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Community and Q&A

Off or On Grid?

user-1124821 | Posted in PassivHaus on

We are planning to build a 2 story with basement 28×34′ near Passive House in northern NH. It will cost > $25K to bring in power at the expense of cutting that will worsen the aesthetics (ie the swath….).
Our present electrical use without being careful in a similar sized home heated with oil ranges from 6KWhr (July) to 15 kWhr (Jan) per day. We would pay 16-17c/KW on grid and only get a 4c premium if we hooked in….

We will have reasonable (11 am to dusk) south and full west exposure and have a potentially good wind site (on a knoll with good wind (new turbines @ 20 miles away in Sheffield on a ridge) though not a full acre of elevated field)

This is our “forever” house and we are late 40’s.

On vs off grid? Is there a price cut off that would give a presumed 20-25 year payback? We can finance if that becomes a barrier.

We like baths….. especially in the winter.


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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    From an energy and environmental perspective, there is no advantage to off-grid living compared to on-grid living. I say this as someone who has lived off the grid for the past 37 years.

    Most of the time, you won't be using solar electricity directly. You will be drawing your electricity from a large bank of lead-acid batteries -- during the night, year round, and during the day and the night from November to March. For half the year, these batteries will be charged with a noisy, polluting gas-fired (or propane-fired) generator.

    Most off-grid homeowners live without a toaster, without hair dryers, and without a chest freezer. If you want any of these things, prepare to pull the starter cord on your generator, or be ready to spend big bucks on a larger battery system. (You can buy a propane-fired or kerosene-fired freezer if you want, but they have their own disadvantages.) Be ready to replace your $4,000 to $8,000 battery system every 8 years.

    During the summer, when the sun is shining brightly, your battery bank will be full by 10:00 a.m., and all the rest of the day's electricity production will be wasted. During the winter, when the sun doesn't shine for 3 weeks in a row, you'll be listening to your generator almost every day.

    So, I advise you to hook up to the grid.

  2. user-1124821 | | #2

    Would you reconsider if wind was an option (ie better year round access to energy)? Seems we would need to invest @ 30-40K.....

  3. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    Electricity from a residential-sized wind turbine is always more expensive than PV, and maintaining a turbine is a huge headache compared to maintaining a PV system. That said, some off-grid homeowners have few choices when it comes to generating electricity during December and January, and so they turn to wind out of desperation. (Better than a generator, they decide. Well, maybe. Not cheaper, but perhaps quieter and more environmentally friendly.)

    Here's more information on residential wind turbines:

    Resisting the Allure of Small Wind Turbines

    Backyard Wind Turbines

  4. wjrobinson | | #4

    Run electric underground following driveway, no swath. You can ditch through the woods too and still no swath.

  5. user-1124821 | | #5

    Thanks AJ
    Seems like bringing in the power is worth it....
    Our electric supplier (small local) requires 10 feet from the driveway and 10 feet either side of the trench cut to the sky.....
    + we have to come > down a curved heavily wooded (overhead canopy) dirt road prior to the driveway

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