Propane Has Nothing To Do with Being Off-The-Grid!

Utility Grid

Utility Grid


Why do people think using propane has anything to do with being off-the-grid? They are two completely different things. Off-the-grid means you are not hooked up to the electric utility grid. The last time I looked, my propane company did not have any wires to connect our house to any grid. One has nothing to do with the other. People always try to make rules………..must be the nature of people. There are no rules. I don’t follow someone else’s rules for being a modern homestead or for living off-the-grid. 

Off-The-Grid Homestead

No connections to power lines!


In fact, many of the people who write or post about this subject, don’t even live off-the-grid. Or at least not full time. They use vehicles with gasoline to get back and forth to their homes. I don’t say to them, you are not off-the-grid because you do not power your vehicle with electric generated from your alternative energy system. I don’t do that yet, but I plan to. Just like someday, I plan on getting rid of my propane stove or at least only use it for canning. But maybe I will find my system will not allow me to use any other type of stove. I need to can, more than I need to worry about someone’s interpretation of what living off-the-grid means. 

In The Middle of the Forest

No wires along our road! Off the grid!


People have the misconception that off-the-grid means you live in a little cabin and don’t have the internet or telephone, make all your own clothing, don’t ever go to a store or buy anything from the outside world. That is not what it means people! It means you are not hooked up to the electric companies’ power lines. That is all it means. Because people cannot imagine living that way. If you use propane, feel free to use it. It is not part of the power grid. Not one bit!

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Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole

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Our Solar Energy System Needs Monitoring Daily

Sunshine

Sunshine

When you live with a solar energy system long enough, you get used to weather reports being an important part of your life. Don’t dwell on it though. If the sun comes out, I know I will have plenty of power to work on my computer. That is the main use of my system at present time. Using the SunDanzer refrigerator, we know we need to have the power to keep that running. We hardly notice the power use of it, since it uses so little. We do not watch television, so our main entertainment is our computers. My husband enjoys watching movies on his computer in the evening. I like to read on my Kindle Fire. Using our power system to charge our cellphones, my camera, the Kindle and in summer, our lawnmower and garden cart batteries. Non of these items use a lot of power so our system handles it all easily.

Generator

Our Generator

Do I find it hard to live under these circumstances? Not at all. The main thing is that since we are completely off-the-grid, we never have a power outage. No matter what happens, because my husband does a top-notch job of maintaining our solar energy system. We are always able to have power. Recently our panels were having a problem and we had limited power.  The power stored in our batteries was enough, and it never affected our refrigerator. I was still able to be on my computer, just not as long as usual. It meant we had to charge the batteries with the generator. No outages though.

Solar Baby's meter

Tri-metric Meter

One of the most important tools to monitor our solar energy system is the Tri-Metric meter. It is a meter that we have on the wall in our living room. I can see it right from my computer. It measures how much power we are using constantly. It also measures how much power we have coming in. By monitoring our usage we are aware of what we are using, or if our power system has developed a problem. Many times if there is not enough sun, that is when my husband starts the generator to charge the batteries.

Weather Station

Our Weather Station

If we keep an eye on the weather forecast for the next few days, we can keep our energy system charged. We can limit our usage if the weather forecast is clouds, rain and gloom for a number of days. Most of the time though, even if there is no sun, the panels will still charge a bit. It’s not hard and I find it very easy to live this way. Easier than paying an electric company for my energy use! 

Solar Baby

Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole

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Solar Panels Don’t Break………….Or Do They?

Solar Panels needing repairs.

Checking Panels for problem.

Solar panels don’t break very often. You can use the same panels for years and never have a problem with them. Then again……….your system could stop working and you have to discover what is the cause. Is it the wiring? Is it the batteries? It can’t be the solar panels, can it? 

Working on solar panels on roof.

Long way up there…….and back down!

Yes, in fact, it can be the solar panels and it was one of our panels. My husband checked everything possible. He was so frustrated trying to find out why our system that had worked flawlessly for close to fifteen years stopped. He took off the first panel on the barn and was sure it was that one with a problem. Nope. That would have been too easy. That meant he now had to go up onto the roof and take down each of the panels one by one and check them. 

Back of solar panel

The 2nd panel off the roof.

After he removed the second solar panel from the roof, he opened the box on the back. A broken diode fell out onto the ground! There was only half of it. That was the culprit! That was the whole cause of the solar panels not working for months. He is so glad it was on the second panel and not the ones further up on the roof. 

Box on back of solar panel.

Broken diode rolled out when opened.

One little tiny diode made all the difference! For the time being, we now have 13 solar panels and the wind turbine generating power. After the new diodes get here, there will be 14 panels. One of the new ones we bought seems to have some kind of a problem. Hopefully that will be fixed and it can join the others. They will all be going on the barn roof with the others very soon. 

Solar Baby

Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole

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Our Solar Refrigerator Has Made Our Life Easier

SunDanzer Solar Refrigerator

SunDanzer Refrigerator

SunDanzer’s DC refrigerator, referred to as a solar refrigerator, has been working great for us. Through out the whole winter, I haven’t heard the motor run once. Yes, that’s the truth. No turning on and off like conventional refrigerators. I have to admit that it was a good buy and we are happy with it. It has made our life here so much easier. Believe me, it is not easy living without refrigeration, if you cook from scratch and eat low carbs. That means that a good share of our food is the type that is fresh, and needs to refrigerated. The Sundanzer Solar-Powered Refrigerator uses less power than my laptop. Can’t beat that.

Wind Turbine Spinning

Wind Power

Adding the wind turbine to our alternative energy system was not as easy as it sounds. It took us awhile to see the power coming in from it. Now we see it pretty regular, due to the fact, that this year has been pretty windy here. Usually November is windy too, but not this year. So we didn’t know what to expect in the cold winter. I think the only thing we would have done differently, would have been to buy a turbine one size bigger than the one we have. We can live with it though. 

Winter Time in NY

Winter Weather

Between shoveling, firewood work, feeding the horses and cleaning the barn, my husband tried to squeeze in working on our system. He couldn’t get up on the roof to add the new panels. But he was able to set them up so we could use their power for the time being. Winter is almost over and when it is, we have a lot of projects to begin working on. I can’t wait! My husband comes up with new ideas constantly. 

Firewood Delivery

Firewood Delivery!

Solar Baby

Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole

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Solar Panels Were Waiting To Be Installed

Peaceful Forest Homestead

Peaceful Forest Homestead

Solar panels sitting in our barn, waiting to be installed in nice weather, seemed to be such a waste of power. My husband certainly thought so. He could not stand it, that there was not one nice day, that he could work on them. He wanted to install them on the barn roof. I causally mentioned, that it was too bad he couldn’t just put them on the barn porch for now. At least we’d get some power from them.

Adding More Panels

Adding More Panels

Next thing I knew, he was outside working on one of them! Of course that led to him seeing how much power we were getting, by adding that one 120 watt panel to our system. So you know, of course, what he did after that, don’t you? Yes, he started adding more. The power kept going up, and now we have nine more solar panels added to our system.

 

Adding New Panels

Adding New Panels Temporarily.

The wind turbine generates power at night. I’ll see the charging light going on in the middle of the night………it makes me smile! I remember how my husband would complain about windy days and nights. That we didn’t have our turbine up and running yet. He’d say, “We are losing power.” Now we are not. It doesn’t give us as much as we hoped it would, but it is a small turbine. Combined with the solar panels though, the numbers on the charging meter are going up.

Solar Panels

More Panels, More Power!

These solar panels will probably be going up on the barn roof. Though I would rather they stayed on the ground, so that he didn’t have to go on the roof to work on them if need be. It just seems so much easier to me. If I was in charge of it, they would be on the ground. Maybe in a tracker? Maybe not. But it would be nice to have them follow the sun on their own. 

Six Solar Panels

Now there is SIX!

In summer we should have so much power coming from the solar panels that we won’t need to turn our generator on. We still need to use it in the winter, because we don’t always have sun here in New York. I am waiting to see how our system comes together in the summer, when the battery room is finished. Then the water will be hooked into the house. Imagine……….running water after all these years!

Eight!

Eight!

This is just a temporary set up for sure. It is not real safe having the solar panels sitting down here like this. But we never leave our house in winter for very long. Just to run to the store. So for the time being, they are safe.  I hope so anyway. 

Electricity From Sun and Wind

Sun and Wind Power!

Solar panels and the wind turbine power our house. The wood heats our house and we cook with it too. This off-the-grid living is getting to be easier as time goes by! 

Solar Baby

Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2014 Kathleen G. Lupole

 

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Preparing Takes A Little Time and Effort

Peaceful Forest Homestead

Peaceful Forest Homestead


Preparing for the future takes a little time and effort. Many people have been asking, “How do I start preparing?” “Do I have time or is it too late in the game?”  The answer is to start today, do something! Even if you don’t manage to get a supply of food for the next ten years, get started.  You will see progress as time goes by. Little steps is what my husband has always stressed to me. We have never had to buy a huge supply of food at one time.We did not build an alternative energy system that would run a complete house in one year. No, it has taken us over fourteen years to get where we are today.

Pumping Water

Pumping Water


The easiest place to start is also the most important item to have in your supplies…..water. Start today by finding some containers that are safe to store water in. Do not use those plastic milk containers unless they did not have milk in them. I don’t believe they are safe, even if you washed them really good. Don’t ruin your stored water by putting it in those. As much as I hate plastic to store any food items in, I haven’t found anything that is really safe to store my water in, except glass jars. I am researching some safe BPA free plastic water containers to use for water storage now. 

Garden 2003

Garden 2003

The second most important place to start is by focusing all your attention and energy on planning a garden to put in next spring. Do not put that off! Very important to all people everywhere, no matter where you live! A garden will give you food for the future and it will be all in your control. Every year, we strive to have a bigger and better garden than the year before. Explore the various seed companies on your computer and study and plan what kind of food you eat to design your garden. Not only that, but you will be thankful if, or when, there is no food to buy in a store, and you have a whole garden full for your family. There is the possibility that food can become so expensive that only the rich would be able to buy it. Now with a garden you will have plenty of food to eat and to put up for the winter. Think about it!

Garden 2013

Garden 2013

The one thing I can honestly say about living on an off-the-grid homestead is that preparing is not something we do like “preppers” who you see on television or read about.  My normal, every day life consists of always being prepared. It is just something we do, in our day to day life here. We have been busy for fourteen years of remaking it into a true modern day homestead. It is closer than it was in 1999, but I really don’t think it will ever be completed. We just work on it and change things as we go. 

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole

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Where Is The Solar?

Solarbaby.org Energy System

Solar Baby’s Energy System

Where is the solar? Short days are here! Even in these dark days of December, we get power to our solar system. Our solar panels have always charged our batteries, even when it seems there is no sun. Being covered with snow most mornings, means that my husband is shoveling paths and driveway and then cleaning off the panels. He is out there with our roof shovel and stands on the back of the truck to reach them. As long as there is a little bit of light coming in, we get some power. Not like summer, of course, but it works for us.

SolarBaby.org water pump

Water Pump In Snow

Pumping water is one big worry for most on-the grid people. Has never been a problem for us as long as we have a working pitcher pump. It works well and has pumped a lot of water over the years. Our three horses drink an awful lot of water at one time, so we’d be in a lot of trouble if we had a frozen pump or pipes. Yes, it is true we have to prime the pump and pump the water by hand. Not that hard to do, actually. And we do to have to carry the bucket of water to the horses or the barn. Much easier than trying to thaw out frozen pipes though! 

solarbaby.org

Watering Horses

Cold weather is part of our life here. I am not going to complain about it, because unless I move, I’d be a pretty unhappy woman. For me, as long as I have firewood, food and a roof over my head, I’ll be fine. What about you?

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Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole

 

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Solar Panels Being Added To Our Energy System

Pallet of 10 Solar Panels

Pallet of 10 Solar Panels


Last week we ordered a pallet of ten solar panels. They are 120 watts each, 12 volts. Yesterday afternoon we were waiting to hear from the freight truck driver who was delivering our pallet of new solar panels. Their office had called last week and said they’d be here from 1-5 on Wednesday. My husband was hoping they would come in the earlier part of the day instead of at the end. But like always, they came at the very end of the day. The driver called and he was on the other side of our little four ton bridge and couldn’t drive over it. So my husband told him to sit tight, he’d be there in a minute. He drove our truck to the big truck and the driver had a lift gate so that he was able to load the pallet of solar panels right onto our truck quickly. 

Solar Panels In Our Truck

Solar Panels In Our Truck


My husband had found a good deal on a pallet of 10 solar panels from Missouri Wind and Solar. He decided that it was too good to pass up and we really needed to increase our system for the winter. The wind turbine is producing power, but not enough to keep our system on in the evening. I wanted to work on my eBooks and my blogs. That is how I make a living and I really needed the power to do so. Now I am very excited about these panels. We KNOW solar works! 

120 watts 12 volt solar panel

120 Watts 12 Volt Solar Panel

Solar panels have worked so well for us since we first set up our system in 1999. We just kept adding more panels. Then we stopped for awhile, at five panels for a total of 350 watts. Earlier this year, we added the wind turbine, but I couldn’t tell you how many watts we actually bring in from that. It is rated at 500 watts and hopefully, we will get that eventually. It only started generating power the past few weeks due to more wind. Now our system altogether is 2050 watts, once the new solar panels are installed. Wow! That sounds impressive to me!

Backside of Solar Panel

Backside of Solar Panel

These will be set up on top of the barn roof alongside the older ones. We had to order more roof racks for them and were disappointed to find the original ones we had before are not available now. So my husband had to be creative and figure out something else that would work. Waiting for another two deliveries of parts for that and then if we are lucky enough not to have more snow, just maybe, he can get the new solar panels up and installed. 

New Solar Panels

Carrying one of the new solar panels upstairs.

I will be sure to keep you updated on this new addition of solar panels to our alternative energy system. This just shows you that by building a small system little by little, eventually you will be able to run the things you want. And our system did not cost a huge amount of money either. If we had a huge amount of money on it, it’d be a lot bigger than it is. But it is big enough for us. We are happy with it, especially now! 

Solar Baby

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole

 

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Protection With A Home Warranty Service Contract

Home warranty service contracts

Protect Your Household

I usually post about our alternative energy system here, but today I am writing a post about home warranty service contracts. If you do not know what that is, I will tell you. It is a service contract that is written by a company that covers your household appliances and major systems. Depending on the type of the contract you choose, some are more money than others and those would most likely cover more items. They cover a variety of things like stoves, refrigerators, heating systems, etc. 

Some good points of why you should consider a home warranty service contract for your home:

1. Coverage for repairs to your household appliances and/or major systems, like heating or water systems.

2. Less stress knowing that you only have one telephone call to make and they will send a repairman to your home.

3. No need to juggle your monthly budget to cover the repairs because you only have to pay a small fee to the repairman, approximately less than one hundred dollars. Your home warranty service contract covers it.

4. If your system or appliance cannot be repaired, don’t worry, it is covered by the service contract! As long as you have taken proper care of your appliances and systems, they will be covered. 

5. Great selling point if you are trying to sell your home. New home buyers will think twice about purchasing a home that covers the appliances and major systems with a warranty contract.

Kitchen Stove at Solar Baby

Stove breakdowns happen at the worst times!

 A company, such as Choice Home Warranty will meet with you and discuss what your needs are. Some contracts cost more, but cover more items. They will explain to you what your contract covers and make sure you understand all the fine print. Be sure to check out their Facebook page and ask questions there. In my opinion this is a good idea, and don’t get it confused with homeowner’s insurance. It is completely different from that. A homeowner’s insurance policy will only cover items that are ruined due to a disaster such as storm, a flood, a fire, etc. Take the time to study your contact, take care of your appliances and systems and the contract will more than pay for itself in the long run. 

I was paid to write this post by Choice Home Warranty. If you have any questions be sure to review my FTC Blogging Disclosure page.

Solar Baby

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole

 

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Grounding Alternative Energy Equipment Is Very Important

Solar Panels and Wind Turbine

Solar and Wind Power


Grounding your alternative energy equipment is very important. As most of the readers of this blog know, my husband recently hooked up a wind turbine to supplement our power. Not even a week later, we had a horrible thunderstorm that went on for hours. No kidding, it must have been thundering and lightning for over four hours. I kept praying it would end. Made me so nervous. At one point, I thought it was all over. I got all relaxed and thought my stress was over.

Black Clouds

Stormy Weather

Nope! One last strike of lightning! When it hit, our inverter that is hooked up to our system made a noise and quit. I smelled the electronic burnt smell. Uh oh! I called upstairs to my husband, “We have been hit!” I felt so sorry for him, after all his hard work, I was sure it was the wind turbine that had been hit and had traveled the wiring to our house and the inverter. He thought so too. The sound of his voice broke my heart.

Grounding

Area where grounding rods are buried.


We sat out the rest of the storm lamenting that our wind turbine had not even had time to get started generating power yet and spent all that money, time and hard work on it. The last things he hadn’t finished, of course, was the grounding rods. We both thought that was why we got struck. As soon as the storm was over, he went out to the barn, to check our system and see what had been struck. He came back to tell me, “Nothing there was hit.”

Xantrex Inverter

I loved this inverter!

It wasn’t until the next morning that he was able to check the turbine and it was fine and had not been hit at all. After checking the inverter, he discovered that he had never grounded it. That was why it was hit. Luckily, we turn our system off every evening so the computers were not hit. Later that day, I went to use our printer and found out it was dead. It had been hit too. Even though our system was not on, all of our computers and computer related components have a ground in the plug. That is what those 3 plugs are for in the electric plugs to your various electronic items. But the printer did not have one. It had only two! 

SunDanzer Refrigerator

Solar refrigerator


We had to purchase another new printer and unfortunately, this one is not grounded either. I am thankful that our new Sundanzer refrigerator was not hit either. But that runs on the batteries only and is not hooked up the inverter. It was safe!  So now we unplug our computer equipment from the inverter every night. For now, we are running with an old smaller inverter we had. I miss the big one we had. It was quiet and this one has a fan that runs constantly when the computers are on. As soon as we can, we will be replacing the inverter. Be careful that all your equipment is grounded or it can be very costly. 

katlupe

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2013 Kathleen G. Lupole

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