Michael Bane Builds an Off-Grid House

By Michael Bane published on in Camping and Survival

I got up this morning, turned on the coffeemaker, walked the puppy, watched a little television news, booted up my computer and went to work.

Michael Bane

Michael Bane made his dream of an off-the-grid house a reality.

I bring this up not because it’s particularly remarkable—quite the opposite—but because the New Improved Secret Hidden Bunker in the Rocky Mountains connects to no power lines. There’s no cable for cable television, no phone lines, no sewer or water connection. In fact, it is untethered from what we’ve come to call “the grid.”

And, at least for the moment, it’s working.

The journey began as so many epic adventures do—with a simple question. My Sweetie and I were living in the little Colorado town of Nederland at 9000 feet, where to quote actor Will Geer’s Bear Claw in Jeremiah Johnson, “Winter’s a long time going … stays long this high.” After 13 winters, it was time to Go Down.

When we moved to Ned 13 years ago, it was a quirky place whose only real source of income was the Frozen Dead Guy, a Norwegian grandfather kept on dry ice in a Tuff Shed—Google it, even I can’t make stuff like that up — and the eponymous Frozen Dead Guy Days each bitterly cold March. We even marched one year in the Frozen Dead Guy parade through the one-block-long town. As newcomers, we got the ideal position between the herd of alpacas and the bondage sluts riding on the hoods of hearses. Really.

When we decided to leave Ned, it had become the epicenter of the “marijuana revolution” in the United States. The little mountain town of 1200 people and some dogs sported five medicinal marijuana outlets, one retail marijuana outlet, a “smoking room,” three hydroponic gardening centers, a pipe store, 30 grow rooms blossoming with designer ganja and a startling number of vintage Volkswagen buses and tie-dyed T-shirts, as if the Grateful Dead tour had just trucked in from 1968. My Sweetie and I were the only two people in town with reliable short-term memories.

After a year of searching, we found a stunning 34 acres with breathtaking views, close enough to go into the northern Colorado cites of Ft. Collins and Loveland for a good dinner and upwind enough from Denver to miss most of the fallout — joke, JOKE! After all, I was the producer of the first “survival” show, “The Best Defense/Survival,” which laid the groundwork for those that followed. One London newspaper reporter referred to me as “the most depressing man in America” after my guest appearance on the History Channel’s special, “After Armageddon.” I told her I thought I was upbeat and perky as well as heavily armed. You’ve got to expect a certain level of paranoia.

As we looked out over this amazing property, which equally amazingly we could afford, we both noticed an absence of power lines, telephone poles and the other accoutrements of the 21st century.

“What would you think,” asked my Sweetie, “about building an off-grid house?”

“Yippie!” my Internal Survivalist shouted. “Hmmmmmmmm,” I said out loud. But the die was cast.

Do you dream of living off the grid? If so, let us hear your motivations and challenges in the comment section.

[mbane]

 

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Comments (35)

  • Steve Ray

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    I would love to do this in North East Oklahoma but really have no Idea How to start or anything about it at all. Can you help me?

    Reply

  • rsbhunter

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    The best advice i have is to make sure that this is feasible for you to do…if you’re talking about what most people consider going “off grid” it might be a major undertaking. If you work from home, or are retired, then it’s alot easier than having to go to a job everyday. This , of course depends alot where your property is. Some people live close enough to a town, that they can travel everyday.My property is 10 miles on a dirt road at 10,000 feet altitude…And the small town (pop. 500) is not an option for work. But, in 3 years i’ll retire, and then make the move there full time.Home Power magazine is an excellent source for info on solar, wind and hydro power in off grid situations…and suppliers.I encourage anyone that wants to go off grid to do it, but research all of the sacrifices you will have to make against the benefits, to make sure it is a lifestyle you can live with…When i’m working on my solar shed, the peace i have is awesome….but the work involved is incredible…just look at all the angles before you dive in, and if this is a dream that you have had for awhile, then make it happen….Good luck…rsbhunter

    Reply

  • Miles Weaver

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    So, where is the rest of the story?

    Reply

    • Omi

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      I agree with Miles. Lots of comments, no story. C’mon Michael Bane, lets see it please?

      Reply

  • Hank Alvarez

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    Thanks for the tip on, “HOME POWER MAGAZINE.” that looks like a good place to start.

    Reply

  • rsbhunter

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    There are a bunch of forums, catalogs (backwoods solar) and solar suppliers websites that will help with the selection of matching components.Though I am far from an expert on solar power, I have put together a 2800 watt solar setup using components that are ALMOST plug and play.The only suggestion I will make is to spend the money on a MPPT charge controller.It is much more effiecient than the other designs…rsbhunter

    Reply

  • Carroll the Irishman

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    I truly believe in what you wrote. It’s not escapism, it’s realism on our own terms. Live a long happy life in your choice of solitude. The only thing you said that’s still a problem is the cost of alternative energy. You’d think that the government would demand lower cost for the devices since they always talk about it BUT, perhaps the oil companies and electric conglomerations forbid it. Oh well, maybe some day.

    Reply

  • Bill

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    I read the story on Michael Bane’s off grid house.It would have been much more helpful if he would have told us (those of us who are planning an off grid home) about names of products, part numbers, how they were used, etc., etc. It would save some of us many wasted hour’s of research Please help- and I’d gladly pay for all the info, just to save myself many, many hours of research./ Thank You- William Condon

    Reply

  • rsbhunter

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    As to part numbers, models, brands, etc, you are asking a question that has a million variables.What aspect off a off grid cabin/house are you needing info on? Without knowing all of the requirements you need, the land location, how many people, what comfort level you want, etc, it’s not a question that can be answered with any accuracy…Fill in all the blanks, including the target budget you have, and I’m sure everyone here will help with what they can…..rsbhunter

    Reply

  • Hank Alvarez

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    Catalogues are designed to sell merchandise. What I would like to see are comments on the practicality of solar in the less temperate areas of the country.
    Where we are likely moving to they have four to five months of winter. A salesman is going to tell you what you want to hear.

    Reply

  • rsbhunter

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    If you are looking at a catalog from a specific company that makes the product, probably.Not one of the catalogs or magazines that I have or will mention,do that.They sell everything from entry level items up to the top notch products.But , as in life, cheap will limit what expansion the system is capable of.Expensive is not a luxury that all people have. Where my property is, south central Colorado,10,000 feet, we have winter! Solar modules produce more power in the cold, than in hot temps.You can check online for the solar irradiance in your area that you plan to build.I thought I had mentioned the gain in power of solar in the winter.As a Sid note, you can also get large spikes in the power output of modules by a condition known as edge of cloud effect.This is why you aim to have a system that is balanced unit,with roughly a 20 percent cushion for these possibilities…..again, most of the solar suppliers,(not manufacturers) will try to help you choose the system that will fit your needs,as well as future needs…..And yes some salesmen will lead you down the path, that’s why it’s your responsibility to have some knowledge of what size and capability system you are wanting….rsbhunter

    Reply

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