THE SOLAR HOMESTEADER’S RESOURCE

26 comments

Would you do us a huge favor by sharing?

So you think you want the leave the comforts of city life and get back to the land do ya?

Maybe you found us by looking for solar homestead in a search engine. Maybe we were recommended by a friend or another homesteading website.

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Regardless of what brought you, we are glad you are here!

Together we will explore the good, bad and the ugly of living off the power grid, growing your food and raising your own animals.

I believe we can all help each other in our quests to leave the rat race behind, and live the simple life.

It’s not easy. No one said it would be.

But it is worth it.

Breathing clean air, eating quality produce and the opportunity to give a safe haven for your children is far more important than the odd inconvenience like:

  • Lightning striking your solar system or
  • Needing to get up at 3AM to start the generator on a -30oC night.

Yes, you have a real chance of both these things happening. They did for us!

PLEASE KEEP IN MIND WHILE VISITING OUR WEBSITE, THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. NOT EVERYTHING IS DONE YET AND MANY SECTIONS HAVE JUST BEGUN…

If you live off the grid, you will need to produce every watt-hour you consume.

Solar ElectricityThis must be considered when designing a home heating system, air conditioning system, water heating system or purchasing a new toaster.

So many off grid homesteaders have followed the advice of their local heating installer only to find out they could never produce the electricity required.

Something as insignificant as a circulating pump might use more power than your refrigerator and freezer. Learn how to achieve energy independence by visiting often.

Stop listening to your electrician who says “that air exchanger will only cost a few dollars per month”. Sure if you are on the grid, it might only cost $20-$30 per month.

However, if you produce your power with solar modules, it might cost another $10,000 to $30,000 for extra solar modules and batteries.

Growing your own veggies and fruit can be difficult.
Growing your own vegetables.It is not often discussed how hard it is to consistently produce good produce from your home garden or orchard.

The internet is loaded with pictures of beautiful lush vegetables and fruit just hanging there as if it took no effort to produce it.

Almost every gardener has struggled with fungus, molds, bugs and poor yield before getting it right. In most areas of North America we cannot just plant an apple tree and collect huge delicious apples the next fall.

It is a lot of hard work if you go it on your own. At SolarHomestead.com we will share everything we have learned from others to make your orchard or garden a success.

Raising animals is not for the weak.
Raising your own animals.Many homesteaders think they can go out and buy a few chickens, a pig and cow and they will be successful farmers.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Keeping animals (and keeping them alive) isn’t something that could be taught in a university degree. There is simply too much to learn.

Farmers need to be accountants, veterinarians, dieticians, carpenters, electricians and the list goes on and on.

Although raising your own animals is not for everybody, it is an essential part of the homestead puzzle (unless you are a vegetarian of course)!

Learn, experiment and share your results with us!

In fact we would love it if you could share your successes (and your failures) with us through commenting, guest blogging or email.

We CAN change the world…one homestead at a time!

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzanne Fontanna May 24, 2016 at 12:02 pm

Hi there,
Could use your advice. We are looking to tear down an existing home in the country (just north of Toronto) and rebuild. We hope to go off-grid using solar even though there is currently hydro to the home. What had thought we would use a high efficiency propane boiler with modern radiators. Similar to the system you mention (but not with in-floor heating). We don’t want forced air for a number of reasons but mainly because we want to avoid ducts and the bulkheads that come with them. We plan to use hardwood and tile on the main floor and carpet on the second. However, recently our provincial government announced their Climate Change Plan which may include phasing out fossil fuels for home heating by 2030. If this is the case we may not want to go with propane. What other options are there that work with hardwood and carpet, use no ducts and can work with an off-grid solar energy source? We are going to highly insulate the home but not to a passive home standard and we will have an air tight wood burning fireplace. The home itself will only be about 1500 sq ft.

Any info would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks,
Suzanne

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Jody Graham May 25, 2016 at 8:14 am

Hi Suzanne,
Thank you so much for commenting. The condensing gas water heater is definitely a good choice for what you are planning. Our Polaris has changed our life. With an efficiency of 96% very little heat is wasted by going out the vent pipe saving us a lot on our energy costs. It will work with radiators although radiators require a much hotter water than radiant heat. You will definitely need a mixing valve that will add cold water to your domestic hot water to prevent burns in the shower and sinks if you are planning on using the same unit to heat your home as well as provide domestic hot water.

The Polaris or similar is up to the challenge for sure. In this economic climate we are living in with the Federal and Provincial governments both in debt up to their eyeballs I wouldn’t worry to much about their plans 15 years from now. That is 3 or 4 governments away and even if they did plan to eliminate fossil fuels by 2030 it would have to be in stages. Imagine them setting a date for all fossil fueled heating systems to be removed by 2030? What are they going to do to folks that don’t (or can’t for financial reasons) comply? I could see them banning new installations of fossil fueled heating systems but to force everyone to remove them would certainly ruin their chances of re-election.

I would stick with your plan of using radiators (although I love radiant heat) and a condensing propane boiler and if in 15 years it is banned, you could switch to a heat pump water heater/boiler. By that time, heat pump water heaters will be mainstream, less expensive, more efficient and there will likely be massive cash incentives to replace your fossil fuel heater. You would have to buy more solar to operate your heat pump water heater but at less than $1 per watt it wouldn’t hurt your wallet that much. Insulate as much as you can afford and the air tight wood burning fireplace/stove is a must. There will be shortages of propane and electricity unless our governments stop making promises they can’t afford and borrowing like there is no tomorrow. Google “Venezuela economy” to see what is coming here unless we (and the US) get our debt under control.

You are doing the right thing and I wouldn’t change anything in your plans. I wish today’s technology existed when we started 15 years ago but you work with what you have at the time. Keep up the good work…Jody

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Suzanne Fontanna May 25, 2016 at 9:25 am

Jody,
Thank you so much for the quick and thorough response. It is so appreciated. I am feeling better about our choice. I do like the option of in floor heating as you describe in another post but I’m concerned with how well it works through hardwood and carpet (guess we could select different flooring options as I noted in your article you use it with hardwood, tile, concrete and click flooring). Secondly, I’m not sure how the install would work on the main and second floor neither of which are concrete.

Thanks again
Suzanne

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Jody Graham May 25, 2016 at 10:42 am

No problem at all Suzanne. We only have hardwood flooring now (and about 120 sqft [10’X12′] of ceramic tile) over our concrete radiant heated floor. It works fine. Carpet would be fine as well. We just don’t use it due to allergies in our children. We actually had to remove the click flooring (and all the hardwood and tile) as we had a sewer backup due to a manufacturing defect in our sewer pipe. So our bottom floor is all hardwood now other than the small amount of ceramic.

There are ways to install radiant heat in the second floor by putting pipes under the floor in between the floor joists but I don’t see that as being more efficient than radiators.

I really do think you are making the right decision. When you purchase your condensing water heater check the power requirements to make sure you are getting one that does not consume too much electricity. I guess looking back that is one of the reasons we chose the Polaris. It can be operated on a Morningstar 300 watt Sure Sine pure sine wave inverter that surges at 600 watts.

It uses a watt or two while sitting dormant.

When the thermostat tells the burner to light:

1. A fan will operate for about 5 seconds to pull all air out of the combustion chamber in case there is some propane lingering due to a leak.
2. An electric element consuming about 300 watts will turn on until it is glowing red hot (30-45 seconds).
3. An eye senses the glowing element and opens a valve to release the propane.
4. The propane burner ignites.
5. The ignitor element now turns off.
6. The fan blows the exhaust outside the home.
5. The burner stays on for two to three minutes until the water is hot.
6. All shuts down and waits for the next cycle.

Ours is a 100,000 BTU 30 gallon model. The first time I plugged it in it was full a cold well water. Within 6 minutes, the water temperature was 120 degrees F. It is simply amazing. Our home is 1400 sqft and we also get all of our domestic hot water from the same water heater. We have 6 of us…2 adults and 4 children from ages 2 to 10. Our temperature can go down to -30 F for a week or two in the dead of winter. We also have a backup wood stove but we barely manage to build 1/2 cord per year.

I don’t even bother telling my neighbors anymore how our heating system works anymore as it is not the “normal” way of doing things.

Cheers…Jody

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Furtdso Linopv May 3, 2016 at 5:44 pm

I truly appreciate this post. I have been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thanks again! Keep up the good work. Living off the land is hard but life changing!

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Jody Graham May 3, 2016 at 7:43 pm

Thank you so much for the kind words. I wouldn’t trade city life for country life ever!!!!Jody

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Tobias April 15, 2016 at 10:33 pm

Wow thanks for putting in the effort of sharing so much knowledge. I live and run a little solar company in vanuatu that I run out of my 35ft sailing boat. Mostly simple 12v systems just for light and charging phones. Sometimes deep freezers. I liked the info on how to calculate power consumptions of freezers. We have a limited availability here on anything – but two different dc deep freezers are available here: a German made “Steca” And the U.S. made “SunDazer”. Both open up top and are well insulated and there with efficient. I ll keep an eye on your blog as I also plan on getting off the yacht and living on the island. Many thanks and keep up the good work!

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Jody Graham April 16, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Hi Tobias,
Thank you so much for your comments. You live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Stay there. Are you ok after the earthquake? Did it affect you?

Both the Steca and the SunDanzer are good equipment as they use the same German made DC compressors. Measuring DC cumulative amp hours or watt hours is much more difficult than with AC current. You could use a Trimetric 2020 meter made by Bogart Engineering. They have been in business for a long time (in California, USA) and we have sold and installed hundreds of their meters. They are also excellent for the RV and marine market. You can Google their name and find out tons of info about them. I assume they have dealers in both New Zealand and Australia. If you can’t find a meter from them I could probably help you get a used one as we have lots of that equipment we have on display for our local customer base. If I had to chose between Stecca and SunDanzer I would choose Steca. Thank you for your kind words and smooth sailing…Jody

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Norm Voth February 8, 2016 at 1:06 pm

A big thanks to Jody, you were very helpful and provided lots of info for a solar newbie. The info on this site is incredibly helpful but it was your time on the phone and willingness to answer all my questions that I really appreciated. Thank you

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Jody Graham February 8, 2016 at 1:19 pm

Hi Norm,
Thank you. I appreciate the kind words. My wife and I chose to go off grid 15 years ago because we wanted to try and do the right thing. We never ever did it to save money. We knew we would lose money going off grid, but we also knew it would give me the knowledge I would need to operate a solar company. If you haven’t lived it, it is hard to tell someone else how to.

It has been a long road but I wouldn’t change a thing. We have had a lot of fun and met thousands of nice people like you. That is what I get satisfaction from. So thank you for calling and for your order. I hope everything works well for you. We seem to be getting far more power outages in eastern Canada than we ever did. Two years ago power was out for 11 days. It started Christmas Eve and lasted past New Years Day. It was so strange to see so many homes with no Christmas lights on the outside of their homes or lighted Christmas trees inside. For us it was business as usual. We finally got some payback for our solar system. Hope we chat again…Jody

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JDC January 9, 2016 at 7:16 pm

Book: OUR LIFE OFF THE GRID
See website
I like your blog. Wished I’d seen it sooner. I do one, too, but different. Offthegridhomes.org. I’m all over the map, really. Did a few months on just anti-Harper. Did some on my previous jobs. But the bulk is OTG. Book is all OTG. I am currently doing a followup book to Our Life OTG – an urban couple goes feral. Amazon. Kindle.
If I can learn to ‘link’, I will put your blog on mine if you want…..?
I am on the wild, wet, west coast. Remote island. See pics on website.

dc

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joe January 5, 2016 at 5:37 pm

I am seeking any and all info on heating water- DHW- directly from PV panels. I hope to install two 119 gallon tanks in a to be built building that will be heated(the tanks) to 120 degrees by gas boiler. These tanks will have electric elements, 4500 watts or greater, with all elements to hook up directly to a dedicated number of PV panels(NO GRID CONNECTION!) to then raise the temps beyond 120 when the sun shines. All I need is an MPPT?????? What is the recommended brand for this sort of thing. It is my understanding that you were going to test this sort of model DHW heating. No thermostats will be part of the PV hook up and if I generate DHW to hot(180 or above) it will have an automatic gravity dump to prevent overheating. THANKS, JOE

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Jude August 26, 2015 at 6:32 pm

I forgot to add in my previous post, I could not have done it without Carla Emery’s Old Fashioned Cookbook! It was my homesteading bible.

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Jody Graham August 28, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Thanks again Jude. I will try and find a copy of this cookbook asap. Take Care…Jody

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Jude August 26, 2015 at 6:28 pm

My husband and I homesteaded for many years. While we were not off the grid we did produce much of what we needed to live. One month I saved all our receipts from the grocery store and we had spent only $100 for a family of 4. That was mostly things we could not produce, toilet paper etc. Having livestock is hard work. We cared for and milked 2 cows, (Daisy and Bingo) which produced enough milk for us to drink and cook with as well as making cheese, butter and yogurt with the surplus.
We kept chickens (for eggs and meat), pigs, geese, ducks and sheep. We prepared and ate some of our livestock through the years. We always made sure our children knew where their food came from and we thanked the animals for their sacrifice.
Besides gardening, we cut our own wood, made our own hay, gleaned the neighboring farmers fields after harvest for corn and bought day old baked goods to feed our menagerie. We even made our own maple syrup.
Eventually we came to the point were we needed an income. I returned to college and then began teaching. Coming home to the homestead after work was a peaceful place to be.
Our girls have grown and moved away.
We are older and no longer homestead. We have only the fondest memories of those happy, and hard times. Wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
What I miss most is wonderful fresh eggs, and knowing what is in our food.

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Jody Graham August 28, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Wow. You are my hero. You did exactly what we are working towards. Having solar power is one thing but raising enough meat to feed a family of four is a big deal. It is so amazing knowing what you are eating. I can’t even stand a store bought egg anymore and half of our children are allergic to store bought eggs. You should be proud of what you accomplished. I think it is important that folks know living off the land is not easy. It is HARD, HARD work. It is not romantic and clean. Maybe someday your girls will see the value and do the same. Thanks so much for sharing…Jody

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Eugene August 26, 2015 at 3:03 pm

My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for.

Do you ever allow guest writers to write contents on a particular homesteading topic?

I wouldn’t mind producing a post or elaborating on some of the of living off the land you write about here.

Again, awesome blog! Eugene

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Jody Graham August 28, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Hi Eugene,

Thank you for your kind words. We are always trying new thing and trying the document them as well but with 4 children and a homestead to take care of it does get overwhelming at times. Anyone interested in guest blogging please contact us and let us know. We would obviously give you a back-link to your website. We have not really set up a guest blogging policy but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Show us some of your work and we could work out a topic and go from there. Again thank you for your kind words…Jody

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Alvena August 17, 2015 at 8:53 am

Wow, incredible blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
You made it look easy. The overall look of your web site is wonderful, as well as the content is unlike any I have seen anywhere else! Usually I just find the same old info on every site. I can tell you are an expert in your field of renewable energy.

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Jody Graham August 17, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Thank you for the kind words Alvena. I wouldn’t say I am an expert but am learning new things everyday thanks to folks like you. Good luck in your pursuits…Jody

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Daniel Klayton April 28, 2015 at 12:21 am

Hey Jody! Hope you’re feeling well these days 🙂

Wanted to drop a note, and a thank you! Remember when you had the little sidebar note about an off-grid reality TV show looking for applicants? Well after seeing it here, I applied for my girlfriend and I… and we finished filming a couple weeks ago! It was a ton of fun, and we learned some great tidbits 🙂 hope you can get a chance to watch the episode!!

And today, we put a first offer down for an off-grid solar homestead. A lot already in place there, but a lot of work and play that we still get to put in 🙂 couldn’t have gotten as far as we have without the resources and guidance you have here… and you can bet that we’ll be coming back here as we get ourselves set up heheh 😉

Much love and many thanks!! Your efforts here have made a big impact in our lives 🙂

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Jody Graham May 7, 2015 at 10:45 am

Daniel,
I am so excited for you!!! When I was approached by the television folks I really didn’t know if this was a real TV show or not but it just seemed like a great idea. Sometimes the TV shows actually make fun of off grid life and make it look bad (big oil being responsible for that).

I am so glad I put that little ad on our website now that I have heard from you. What was it like? What was the process for you? and where did you go to live off grid if you have done that already. I would love any details you can give me. Also what is the title of the show and do you know where I could find it to view it. Sorry for all the questions I am just really interested in what you did. I would also love it if you would email me at jody@solarhomestead.com so we can keep in touch. I know you are probably busy so I understand if you are unable. If you have any questions for me please do not hesitate or if you think there is an article we need on solarhomestead.com please let me know.

I am proud of you for having the guts to go out on this adventure. Where is your new potential property located?
KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!

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Daniel Klayton May 11, 2015 at 1:32 pm

The show’s called Unplugged I think (last I heard, they were still toying with the idea of Unplugged Nation too) – google brought up this little trailer for the pilot episode (not us): https://vimeo.com/123879534

The show will be on the FYI network (fyi.tv) but doesn’t actually start airing till this Fall. I’m not sure yet when our episode’s air date will be, but I’ll be sure to let you know when I find out! 🙂

I’ll shoot you an email this week with more details about where we went and what the process was like, but I figure the trailer and show details might be of interest to other folk finding their way here too 🙂

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Loretta Quinn March 24, 2015 at 3:44 am

I’m wanting to build my own tiny house but cannot afford anything Over $4,000.00 Can you give me some advice on how to go about this. My sister and l will be building the tiny home. Any advice will be greatly aappreciated. Thank you, Loretta Quinn.

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John Johansen February 24, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Jody??,

We are getting into acquaponics. I was interested in a comment you made about UL rated DC thermostats for 120/240 volts? Do you provide them or can you refer me to a source that makes them? We are locating acquaponics units overseas in passive solar greenhouse off grid but still need some electricity for controls/pumps/fans and some dump load which we can use for heat.

John Johansen

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Jody Graham March 10, 2015 at 11:53 pm

I just answered this I guess. I didn’t notice until I had already approved it. Since you are an aquaponics expert could I ask you a few questions now and then. I live in New Brunswick Canada and am going to set an aquaponics system up here to get familiarized but my ultimate goal is to build them for orphanages in Haiti. I am thinking they could be the answer to crappy soil and very little water. If you interested in me picking your brain please let me know and either email me at jody@jodygraham.com or thru this website. I would really appreciate your input. I have two children from Haiti and try to get down a couple of times a year to maintain several battey backup systems in the Jacmel area. I live in Canada but my heart is in Haiti. Thanks…Jody

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