“Dude! Seriously? A Coffee Maker?”

By Michael Bane published on in Camping & Survival

So, before you can even think of building, much less moving into, an off-grid house, you have to calculate exactly — and I mean exactly — the amount of watts, joules, smoots, pounds, radio carbon year conversions, bloits, sagans, mickeys and even inches you use every day.

There is some math involved. And formulas. And books of formulas. And books explaining the books of formulas. Here’s where I would like to mention that in another life I was a Dean’s List student in Physics and Math. After an hour of working with the formulas, I gave up and watched an episode of “The Big Bang Theory.”

The conundrum of how much energy usage to plan for was, in fact, solved, as so many things are, at the airport, where I ran into a “Down Range Radio” listener who had been off-grid in Montana for years.

“Dude,” he said, “take your best guess and double it. Then add 20 percent. And another generator.”

Finally! Facts!

Seriously, the amount of power you can use is limited by the amount of power you can produce, which is limited absolutely by your wallet. After all, the formulas are carefully calculated, and the simple rule is, “Get as much as you can afford, then adjust your lifestyle accordingly.”

This is complicated by the fact that the alternative energy industry seems split down the middle—one-half refugees from 1968 who pine for Jerry Garcia and wish we could all be transported back to the Early Middle Ages before pesky humans ruined the planet, and a second half who, up until last Tuesday, worked for Best Buy and are still learning to spell “photovoltaic.” I realize the previous statement is totally unfair to the sincere, committed, intelligent individuals in the alternative-energy industry, and as soon as I find such a person, I will heartily apologize.

My favorite is the vendor who actually sputtered at me, being the first time I had ever heard anyone actually sputter, “OMG, you actually want to keep your sick lifestyle! You want a coffee maker! You don’t care about Mother Gaia at all!”

Well, I like Mother Gaia as much as the next guy, especially in Her Celestial Form that helps grow coffee beans, coffee being one of the greatest contributions of Islam (look it up) and, IMHO, a daily necessity. I have brewed a cup of coffee on the trail in Alaska at 42 degrees below zero, and then chipped the ice off the surface to drink it cold. No coffee maker, no dice.

SLRule

Energy Saving Off-Grid House Appliances

To reduce energy consumption and generation needs, Michael Bane’s Off-Grid House utilizes energy-efficient appliances wherever possible. They still use their old coffeemaker, but will upgrade it when the current one dies. Websites to research energy consumption include Energy Star, Consumer Reports, and Top Ten USA. Below are some of the actual appliances in the Off-Grid House: (1) Unique Off Grid Gas Stove (30-inch LP, no window); (2) Big Ass Fan Haiku Ceiling Fan X0-32W; (3) GE 1.6-cu.-ft. Microwave Oven (#JVM3160DFBB); (4) Samsung 4.0-cu.-ft Steam Front-Load Washing Machine (#WF405ATPAWR); (5) LG SteamDryer 7.3-cu.-ft. Clothes Dryer (#DLGX3251W); (6) Whirlpool 18.9-cu.-ft. Top-Freezer Refrigerator (#WRT359SFYW); and (7) Whirlpool Gold Series 24″ Tall Tub Dishwasher (#WDF750SAYB). Note: Images may not reflect the specific models, and some manufacturer stock numbers may have changed or the units discontinued. Cheaper Than Dirt! does not carry these items.

SLRule

It turns out that even off-grid, you can have a coffee maker, but you are going to have to buy all new as-energy-efficient-as-possible appliances. Your refrigerator is going to be powered by good ole 120 AC (as efficient as a propane-powered version and much less expensive), but small and without an icemaker. The stove is of an off-grid design, powered by propane with an igniter fueled by a 9-volt battery… no clock… no timer. Microwaves are great because they cook things quickly, but get the no-frills ones. Washer… front-loading, efficient, expensive; dryer… propane; dishwasher… super high efficiency.

When you’re done, your kitchen is going to look, and work, suspiciously like a 1950s Kitchen of the Future, except in black or white instead of pastels.

To learn more, click Michael Bane Builds an Off-Grid House.

Have you built an off-grid house? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section.

SLRule

Michael Bane hosts Down Range TV, produces the weekly Down Range TV’s video podcast, and writes at The Michael Bane Blog.

View all articles by Michael Bane

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Comments (20)

  • Secundius

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    The people who produce Tesla Motors EV’s. Have a commercially available Rechargeable 85kWh 400-volt Lithium-Ion Battery Pack for home usage. Price has yet to be determined.

    Reply

  • BRASS

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    Bass Pro sells a nice and inexpensive stainless stell percolator that will work over any heat source sufficient to boil water.

    Reply

  • BRASS

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    Having grown up in an area with harsh winters and lake effect storms then later in a hurricane zone for decades taught me that as far as electrical power goes we should plan to use the same amount of power when gird power is not available as when it is. Even short term needs of three of four days with a portable generator is problematic without fuel storage which is expensive and dangerous plus it deteriorates quickly causing equipment problems and maintenance. Candles and flashlights progressed to a portable generator with a cord and limited prioritized power to one with a transfer switch in a permanent outbuilding and a fuel storage tank to finally an automatic start and maintenance run permanently mounted natural/propane generator sized for whole house use with a large underground fuel storage tank.
    In the end the cost was little more for the permanent solution than all the stuff along the way and with little inconvenience.

    Reply

  • BRASS

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    I have no problem with using high efficiency appliances in an off the grid situation, especially when it’s intended to be a permanent long term solution rather than a bug out and temporary one.
    Affordability is the issue for most and those of us with more experience than money will remember how our parents and grandparents lived their daily lives. No one wants to give up convenience, especially at an age, speaking of me, when daily chores that were routine and hardly noticed can now become major efforts.
    However, there is nothing to say that when mass produced energy may be unavailable or unafforadble that some of the simplicity of yesteryear won’t work just as well.

    Reply

  • Jim

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    Our ancestors never had the convenience’s we have today, they survived & multiplied. It won’t be easy yet it can be done. Just imagine putting a washer, stove & fridge in a covered wagon heading west ! Putting up a wind turbine or running a generator says” I’m over here & have things you need ! ” Get back to the real basics that’s my motto, sometimes I make cowboy coffee to bring back the memories of a simpler life, who needs a percolator ?

    Reply

    • G-Man

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      @Jim: Excellent points. You’ve helped me realize sometimes we’re too technical for our own good.

      Reply

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