off the grid home plans

MeghaneOctober 10, 2005

Does anyone know of a source that would have completely self-sufficient home plans? I don't even know where to start looking. I'm not interested in just super-efficient or passive solar; I want to be well, off the power grid. And off the water grid too, for that matter. Home would be in south Florida, so I don't think water or heat would be too much concern. Where do I start? Are my terms not correct? Because I haven't seen much...

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Off grid homes donÂt need special home plans, any kind of house can be off grid you just need the ability to make and store your own electricity. There are so many factors that decide how a home will be self-sufficient, most of which depend on the home location and requirements of the occupants that it would be hard to do "one size fits all" plans.

Do you have a home site already?

    Bookmark   October 10, 2005 at 11:18PM
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If you really wanna be OFF grid . . then you'll need to supply / generate your own electricity. That means either PV ( solar panels / batteries ), wind ( "windmill" and batteries ), or fossil fuel generator. Fossil fuel generator will also mean you must store a fair amount of fuel; lest you have a generator and cannot obtain fuel if the power is out. Being in the "Sunshine state" would make the choice of PV the no-brainer. Wind is usually not constant enough to be the ONLY source. Generators make noise and need maintenance / replacement; especially if run constantly.

Plans are wide open except for their energy consumption consequences. You will want to pay GREAT attention to efficiencies of EVERYTHING you have . . every light bulb ( DON'T use ANY incandescents ), appliance, etc. I read that every dollar spent in reducing your needs; saves $20 off the cost of whatever system you choose to produce your electricity with. A/C is a BIG user, if that's even on your radar. I have a PV ( grid-tied ) system; and I went through each and every load one by one. Biggest load in the whole house is . . . the hairdryer. The other biggies are well pump, the vacuum, the microwave, the toaster . . . . the fridge ended up being fairly low; while a large size it was bought by it's efficiency; NOT by doo-dads and ice makers . . . .

As far as supplying your own water; you will need a well . . and choose the pump carefully . . don't just put in whatever size everyone "usually" does . . it may be oversized. Water is heavy, and is pumped under pressure. Depending upon how deep you've got to pump it from; it can be a sizeable load. Also know that reducing your water usage will help greatly. Get a washer that uses less water / electricity . . such as the front-loader types.

I guess what I'm driving at is that building a place to achieve what you want to achieve; leaves a good bit of room for style / layout etc . . . but that you'll need to include energy considerations as part of ANY plan you end up choosing. Use large eave overhangs, face/size windows appropriately, use trees freely as they can greatly reduce cooling needs. Insulate well; this help with both cooling and heating needs. And of course; smaller is better . . . a smaller amount of sqare footage, WELL thought out / planned; is more efficient and cheaper to build.


    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 6:26AM
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Super-insulated and good passive solar design go a long way toward heating and cooling your house so that you don't need to generate energy for those activities. My parents have a 2 year old "Energy Star" compliant house that is very tightly built and heavily insulated (in southern CA!) and it's amazing. It's cool on the hottest day and warm in the winter without running air conditioning or the furnace.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2005 at 11:55AM
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Hi (again) meghane,

Nice to hear your name again.

My friend had an independent system for his trailer home, using first a 4KW, later, after the first was knocked out by lightning, a 5KW generator, and a number of used telephone batteries for storage, with a Trace inverter (costing over $3,000., I think) to change AC to DC for storage, then reverse for use in house, water pump, etc. He later installed a wind-powered generator - about 70 feet up, I think, as he lived on a treed site. It would be necessary to get direct wind, not eddies near the tree tops.

He had bought a larger, diesel-powered generator as well, but it needed some repairs that he did not complete - at least, he never used that generator, as far as I know.

After his death his wife built a home at that location. I don't know whether the home is attached to the power grid.

Their son is an electrician.

He was an innovative guy - sold a couple of brands of corn-fired heaters in this area nearly 20 years ago, said he could build a better one and did, with a number of innovative features, some later copied by competitors. Used heavy steel, so the stoves would not break due to stresses of heating and cooling for a number of years, which will be a problem with flimsier ones.

Have you checked whether a quality water supply is available in our chosen area of south FL? Quite a bit of FL is swampy, so water is readily available, but will it pass safety tests? Is there any possibility that it might be brackish, due to presence of ocean nearby?

Good wishes as you proceed with your plans.

Looks as though you've received some quality advice, earlier.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   October 14, 2005 at 3:31PM
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Take a look at They are beautiful passive solar and might be a good starting point. The architect is Debra Rucker.


Here is a link that might be useful: sun plans

    Bookmark   October 19, 2005 at 3:13PM
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Hi meghane,

If you go to you can send them an email, ask questions of Bill.

If you copy my (Ed Baker's) message above telling of his Dad's system, he'll know how much of their situation you know already, so will have a better idea of what to tell you, I think.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   October 19, 2005 at 3:53PM
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Go to the library and read about 10 years of a magazine called Homepower. Then buy the CD's for practical information. Don't just buy the CD's, read multiple copies of the magazine. Read the articals on guerrila power systems.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 12:17AM
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RCMjr what type of pv system are you using? I am currently mapping one out for my Cape house and assessing the
electrical consumption of each component using a kill-a-watt meter by P3 International. This house is now completely Star rated, right down to the green light bulbs,
everything with a plug is on a strip and switched off when not in use. (32" tv draws 4 watts just being plugged in!).
I too chose the new fridge based upon consumption, albeit
a side by with an ice maker, uses just 621 kw annually which is spot-on according to the kill-a-watt, warmest setting (1) which achieves 41 degree F beer.

According to an article in Money Central, there is a nice
tax cut for a PV system, $7500. Not a break, a cut which might make this workable. Coupled with the radiant heat system and a Trane Geothermal heat pump at 22 seer, the house should be fairly efficient. Photo cell technology is changing, and by the looks of things half the area will produce the same watts when the new chip-like units are available. Largest expense looks to be the Sun transfer switch on the grid at about $2500. I secured the application for permitting from Nstar today, who's current buy back rate is .0789c/kw.

I too have a home in SW Florida, good to see others thinking green however the last thing I would want is passive solar. Sure it's nice there now, but gross in the Summer and you do everything to keep the Sun out. Proper placement of the house, East facing rear so you don't melt on the lanai in the afternoon, trees in the right places, PGT windows with solar tinting, window treatments, reflective barrier under the plywood, full length ridge vents all play a role in helping to cool the house. People in SW Florida are slowly waking up to energy costs as FPL makes its latest move on increasing prices. As a matter of fact they just sent an email to that effect "due to Global energy prices". CNN has it that FPL needs a 19% increase in order to deal with the badly damaged infrastructure in Palm Beach county after Hurricane Wilma so the 9c/kw is going to be toast shortly. Glad to see the new 13 seer rule go into effect Jan 6, it made me cringe to tour new Ryland Group homes at Herron Creek ($400K and up) with 12 seer units.

Curious as to what others have to say.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2005 at 1:12AM
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I've got 2800w grid-tied system; with 4 kW inverter and a bank of Rolls S-460's. If you are doing this system yourself AND tieing into the grid . . either get it done by someone who's done it before; or ask LOTS of questions of the utility etc that you have to deal with. There ARE requirements that you have to follow; mainly redundancies beyond those already contained in the inverter. Sorry you haven't got better incentives; here for me in NY state; between the outright PV incentive and then the state and Fed tax credits/deductions it basically paid for about half the system.

There are better efficiency cells out there than currently being used for PV systems . . BUT . . due to their cost no one can afford / justify them in the qty required for "home" use . . . and they are not available in a from suitable for such installations. The best commercially available ( and affordable ) are the Sharps; which run at 14% PANEL efficiency . . . don't use the cell efficiency; panel efficiency is the whole module. A very efficient cell that doesn't use all the surface area of a module will not yield as much actual output . . . look the specs over carefully. I've got the Sharp 175's . . though they were hard to get. As I understand it lots are now in short supply; Europe has some $#%-kickin' incentives going, as well as requiring HIGHER green price is paid to net-generators by the utilities. Be prepared to wait / look; or to settle for less efficient stuff. And, you'll likely have to pay whatever price is being asked since demand is high and near capacity for most all mfr's.

I'll happily exchange "notes" / pix / whatever with you if you'd like, on any aspect of my system / setup. BTW; I've collected a bit over 2800 kWh of PV since 1/1/05 . . just paid for the first electricity since March; used a screaming 60 kWh last month to the tune of $5 . . . .

Good luck . . .


    Bookmark   December 24, 2005 at 7:50AM
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I am looking for house plans, specs & quanities for same, w/ a budget - anyone selling this?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 1:38PM
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