple sweeping and mopping is no problem. To avoid repetitive motion injury, will need to get the bicycle-adapted grain mill. Saw an article in OG magazine in the 70s on how to adapt a bicycle to power just about anything including a television. Wonder if a recumbent bike could be used?

    Plan to stock up on info, supplies, and tools to make a variety of harnesses, carts, and log skids. Adding a horse drawn hay mower, baler, seed drill, and spare parts to the to do list. Other suggestions?

  15. Back in the 2000 my company made circuit boards for a company designing natural gas fuel cells. Through electrochemical reactions you get electricity and hot water. After a year or two we stopped producing the control circuits and I never heard anymore about the company. I know the technology is still around and I think larger units are made for commercial use. But the idea was that you would not need transmission lines to your house. The unit as long as you had natural gas the unit would produce your hot water and electricity as well as having gas to heat with if you wanted.
    Biomass units are being used in Florida somewhere, I cant remember where . They pile up the garbage in layers added water jets in between the layers and then throw a large tarp over the whole thing. As it swells with gas it is pumped off to a generating station near by. This will last a few weeks and then they start over. The added benefit is a reduced garbage pile by as much as 1/3. My understanding is that besides the risk of explosion with biogas there is the pressure required to compress it from a gas to a liquid.
    Also if you are interested in super insulated homes check out Kirsten Dirksen video on You Tube Titled Designer builds efficient off grid passive house in Colorado. It shows you how to insulate and cool a home with alterative ways.

  16. I live exclusively on solar and a small HFT generator (to run the microwave and shop vac) and I agree, you learn to live with less energy. I only have (3) 165 watt panels I bought from Sportsman’s guide about 4 years ago and (6) 35 AH AGM batteries from HFT/Walmart and I am happy with it. I laughed at all the people who had to go to hotels/motels when hurricane Harvey knocked out power and I’m 175+ miles from the gulf. People didn’t know what to do if they didn’t have TV or their Fart phones. The biggest draw is using a fan in the summer and of course, cold temps aren’t too good for batteries. The systems charges on cloudy days, albeit slowly, like a whole day for three batteries. The point is, try to live on your solar panels if you have them for SHTF and see what you can and can’t do. BTW, my system only cost me $1,500 and I broke even two years ago, so free power!

  17. I have to smile when you mention the hydraulic ram pump. The first house I ever owned was a three story wood frame with a cistern that drained from the gutters and spouting. In the basement, below the level of the cistern was a gadget called the “Buckeye Water Lift” that was a commercially manufactured hydraulic ram and pumped water to a tsnk on the 3rf floor of the house. Although it was no longer connected to the kitchen through its lead pipes, there was still a faucet reminiscent of when it was used, with the three teardrop shaped porcelain handles marked: ”Hot”, ”Cold” and ”City”.
    I still have that gadget and the handles; but, more as curiosities and keepsakes than as functional devices.
    For power we have a combination of small solar, numerous large UPS units, and a whole house propane fueled auto start, auto switchover generator with about 3000 gallons of propane on hand and consumables to keep it running for months. As long as we have some power, we can keep the water flowing and the refrigeration running so life will pretty much continue on uninterrupted.
    For toilet flushing, we could use buckets using water drawn from rain catchment or our creek, and then gravity and the septic system does the rest.
    We also have a root cellar and backup wood heat, all of which have been added in layers during the 32 years we’ve been on this property.
    I have done wood gasification as an experiment and it works OK; but, keep in mind that a byproduct of the process is some nice charcoal. If you make charcloth for your firestarting kit, you’re making wood gas / biogas.

  18. THE TIME IS COMMING SOON WHEN THIS COUNTRY WILL BE IN FOR THE FIGHT FOR IT’S LIFE AND i WANT TO BE ABLE TO HAVE MY OWN SOURCE OF ELECTRICAL POWER FOR MY FAMILY AND i. DON’T TRUST THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE AND WE NEED TO START CALLING TO GOD FOR HELP. WE HAVE TURNED OUR BACKS ON OUR GOD AND NOW WE ARE PAYING FOR OUR SINS. IT’S NOT TOO LATE BUT WE AS A PEOPLE MUST ACT TODAY AND PULL TOGETHER TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT AGAIN.

  19. I’m not sure if this a repetitive idea or not but,

    We have the white LED Christmas lights we leave up all year.

    We have an open floor plan on a two story house. The one set of lights run up the open stairway, doubles across the kitchen area and down the hallway.
    If we shut off the regular lights and just use the LEDs, they light up the.main traffic areas of the home.

    A small solar 12v panel, a 12v battery, and a small wattage inverter would give us plenty of light, in a time of need.

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