Living Off-grid in Canada
The year 2005, you might say it was a mid life crisis. After 20 years working for the big power company, ENMAX in Calgary, our feet got itchy. We ended up in the Peace River district near the small home town of Beaverlodge that I went to school in.
A small 15 acre plot of land mostly bush, with a long driveway back into the trees cost us under $20,000. An arch of trees adds a great ambiance on the way into our paradise.
The property was raw land, with a 10 acre woodlot and a open area nestled back a quarter mile off the road. It did not take long until we erected a 28 by 30 workshop. With 14 foot walls we had a loft on one side and a single overhead door on the other. In went our holiday trailer, with the front windows just peaking out of the doorway. This became our home for the first winter. A small 5 horse gas motor driving an old car alternator kept the battery charged, very primitive but practical also.
By summer we had our septic ran to a lagoon, our water well drilled producing over 25 gallons a minute, and a 1200 square foot mobile home on the property. We moved out of the shop and into the new home. Next came the solar panels, and a battery bank.
A wood burning stove and a winter supply of wood gave us peace of mind, the built in propane furnace was set to 15 degrees and a fire burning was our winter luxury.
We invested in an 8 KWatt diesel generator, connected it to our system, and activated the auto start stop function. All power lines were buried, and the generator installed in the workshop, so we can salvage the heat. Now we have heat in the shop, and reliable power in the home. Winters are now enjoyable, outside every day to haul in the days wood supply, and a warm cozy fire while watching TV or setting up our website in the internet.
We traded the lazy way of power from the power company (POCOS) for a little bit of fresh air and personal manual labour. Off to work in the morning knowing everyone at home was safe and warm.
Our home has 2 small deep freezers, a large energy efficient refrigerator, a Bosch stainless steel dishwasher, and a 5 burner propane stove. The laundry room has a front loading washer and a propane dryer. The 3 bedroom two bath mobile is ready for the next winter, all we lack is a nice cool basement to provide a cool retreat in the Summer. We decided to add an air conditioner and keep the master bedroom as our summer retreat from the heat, all of this in an off-grid home.
The second winter, with the shorter days we burned around $700 diesel, $400 in propane and $300 in firewood. For all our utilities to come to $1500 a year we had it made. The one thing that was not yet perfected was having to go outside every morning and evening to check on the batteries, we decided to invest in an auto generator start system because I was now a year older and that trudge through the snow was taking its tole on me! LOL. Over the winter we researched egg incubators and brooders and settled on Brinsea, a company supplying low power units.
The next spring we collected the eggs from our chicken house and set them in our incubator, low and behold 21 days later we had baby chicks that needed warmth and feed. Things were progressing so well that a quick trip the the small animal auction, had us coming home with two dozen Red Bourbon Turkey eggs. These eggs hatched and now we have our off-grid turkey hatchery starting. We are going to stick with the heritage breed turkey and chickens so they can free range an be invited in for dinner once and a while. Free ranging adds to the gastronomical enjoyment here in paradise. In fact turkeys are now the Xmas gift of choice this year. BYOA (Bring your own Axe). Then the work started again someone gave us some goose eggs, those things have a better hatch rate than the chickens and now we have free range geese.
We have moved our solar panels from a ground mount to one on top of a pole, greater efficiency panels allow us to use six instead of nine. Our first battery bank gave us 12 years of service, it would have been longer but in the first few years we did abuse them a bit. The auto start system on our generator was a worth while investment, it not only cut back on the diesel consumption, but increase the battery life also. Off-grid living in Canada is what real alternative energy is all about, it is the ALTERNATIVE to the slavery of the big power company.