1800 Watts Of Freedom

Whiskey n Sunshine Off Grid

Where the sun shines, It's beautifulWhiskey n Sunshine Off Grid
The house had been "winterized" by the same property management folks that had removed all the other stuff from home several years earlier. Their quality was about the same. When Tom turned on the power to the deep well pump, I went around to the several shutoffs and faucets. Some were left open, and some closed. The sound of running water was everywhere. Unfortunately, one place it was coming from was the dining room floor. The pipes had frozen and burst in the dining room ceiling. We quickly turned off the pump and got the plumbing drained back down far enough to stop the leak. I made a few calls and managed to get a plumber to come over on a Sunday (it's nice to have friends), and he put in a couple of shutoffs that let us isolate the upstairs plumbing. We had running water (albeit cold) to everything on the ground floor when he left. Even this seemed like a big deal at the time. We now had water in all the downstairs faucets and a working bathroom on the ground floor. There was extensive damage to the drywall of the dining room. The floor was soaked, and I decided to give it a few days to dry out before I cut into the sheetrock, looking for the leak.
After the plumber left, we noticed that, for some reason, our inverters would not switch over to charge mode while the generator was running. So we were still running the portable generator but now had it wired into the system the same way the larger propane unit would be.
A little on inverter/chargers: Unlike the less expensive inverters that only convert DC power to AC, an inverter/ charger can automatically detect the presence of AC input power (coming from, in our case, a generator). Once the unit detects AC input power, it automatically switches to charge mode. This lets the generator power the house, and the excess AC power charges your battery bank. At least that's how it's supposed to work. Unfortunately, in our case, we couldn't get the power from the generator through the inverter/chargers without tripping the resets on the inverters. So at this point, it became evident that the only way we had to charge the batteries was through the solar panels.
Digging through the previous owner's paperwork that had was left lying around, I found the phone number for the solar power company that initially designed and installed the system. I gave them a call and scheduled an appointment for the following Saturday in hopes that they would find something we had overlooked.
The next day the technician from the propane company showed up and hooked everything up. He also did a leak check and turned on the gas. So now we had a propane stove. Another big hurdle!! Much of the Coleman stuff was slowly starting to disappear. We also managed to get the chimneys inspected by another friend (who happens to be a state chimney inspector) who also helped install the woodstove on the ground floor. While he was there, all his planks and blocking, we managed to move the big backup generator out of our kitchen and onto the cement pad outside, where it belonged. Rather than just hooking it up, I decided as expensive as the generator was, and as long as it had been in storage, it would be money well spent to have it serviced, hooked up, and tested by a professional. As it turned out, that was a good choice. The generator needed a new battery and a circuit board that controlled the load RPM, plus service, and the valves needed to be adjusted. When the generator service guy left, he had it running like a top and hard-wired into our outhouse. So, we know we had 10,000w of power instead of the 4,200w we had been using, plus we weren't constantly dealing with refueling a sometimes hot generator and no more hauling gas cans around with us everywhere.
Also, around that time, I cut into the dining room ceiling and found the broken pipe. My plumber friend had come over and soldered in a new section of pipe. So with that done and expecting more trouble, we turned the water on to the upstairs.
To my surprise, the only problem we had was one toilet leaking at the ball valve. We now had hot running water in all the bathrooms with that repaired. Finally, working showers!! We had been getting by using those camping shower bags up until that point, and although they do work, there's no comparing them to a real hot shower.
That Saturday, Charlie, the owner of Moosehead Solar Power, arrived to figure out why we couldn't charge our batteries with the generators. Unfortunately, it turned out it was because of the rough handling of the inverters by the bank's goon squad. Charlie said that the problem was most likely only with one of the inverters, but there was no way to tell which one it was. They would have to be sent back to Xantrex to be bench tested or repaired. The cost for that was around $1,400 for the pair, with no guarantee of success. Not to mention, we'd be without any inverter for however long they were gone. We opted to buy a newer, more efficient inverter 4,000w true sign wave unit to replace the previous pair of modified sign wave units.
Charlie was back with our new inverter about two weeks later, and after about 3 hours of installation and setup, everything was working as it should.
Finally, we were up and operating the way the system was designed.
Here we are, in the woods of Maine, living off-grid in a modern home. Some people have come to visit and never realized we were off the grid. Without seeing the solar panels, it would be pretty easy to miss. We enjoy almost everything that anyone else has. Dishwasher, microwave, washer, dryer, satellite TV, pretty much everything you wouldn't expect from off-grid living. We were prepared to live a much more primitive lifestyle, but finding this house made the life we now have a possibility. If we hadn't seen this place, things would have turned out completely different in this situation.
As much as I'd love to see more people go off-grid and live more independent lives, I believe this lifestyle is not for everyone. It would help if you looked no further than the people here before us to see that.
To succeed in this life, you have to do a lot of stuff for yourself. We had lived a "homestead" lifestyle for many years, and because of that, we already had a lot of the things we used to make this life doable.
When we moved in here, we brought many tools and how to use them. And it's easy for the naysayers to see pictures of our 30yr old tractor, wood splitter, my old plow truck, etc. and think we just went out and bought all this stuff, but the truth is, this is stuff we've accumulated over the past 25 years of already owning our own home. So it's been a long process. We had been heading in this direction for a very long time.
Is this type of life for you? Well, that's a question you'll have to answer for yourselves.
We never really entered into this as any statement, but it has its rewards. Christmas day, we had high winds all over our area. Facebook lit up with people complaining about having no power over Christmas. We had planned a large family dinner with about 12 families and friends. I was making one of my many trips to the woodshed, and partially due to my sarcasm, I snapped a picture of our solar panels using my phone. I posted it to Facebook, saying, "They say there are scattered power outages all over, but we hadn't noticed ."I tagged all the people that were coming to Christmas dinner. It took off from there, and that original picture is the one that was posted with the title "1,800 watts of freedom".
There you have it, folks, the rest of the story. I'm sure it will continue as we continually test.
Set your goals, and work slowly in that direction. Nothing worthwhile happens very fast. Where there is a will, there's away.

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We moved to this new off grid property to get into Modern Homesteading in January of 2016. We are living in rural Maine on 12 acres & have a small farm of chickens, raised bed & in ground garden. Sharing how we live off grid and use our Kubota L2501.

Oxford, ME

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