Living with Off-Grid Power in Canada
Our experience living with off grid power began in 2005. You might say it was a mid-life crisis, coupled with becoming empty nesters. After spending 20 years working for a big power company in Calgary, my wife and I got itchy feet. But we decided to move to the Peace River district of Northern Alberta, near my small hometown of Beaverlodge.
Our small 15-acre plot of land, which was mostly bush and a long driveway, cost us less than $20,000. It soon became our paradise.
By the next summer, we had put a 1,200 square foot home on the property, complete with a septic system, drilled water well. Not to mention and a wood burning stove and a winters stock of firewood.
Next came the solar panels and battery bank. We also invested in a 8 kilowatt back-up generator, which we set up in our workshop and connected to our solar power system with an auto start/stop function.
The result? Reliable power and plenty of heat in our home throughout all the seasons. Also, we’re no longer dependent on big power companies.
Although we’re living using off grid power, we haven’t compromised on modern conveniences. Our home has a TV, computer, large refrigerator, stainless steel dishwasher, 5 burner propane stove, besides 2 small deep freezers. Our laundry room has a front-loading washer and propane clothes dryer, in addition our master bedroom has an air conditioner for hot summer days.
During the second winter in our off grid home, we spent $700 in diesel, $400 in propane, and $300 in firewood. We were shocked that all of our utilities came in under $1,500! That winter we added an auto generator start system to our solar battery bank. We also purchased a low power egg incubator and brooder so we could begin to raise our own chickens (and then turkey and geese). Our Chicken Stock started from a more natural free roaming variety, suitable for our small acreage.
Since then, we’ve moved our solar panels from a ground mount to a pole, as greater efficiency technology allow us to use six panels instead of nine. Our first battery bank gave us 12 years of service (despite the abuse it took in the first few years). The auto start system on our generator was worth the investment, since it not only cut back on the diesel consumption, but also increased the life of the batteries.