The Challenges And Sacrifices Made Living Off-Grid – by a 'climate denier'

Guest essay by Andi Cockroft

Is an email exchange after my recent essay on my personal weather station and the challenges of running it entirely off solar/battery power, WUWT publisher Anthony Watts had this to say:

How about an article “on all the challenges and sacrifices you’ve made living off-grid” said Anthony!

We can always point to that and say “look, a climate denier who lives sustainably!” said Anthony!

That should explode some heads” said Anthony!

Well, let’s see.

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Image from YouTube

First of all, let’s define my stance on Climate. I believe climate has always changed and will always change. I lived through the bitterly cold winters in England of the early 60’s. I remember tramping to school through a foot of snow. I remember the “Ice Age Is Coming” scare – ironically many of those same people are shouting CAGW today.

I remember in history lessons at school being taught of the Ice Fayres being held on the Thames when bull races and even bonfires were lit with Henry Tudor arriving by sleigh.

So it has been colder. We also know it has been warmer. Both without human intervention.

Watching the antics of the so-called scientists abandon the scientific method in favour of their models is frankly pathetic. My entire working life has been spent in IT, and I have done quite a bit of business modelling. Simply put you play with the parameters to get the business plan you want – Garbage In – Garbage Out. The model fits your needs. Same with Climate Models I suspect. Add to that the increasingly bizarre “adjustments” made to historical datasets and my doubts are further increased. it’s like saying our ancestors didn’t know how to measure temperature!

So do I trust models alone? Well surprisingly NO. It takes more than that.

Seeing that to date, not one single “Catastrophe Prediction” has come to pass, the shrills really don’t have that good a track record.

And incidentally, I do avoid the use of “Denier”, but I am and will always remain scientifically sceptical, as I think any free-thinking individual should be about anything – I even suspect theories on Dark Energy and Dark Matter to be seriously flawed but they’re the best we have till something else comes along.

But back to my living off-grid.

I chose my retirement lifestyle quite deliberately, more because of location than anything else. The remoteness of this place is everything I wanted. Sad about the local windfarm, but you can’t have everything!

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My New Zealand home is on the hills looking south from the bottom of the North Island across the Cook Strait to the South Island. At 400 metres elevation and 8.8 Km from the nearest tar seal (i.e. public road) behind 3 locked gates, the isolation and sense of “being” is exhilarating.

But as for Anthony’s request that I describe Challenges and Sacrifices? Well, they don’t really feel as such – but then again with Cyclone Gita currently heading this way as I write, maybe I will want to modify that thought overnight as Gita hits!

OK, but what are the basic essentials?

· Food

· Water

· Shelter

· Warmth

As in any species though these are the absolutes just to remain alive. But over and above that, there are things from a modern way of life that are simply must haves:-

· Cooking

· Electricity

· Phone

· PC

· Internet

· TV

· Hot Water

· Shower

But to get things started, my first thoughts (and maybe the next part of my adventure) was to build one of the new up and coming “Tiny Homes”. I drew plans, had everything worked out, but rapidly realised that what I wanted would be too big and heavy to be road-legal to tow on New Zealand’s roads. It would also have taken too long for me to build. Plus of course my 4×4 has a maximum towing capacity of 3½ tonnes. So something lighter was needed. My new setup weighs in at 2½ tonnes.

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Tiny Home – Too Heavy For Me

https://builderscrack.co.nz/blog/2015/03/18/tiny-home-movement-new-zealand/

Hence my acquisition of a rather elderly 1977 caravan (is that what our American brethren refer to as a trailer?)

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But although larger caravans are built much lighter, they contain what I call “toy furniture” and are designed to sleep six or more. The spaces are actually quite cramped and the seating very uncomfortable for anyone with arthritis such as myself.

So, the entire interior was stripped and replaced with full-sized fittings, including a permanent double bed, large fridge/freezer, gas oven, water heater and a coal fire.

In total, my new home has a total of 165 square feet of living space. Of course I also have lots of space outside to spread out.

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My three-seater leather reclining settee makes for extremely comfortable seating and quite easily sleeps a guest if need.

Two huge batteries and a five kilowatt inverter/charger completed the electrical side of things.

Outside I added a storage box on the back to hold a two kilowatt inverter generator and storage for two gas bottles. On the roof I added 500 watts of solar panels with an MPPT controller inside charging the batteries.

I also came across a second-hand air-conditioning unit that sits over the bedroom – but is rarely needed if I leave the doors and windows open.

Finishing things off are a fully automatic satellite dish that is push-button operated to locate the Optus D1 satellite – very handy when changing locations.

The whole rebuild and first adventures are documented on my website here

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The Finished Product

But things change, and due to ill health that has dogged me the past year or so, rather than being mobile exploring GodZone, it became necessary to find a permanent location – at least for a few years to get my health back in shape again. So here I am, at this ridiculously isolated location far from the madding crowd, and master of my own domain.

The whole area is set aside for Tiny Homes, but spread over a huge area, not parked up cheek-by-jowl. My nearest neighbour is about 2Km away. And as stated earlier, it’s 8.8km to the tar seal with three locked gates in the way to discourage all but the most ardent trespassers. I have had a couple in the year I’ve been here but having two large German Shepherds tends to discourage them.

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But Having Two Large German Shepherds Tends To Discourage Them – This Is The Youngest

There is an advantage of parking up permanently, and first it was the plentiful supply of water. This comes from a spring, completely untreated and is fed to a 1,000 litre storage tank about 20 metres above me. From here gravity into my home does the rest. And, it is the purest and most refreshing water comparable with mountain streams in the back blocks. It has the benefit of no added chemicals if you like that kind of thing.

So, comprehensive you might think, and so did I – but the next challenge I came across was lack of electricity. With Laptops and Cellphones, Kitchen Appliances and two TV’s – one being a 52” in the lounge – all placing a big drain. Couple that to the fact the solar panels lie flat on the roof so are not getting maximum sunshine.

But how to find a way to generate more electricity? The Inverter Generator is OK, but is quite expensive to run at about $5 per day (when there’s no sun), so a better way was needed. Of course that’s also burning fossil fuels – not that I care about CO2 but I do care about other pollutants.

Being located in “the Windy City” with some fairly consistent winds, it seemed logical to look at a wind generator. A 600 watt unit was ordered and installed with its own MPPT controller, but what a waste of time and money that turned out to be.

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Rated at 600 watts, the maximum I have managed to get out of it is less than 20 watts !!!!! So it was returned and a replacement unit installed and despite trying three different controllers, output still remains extremely low. Complete and utter waste of time.

Interestingly enough, the windmill generates very significant noise, but not infra-sound. This is simple mechanical noise and vibration as it turns. Can be very annoying and I will probably relocate it further away.

Having this experience behind me, my next acquisition then was a 750watt solar array with a second MPPT controller permanently mounted outside. I couldn’t possibly afford tracking hardware, so the panels are facing due north and inclined towards where the sun would be mid-day in mid-winter.

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Adding two more batteries with the solar panels means that I rarely have to run the generator these days and the four batteries now have between them sufficient storage to keep me going a couple of days with no sun.

This brings my total solar array up to 1.25Kw through two separate MPPT controllers (and virtually none from wind)

Being permanently located also afforded me the opportunity to add other things. Since I am not a great fan of showers, and I really missed my bath, I decided the time was right to build one.

No room inside, but plenty of unused space outside. Especially sheltered around the back of the caravan.

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An Outside Bath Far Better Than A Shower

Cold water comes directly from the spring, hot water from the water heater in the caravan. It takes a while to fill, and really only for use in fine weather, but it is incredibly refreshing and I spend ages soaking until I start to wrinkle like a prune.

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Cheap led Xmas lights provide mood lighting after dusk.

Probably the final addition (to date) has been adding a barbeque. One came up in the Xmas sales at half price, so I spent several days assembling it – I should have read the instructions where it said “two person assembly”!

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But it became rapidly evident that the winds up here make lighting and running a gas barbeque problematic. So not to be outdone, two windbreaks were added to help things along. Even so it can’t be used on a really windy day.

Now do I have any challenges and sacrifices?

Well yes there are challenges, but I feel I’ve overcome most of those, and living in a small space of just 165 square feet is actually pretty cool – housework takes no time at all. Once you’ve worked out what you actually must have and get rid of everything else, it’s amazing how small a space you can get away with.

Sacrifices? They don’t feel like sacrifices. I move out of a 1000 square foot home about 2 years ago, and whilst life here is different, it is on the whole far more enjoyable. I can integrate seamlessly with the outdoors or hunker down during bad weather.

New Zealand’s central region climate is quite comfortable all year round. In 30 years I’ve been in GodZone, I’ve only experienced snow in Wellington once. But I do suspect up her at 400 metres I might expect some at some stage.

As for right this instant, Cyclone Gita has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but winds “in exposed places” are expected to reach 130Kph, so time to batten down the hatches and make sure all loose things are secured outside.

I’ll continue this after the storm abates…..

Post Script to Tropical Storm Gita

Well, that was a non-event, with my weather station recording only 75Km here in my hilltop location. Earlier this month on the 2nd of February, I had 105Km, and I have had much worse during last winter (the southern hemisphere winter that is) with gusts up to 160Km.

It seems as though Gita tracked a lot further south, and caused mayhem in the South Island. A State of Emergency has been declared in many locations, so I am pretty lucky to be been spared the worst the weather gods had to offer.

My thoughts go out to all those so tragically affected, not only here in New Zealand, but all throughout the Pacific Region.

Andi

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105 thoughts on “The Challenges And Sacrifices Made Living Off-Grid – by a 'climate denier'

    • Just saying, I would suggest you move the BBQ away from side of your new home. I’m an old fire chief and have seen a few mishaps with grills placed against buildings. Best of luck.

      • While you may be exempt as a single family structure, the 10 foot rule is one I swear by.
        “2009 NFPA 1 section 10.11.6 For other than one and two family dwellings, no hibachi, grill, or other similar devices used for cooking, heating, or any other purpose shall be used or kindled on any balcony, under any overhanging portion, or within 10 feet of any structure.”

    • The wires are thick enough for 600W, but the device generates max 30W? I guess the more Watts rating says, the more it sells. Cheap Chinese trick.

      • It possibly could generate 600W with absolute maximum wind speed, ie. hurricane force winds…at least for awhile, before it self-destructed from the wind force.

      • They all do that. They are rated near some max speed they can withstand, and the power generated is proportional with the cube of the wind speed, so if the wind speed is half of that, they generate 8x less power. Now imagine that the wind blows at a quarter of the wind speed they rated the turbine at (typically can be something like 80 km/h or more).

    • Likely the same issue as the automobile industries “Estimated MPG” usually being far more than actual averaged mileage per tank. My Durango gets around 16 – 18MPG driving on city streets @ 45MPH and around 20 – 21MPG driving down the highway @ 60 MPH but averages 9.9 – 10MPG per tank.

  1. Andi, good for you finding your little piece of heaven on earth. I am curious though what your setup for sanitation is, you know taking care of your number two. I have been composting for 5 years and have found the bucket method to be the easiest way to have a toilet inside and transport waste to our compost area outside. For two people we have a total accumulation of one cubic meter of composted “dirt” left over. I should try to calculate how much water that saved by not flushing a toilet!
    If anyone else is interested in the subject look up “humanure” in a search engine. Cheers!

    • I used to use the bucket method at the beach. I’ll never live down the time I exited the van to do my business followed by the heavens opening like during the days of Noah. Many years later I can still hear the uproarious laughter coming from inside the van while I sat there with a completely soaked roll of TP wondering what to do.

    • Hi Brian
      I have a macerator toilet leading into a 100 litres black waste tank. But that needs emptying every two weeks or so – of course now that I have a static location I can’t simply tow the caravan to the nearest dump station. So the fancy toilet lies unused (and the toilet compartment is used simply as a cupboard). I have a chemical toilet with a cassette I take to the dump station every week or so. Perhaps I could compost on site, but haven’t thought of that yet. Maybe later.
      ..and as for number 1’s, I use the same facilities outside as the dogs !! Unless of course it’s raining.
      Cheers
      Andi

      • Andi, thanks for the reply. If you had said you had an incinerator toilet I would have been jealous with envy! I am not familiar with chemical toilets though.
        Definitely check out composting, it will save you the trips to town. And despite what many people think it is not smelly if done properly. The trick is adding a good mix of brown and green (dead brown carbon containing material like leaves and nitrogen containing green material like fresh cut grass). Cover it with a good amount of hay and you will not know it is there. The heat created by the composting process kills every nasty thing.

  2. I’m surprised with all of that wind that you don’t get better output from your wind turbine. You seem to have some steep terrain. Any chance of hydro with a pelton wheel generator?

  3. I’m curious about your septic arrangements. Though unsavory, it should have made your “needs” list.

  4. A cabin in the woods sounds idyllic but the nasty reality is that it’s too far from the doctor, dentist, and physiotherapist. If you lose the ability to drive, you’re really stuck. link I’m staying in the city.

    • Yeah. I live near my family physician, dermatologist, cardiologist, dentist and two hospitals. Not to mention my wife’s lady things specialist. And her knee joint guy. Oh, and my colonoscopist.
      You have just read my social calendar.
      Old guys get no breaks.

    • I live in reasonably rural England.
      I get better faster service from the doctor here than when I was in a town. I am also nearer IN TIME to the major hospitals than I would be living in the cities they are in largely because they are off- centre and in centre traffic is a nightmare.
      Mostly I don’t bother with towns much – a bit of supermarket shopping. Online purchases for almost everything else.
      In fact I could do the supermarket shopping online as well, but I like to get out once in a while.
      There is no radio or Terrestrial TV here or mobile phone coverage. A previous occupant put up a satellite dish, which works for TV and although the exchange is 2.5 miles away I get about 4.5Mbps download for broadband and 1 Mbps upload.
      Through the magic of ‘wifi calling;’ I now have a mobile smart-phone that works here. I can whatsapp my family in Germany Australia and South Africa. And my friends in the USA.
      Looking out of the window here, is a field full of sheep and a church a half a mile away, and that’s it.
      An oil tanker delivers fuel, and an 11KV overheard and a large transformer up a pole delivers reliable volts to me and 3 other properties there are nearly all there is on this road. Ok there is the old rectory up by the church, and it leads to a massive old mansion now owned by oil sheikhs who I never see.
      A car just went by the house. That’s the first one since lunchtime.
      I can’t answer for New Zealand, but here in the UK rural living is far and away better than living in a town.
      It will take me no longer to get to Hyde park to see Eric Clapton than it would from within London itself.
      once I needed to cross London. I reached the edge in an hour (65 miles): It took me 2 1/2 hours to travel the next 20 miles to my destination in the city. I could have been in Bristol more quickly

      • Leo Smith
        I’ll second that, having moved from rural Scotland (only 8 miles from Glasgow) to Dartford in Kent 30 years ago.
        I have regularly spent several hours negotiating 3 or 4 miles, one record being over an hour to drive several hundreds yards along Princes Road in Dartford. I darent think about the days wasted on the South and North Circular.
        We are retiring home to Scotland, probably the Borders or Dumfries.

      • hotscot,dumfries and galloway is my favourite part of the uk. excellent fishing for a multitude of species both fresh and salt plus what appears to be its own warmer micro climate compared to here on the fife coast. the low population and stunning scenery is just a bonus.

    • totally depends on the location you pick, buggered if I am going to live my life clinging to and feeding the medical industry. If it gets to that stage I am outta here!

  5. It’s quite possible to achieve the same self-sufficiency but in a more fixed situation. Our own home is a modest cabin of around 500 sq ft. We have a wood burning stove (£50 annual licence to collect wood from the surrounding forest) and bottled gas for water heating and cooking (£120/year). Water and sewage are from our private systems (£75/year for collective maintenance fees) so the only ‘discrepancy’ is electricity (we’re currently on the national grid). I do have nearby access to a small water flow that may be sufficient to establish a micro hydro system. My calculations show about 5kW at maximum flow, 600W at minimum but a decent battery bank will make that more reliable.
    It would be wonderful to achieve total independence but our limited resources mean gathering the funds/equipment to do the micro-hydro is currently beyond us 🙁
    Things, however, do change so – fingers crossed!

      • A car alternator is a poor substitute for for a PMA which will serve much batter for this purpose, Car alternators are much more prone to failure. But if a car alternator is the only thing you have, it can be made to work.

      • Car alternators are remarkably inefficient devices – around 20%. The larger-frame alternators fitted to some trucks and buses are better but not very much better. It pays to hunt around.

      • Hi
        The spring water I have does not have sufficient volume to run any kind of turbine. Good pressure by storing in a header tank but not enough for anything else.
        Andi

  6. It demonstrates very well that living ‘off grid’ is mostly no such thing. No criticism (since this is no warmist) but this is a very modern society camping trip (albeit a very pleasant and extended one). All the things that are making life viable are from the grid. Many warmists dream of this style of simple living but just the point of the nearest neighbour being 2k away is unsustainable if we all did it.
    In terms of stuff, it shows that some people can survive with very little but there are the compensations of the land, the views and the furry friends. For some this is heaven, for others it would be hell. As sceptics we can understand that but warmists think that their utopia is supported by almost everyone but nasty, oil funded mosters. They fail to understand how much we rely on the grid for almost everything we need and want.

    • Indeed, that’s what I was thinking, this shows that for society as a whole, this is unsustainable. Consider yourself one of the Lucky ones Andi.

    • I live well on 20 remote acres in the US Midwest. No utility lines cross the property border. I still have all the power, water and internet anyone else has. You really can’t tell the difference if you do it right.

  7. Great story, thanks. NZ is indeed one of the most interesting places on earth to live.
    So what about internet? We know that the pyramid of life essentials goes: air – wifi – water – food – etc.

    • I get 3G from a tower not that far away, but with a decent yagi antenna I can get 4G from about 12km away. This give me pretty variable speeds depending on how many other users are connected. As a Ferry goes past on the Strait, speeds drop quite sharply. But I always have enough to watch Netflix!

  8. If I could lop some time off my age, I would also be looking for some way to live in a less complicated setup. I know that there are people who are doing that, aiming at complete self-sufficiency, with a plan to stay that way.
    It isn’t even the size of the dwelling that matters so much. it’s how the place functions as a living space, and meets your needs. I’ve seen lots of floor plans for small log homes that are more than sufficient for me, but I’m content with what I have right now, in regard to location and available transportation.
    It’s a good point that Andy has two companions, even if they bark instead of giggling. It is not healthy to be completely isolated. It’s also a good idea to keep a daily journal, no matter how innocuous that may seem, and have contact with people outside your immediate area.
    I’ve been surprised at how many people have attempted to move off the grid, but still find themselves in need of electricity, heat (gas or oil), telecommunications, and all the other things that we take for granted now. I have a very good friend who lives in what we call a large camper trailer that allows him to move whenever he needs to, and he’s happy because it meets his needs and allows him to live in comfort and good health.
    Maybe the real lesson here is that one about materialism: do you really need that big, overbuilt, overpriced house, or are you just feeding a weak ego?
    That’s a good article, Andy. I wish you good health and happiness.

    • In re: the turbine not spinning fast enough and making noise: it could be bad bearings, but a lubricant similar to WD-40, which is made with fish oil, might solve the problem

    • Sara, I am getting ready to downsize, selling off a 2140sq ft family home and replacing it with a 1000 sq ft home tucked away in a somewhat more rural area of our already rural town in New Hampshire. The new place is a ‘gut job’, replacing wiring, insulation, and windows in order to make it much more energy efficient.
      Considering it isn’t uncommon for us to lose power during heavy snow/ice storms the new place will have some PV panels and batteries as supplemental/emergency power (along with a propane-fired inverter gen set). It also has both a propane forced hot water furnace and wood stove for heating. (I much prefer the woodstove as all I need to do to get my fuel is put in some time rather than money.)
      While not exactly off the grid, I am greatly reducing my energy needs and should the “fit hit the shan” I figure I can go quite some time without having to resort to living in the 19th century. I won’t exactly be a hermit (I am too outgoing to become one of those), but I will be away from much of the hustle and bustle, what there is of it, in our small town.

      • DCE
        You might want to consider a ‘rocket mass heater’ or one of its variants.
        Google it and you’ll find reference to it easily. It seems extremely efficient although most look rough and ready, but with a bit of imagination could be unobtrusive and attractive. I think there’s a Norwegian variant which is very attractive.

  9. Good for you Andi. I am also off-grid, but living in the middle of the forest. 400 sq ft cabin at the moment, but working on a 700 sq ft home. Power supplied bu solar, wind, and gasoline generator. No running water (as yet) I bring it in 55 gallons at a time from my neighbor’s house two miles up the road. So I am aware of the “challenges” (if you want to call them that) of living away from civilization. Also being a climate realist, the best part for me is getting away from the madness of the mob, and that makes all the little “challenges” seem insignificant.
    Here’s the big issue with so called green energy solutions-
    What the manufacturer lists as output, is the MAXIMUM output that you will ever see under absolutely perfect conditions. What you will actually see on a day to day basis will be only a fraction of that number. As an example- my solar array has a manufacturer listed output of 26 amps, the reality of it is that the best I have ever seen it put out under perfect conditions (a bright sunny day with the sun right at the edge of a cloud) is 22 amps. Turbines are the worst for this,
    Enjoy life, and keep up the good work!

  10. Hence my acquisition of a rather elderly 1977 caravan (is that what our American brethren refer to as a trailer?)

    Yes, we call them “trailers” or “mobile homes” if they’re really large. If you site a bunch of them together, then we call them “tornado bait”.

      • “Motor Homes” have their own engine. A “mobile home” in the US is basically anything that can be moved.

      • even though it’s a brand name, everyone I know calls the ones with their own motors Winnebago’s. Even if they’re not really Winnebago’s proper.

      • The ones with engines are called “motorhomes” in the US. “Mobile homes” usually refers to large trailers that can be moved from site to site but are not recreational vehicles that you tow by cars or pickup trucks. What he has we just call “trailers” or “travel trailers”.

      • I many campgrounds (in Canada) I’ve heard people with trailers and motor-homes talk about their “units”.

      • You know you’re a redneck when your car is on blocks and your house is on wheels.

      • this is terminology used by the owners and users- vacationers and full.timers.
        if it was towed, it’s a trailer.
        if it’s got the wheels on it, it’s a camper (caravan in eu, i think)
        if the wheels are only for moving it and after that it’s put on blocks, it’s a mobile home.
        if you drive it cuz it’s got a motor, it’s a motor home.

      • Bear says “travel trailers”
        That is correct in most instances, because we live in a rural area where cattle and horses are common. Thus, there a many types of just “trailers” about.
        We purchased an older travel trailer, much as is Andi’s, and have an F350 to pull it.
        We live in wildfire country** and once in awhile the authorities come by and suggest we relocate for a few days.
        We are all set to do that.
        **east slope of the Cascades in Washington State.
        The last 150 years has seen infilling of trees and shrubs — read that as fuel.
        The region’s people-that-know say “Expect mega-fires.” Remember this when they are blamed on global warming. Fire = fuel, oxygen, a spark.

  11. Thanks for this post. I’m seriously thinking about getting off the grid before long, because the left are so determined to destroy it. The main reason I haven’t done so already is because I don’t want to freeze to death in -40 winters. A bit of ‘Global Warming’ will make it much more manageable.

  12. I spent 8 years very much off grid, on my 40Ft. yacht, in New Guinea & Solomon Island waters mostly. In 1974 to 82 I did not have internet to worry about, even sat nav was too expensive back then for a private yacht. Refrigeration & cooking were done with gas. This gas was my limiting factor. Full I had 3 months capacity, but there were only 6 towns in the area which could be relied on to have gas available. Filling the gas could involve a few hundred miles of sailing & a few days. Most plantations could spare a little petrol or diesel.
    It had an 8 HP diesel engine, really only capable of move the thing around in port, or in flat calm. This was fitted with a 45 amp alternator for battery charging, but was not pleasant to listen to, so rarely used. I set my dinghy up to sail, so avoided needing too much petrol for the outboard. Most battery charging was with a Honda generator. About 3 litres of fuel would give a weeks lighting & power for the radio & tape player. On night passages I would have to run the main engine for a couple of hours a night to give enough battery charge for navigation lights.
    Everything including lights was 12 volt, except the electronic organ, which ran on 9 volts.
    I tried a wind generator, which even in the trade wind belt was useless, [it was 1974], & is now entertaining the fish on the bottom of the Coral sea. I also tried a couple of solar panels, which were reasonably useful at anchor, but so much nuisance at sea I gave them to a plantation owner.
    It was a much simpler set up than Andi, but allowed me to explore many areas few have seen since the end of WW11.

  13. maybe I missed it but I saw no grey water/septic system mentions.
    also…did you pay lower price for solar panels due to subsidization ? I have no idea what goes on for that stuff in NZ.

    • I kind of avaoided the “unpleasant” side of things – perhaps I shouldn’t. But grey water simply goes 20 metres away into a gully as soak. I have responded above to the same quetion about black, but I use a chemical toilet for number 2’s – number 1’s go outside if weather permits.
      Cheers
      Andi

  14. We live in a motorhome. We are back on the grid in Shreveport, La for a month just in time for flash flood warnings which is followed by mosquito season. This home base includes lots of family and the family cardiologist.
    When hospitals and cardiologists are off grid, then claims of being off grid may have some meaning.
    My wife’s sister and husband met us at Crystal Beach which is east Galveston. We were parked our motor home on the sand with constant wind and salt air off the Gulf of Mexico. We are frugal with our use of electricity when using the four large ‘golf cart batteries’. The alternator on the engine will fully charge the batteries after about 100 miles of driving.
    We time running our propane generator during heavy use periods when we are less likely to be bothered by the noise. It takes about an hour a day. On Sunday, the generator was running rough but got the job done despite the water dripping in the generator compartment. I do not think the three expensive pieces of electronic controls like salt air.
    The push button ignitor for the gas stove and barbecue grill also stopped working. I blow torch works great. Later on Sunday the gas/electric fridge started beeping. It has an electronic control board to start the ignitor. Had to turn it off.
    By Sunday night, the GFCI providing 120 vac tripped and would not latch. No TV, no coffee maker, no toaster. What to do? Oh wait, when camping when the kids were little we did not have electronic control boards and TVs. We had board games and then enjoyed the campfire.
    Now that we are away from the salt air everything is working that was working before.

  15. Very interesting. But I’ll just settle for being “on” the grid, but using as little as necessary. Not because I foolishly think that’s saving the world, but because it saves money.

  16. Excellent post, Andi. I had been following your adventures on facebook, but noticed few postings from you of late. That could be because of Zuckerburg’s latest algorithms, or you may have found it a waste of valuable energy.
    Love the German Shepards. I really miss mine. He lived to 15 years. Smartest dog I have ever had the pleasure of taking care of ( I did not feel I owned him, as we were more friends than dog and owner ).
    Keep up the fight for common sense.
    DB

  17. Andi,
    Congrats on your new lifestyle adventure. I will be attempting mine (yet again) and if successful in selling my property (house) have plans to go small and mobile. My plans are to convert a ‘car/toy hauler’. 30′ – 32′ with a 12-15′ mud room in rear for tools, utensils, motorcycle, etc. Full refrigerator, dishwasher (gotta have that one) , roll-up awning on side, you get the picture. One bed to accommodate 2 and floor space to accommodate 2 dogs. That’s it! Home will be where I park!

  18. Great article! Love the tricks, and the location, wow!! One my hobbies is RC slope soaring and you have an *epic* location for that, god it would be awesome to be able to fly at home.

  19. The timing on this article is amazing. is there a God?
    As a long time electronic engineer with ‘curiosity’ I’ve been experimenting with solar panels and batteries for few years now.
    Just a bunch of 80W panels and some old car batteries – ones I scrounged off a friend’s garage business as they waited for their trip call to the recycling yard. Pretty well dead for starting car/van/tractor engines but still with a bit of spark to drive some LED lights around my garden during the evening.
    Sometime on Sunday afternoon, some thieving little low-life has been through and pinched the batteries.
    Oh the joys of ‘remote locations’

    • having the habit of hauling a 35AH battery to campsites, for 2-4 day campouts, for recharging cell phones and laptops for self and friends, i find it quite industrious of some enterprising young thief to steal a car battery.

  20. Add some of the very inexpensive outdoor solar powered landscape lights. Not only to light the grounds but you can take them inside for use as bathroom night lights.

    • I am copying Andi. You should see the stars on a dark night when the lights are out. They are like a thick fog. I had forgotten how glorious a night sky without light pollution can be. There are great solar powered torches, but my wife and I regularly walk under the light of the moon and stars.

    • OK, Nick Piggly Wiggly? Not many in this forum would know what that is. It would take a true South Carolinian to know about them. I lived in a small community, or used to be small, that had a mini-mart named Hoggly Woggly.

      • Somebody told me that Dolly Parton bought Big Star Groceries, Piggly Wiggly, and Harris Teeters and is going to call the new stores Big Wiggly Teeters.

    • Hi Nick
      I try not to go out too often, but I have to visit the pharmacy every week for medication, so that is one trip. Plus I like fresh food, so make another trip as and when I need bread, vegetables, meat etc. It is about 10Km to the local shops (darned expensive) or 16Km to a supermarket.
      If I do get stuck here with road slips or snow, I have enough tinned stuff to keep me and the dogs going for a fortnight.
      Cheers
      Andi

      • Shortly after escaping from USAR/RVN (4/’72) I shared a semi-wilderness house for several months with sister and future ex-brother-in-law on Sugar Loaf road just west of Boulder.
        Ever seen opening credits for Mork & Mindy? Yeah, that Boulder Canyon.
        For a few weeks rode a bicycle down/up canyon to/from swing shift junk mail job in town, 4 pm to 1 am. Rode up canyon in dark. Quite an experience. Eventually managed an old VW bus.
        Several amazing adventures in blowing snow. Frozen water pipes. Power outages.
        The dependence on reliable transportation should not be underestimated.
        Idyllic for the young and idealistic.
        Met several hippies bumming rides who were really into rustic.

  21. Nice story. We’re a bit further south and west. My ‘off grid’ three bedroom house has a woodstove for heat, another woodstove for cooking/hot water, 4 burner gas stove and oven, instant gas water heater, 1.4 kW of solar, 20 kWh (6 usable) of batteries, and a diesel gen that is used for an hour a day in the depths of winter to bring the batteries up to full charge. We rarely use more than 2 kWh (last time I measured it) in a day unless I am using an electric chainsaw or moving a lot of water around. We are of course reliant on fossil fuels for many jobs, that’s why off-grid is in quotes. We get through a 45kg bottle of gas in 3-4 months If the batteries are fully charged in summer then I switch the electric hot water service on.
    The electricity part of the system would not have been feasible 20 years ago as things like TVs and lights and computers and vacuum cleaners (a particular source of peak power usage) used more power. Wind power is a non starter for me, we live in a sheltered valley, and I hate noises like that.
    The biggest single visible cost is buying firewood in, but that is dwarfed by the actual cost to me of cutting up trees, so these days I only cut up the ones I have to.
    Water is rain, we’ve got 8000 gallons of tanks. I have had to buy water in once in 5 years as it often doesn’t rain from January to May in any useable fashion (it’s raining as I type but it won’t even move the needle on the level indicator ). Sewage is a septic tank which feeds into a network of pipes in the paddock. Hasn’t needed any attention in 5 years, touch wood.
    I don’t actually log the performance of the solar/battery system, so long as the battery hits 54.4V float every day that’s all i need to know. I’d switch to grid electricity but ‘they’ say it will cost $70000 to put a grid connection in, which given that I can see the power line for my neighbor is a little hard to believe. Town gas, water, sewage, cable internet are all non-starters as well. Internet is satellite, although wireless broadband works well, it just costs a lot.
    So overall, living in a fossil fuel aided off grid house is quite feasible, and doesn’t really have any downsides except that you have to take responsibility for sorting out stuff that in a normal house just happens. It isn’t especially cheap unless you cut all your own firewood.

  22. Good on you Andi. Love your country.
    I’m in Australia where renewable nonsense has pushed electricity prices up and reliability down. We have just achieved our interim occupancy on our new home. We are in the middle of the suburbs, and for purely cost/benefit reasons, we are totally of grid, with 10kw of solar, and 20kw of usable battery storage.
    When researching for the system I had to keep a vomit bucket handy because of the green drivel often associated with solar and battery websites.

  23. As a second Post Script, I have discovered that some dear friends of mine exploring the South Island by caravan have been cut off by huge landslips left behind by Tropical Storm Gita.
    Located in Takaka in Golden Bay it’s likely the only road will be closed for many days. With 6,000 people stranded there, supplies are being ferried on by barge.
    But they’re fine thankfully and keeping in touch – at least Internet is working for them.
    Andi

    • Nice part of the world in the South Island, we spend a bit of time in the Nelson/Marlbourough region on hols from Oz. The rest aint to shabby either 🙂

  24. Andi, I wish you success in your venture.
    I grew up off grid in Perthshire Scotland 1950s – 1970s. We were off grid in those days, no electricity of any sort, gas lights in some rooms and 2 rings for cooking supplied by bottled gas, water from spring and a septic tank for disposal. Hot water from a range stove fuel by whatever we could afford of forage, coal, wood,peat and some winters anything that would burn. Later we had a shared line telephone to connect us to civilisation.
    Most winters were harsh, thank goodness for a bit of global warming, battling frozen pipes and digging snow most winters. But thanks to Rayburn hot water and warm food weren’t rationed. In summer water could be an issue for us even in Scotland, and having ample hot water for washing meant lighting the fire, again possibly not what you’d want even in a Scottish summer.
    The idea of cheap PV and wind generated electricity and LED lights was pure science fiction. Even better a source of power to move heat round the house. One of the most valuable purchases made was an Aladdin paraffin lamp, heat as well as a decent amount of light.
    Nothing on God’s Earth could persuade me to give up a constant and reliable electricity voluntarily. I always have one and half winters worth of wood available at the end of summer and a full 1 tonne cistern of gas. The thought of having to carry a weeks food on a bicycle sends a shiver down my spine just thinking about it.
    The situation you describe is technically off-grid but not off 21st century, trying living off 20th/21st century is a different kettle of fish.

  25. It is never cheap to use Solar and batteries but you can have power 24/7. This statement would be a little stupid a few years back but the governments today seem hell bent on destroying mains power with their unattainable quest to go renewables. The latest from the Sth Australian Premier is a 75% renewable mandate. Cheap power anyone? The present joke is that the sale of candles is about to sky rocket!

  26. Thank you for your post Andi. Love your set up.
    My wife and I are transitioning to a fully off grid for our retirement. It is on an Island in Tropical Central Queensland, 14 kms from town and the grid. We have solar charging a 3Kw inverter, sufficient for our needs. We do not have a heater, nor air conditioning. We use big 12V ceiling fans for cooling. There is a TV, two laptops, a toaster, battery vacuum cleaner, a microwave and an electric kettle. We get adequate 3G & TV from the nearest tower 16 kms away. We use gas for the stove and water heater, one cylinder lasts 6 months. Water comes from big rainwater tanks. Sewerage goes to a septic tank and to a trench – which is now feeding a passion fruit vine and herbs. The back neighbors trench seepage is feeding newly planted fruit trees down the back. Grey water goes to a trench feeding a front flower garden. The three-bedroom house is on a tiny block in a tiny village of like-minded retirees, all off grid, giving us a bit of a support network. We all encourage visitors, mainly family (gets noisy on holidays). All the permanents and semi permanents are planting small vegi gardens fertilised with wild horse droppings (they run with the kangaroos through town) and seaweed.
    The city based Greenies hate our coal and gas port and have campaigned to close it. They get very angry in the press because repeat investigations repeatedly fails to find environmental damage. The harbour it is full of fish, giant nesting sea turtles, sea grass, millions of birds and there is a dolphin pod. Dugong unfortunately do not play well with speed boats, but are making a return. Crocodiles stay away from the populated areas.. Wild life is thriving in town with birds cattle, horses, kangaroos, snakes, possums, giant goannas and so on. I live in fear that one day our idiot socialist politicians will clear the local National Park and plant wind turbines, destroying local habitat, they are under tremendous pressure to do so.
    We consider ourselves lucky. The verandah overlooks the swimming beach and harbour. If we need to get away, we have a tiny solar and gas powered camper. There is a regular ferry service.
    There is only one Greenie, and that house has a very noisy huge generator. Fortunately she only needs it for visitors and rarely stays for long. Only sceptics are fully off grid. Greenies don’t come here much. My impression is they hate off grid living out of town.

  27. While plenty have, and do, I have never experienced the lure of ‘off grid’ and living as far out there away from it all as one can imagine. I don’t get it. I don’t disparage it either, but for me ‘cabin fever’ is real, man.

  28. the original poster and all commenters who claim to be “off grid” are not even close to being off the grid. you all use gas and buy batteries and solar panels. you are still fully attached to the grid. look up you tube “primitive technologies”. that fellow can show you what “off grid” means. you all are reduced grid only.

    • Hi CJ
      Yes, you are quite correct, I do still crave the modern luxuries such as electricity, TV, microwave, internet etc. But I am definitely NOT connected to any man-made grid. As far as that goes I am off-grid. I can burn wood if I want but it gives poor heating output from my little stove, so I do buy coal because of its heat output. I don’t hunt for meat, nor do I grow or forage for vegetables – they are all bought in.
      So OK, I am still reliant on western civilisation to maintain my lifestyle. But again free of the big bills and annoying neighbours that this brings.
      And of course, if I was truly 3rd-world off-grid I wouldn’t be able to monitor and contribute to WUWT now would I?
      Andi

    • Look up Dick Proenneke who lived out in the wilderness in Alaska. There are a couple of documentary films about him. He didn’t claim to be “off the grid” or whatever, he wasn’t interested in making a statement. But it’s amazing what a person can do with a few hand tools, a fishing rod and a rifle. Lived like a king with a million dollar view and exclusive neighborhood. Even when it was -40 F in the middle of winter.

  29. would it not be lovely if all 7 billion earth inhabitants pooped and peed outside with no waste treatment. the joys of “off grid “living. way worse for the environment than on grid living. “off grid” may save you some money…maybe.

    • pollution of the sort you mention is only possible with high population density- i.e., it’s a city problem.
      so is most crime, i think.
      owners take care of their stuff. renters are eternal dependents. this breeds a whole host of other problems.
      any weekend, i can hear automatic weapons fire from people having fun in the distance. out here everybody has his own well and septic system. i think everybody moved out here so they didn’t have to hear people telling them how to live. i think this maga.

    • cj,
      Unlike you not everyone believes that everyone must be exactly like everyone else. Clones, sheep, liberals, etc. You don’t have to think or be like me and I certainly will not be like you. Now, exactly where does a bear sh*t?

      • so there are 7 billion bears in the woods? where does my comment talk about ” everyone must be exactly like everyone else” ? the original poster has no septic system. if 7 billion people go that route than disease will follow. that used to work when human numbers were much fewer . This has nothing to due with cities or “Clones, sheep, liberals, etc. You don’t have to think or be like me and I certainly will not be like you. “

      • Hi CJ
        Well I do have a septic system. I use a chemical system that is periodicall emptied at a local dump station as and when I visit “civilisation”.
        Cheers
        Andi

      • I already knew where a bear ‘goes’.
        Now I know where you ‘went’.
        LOL and please use the septic system in your clean-up.

  30. I’m amazed at the number of posters here who like remote areas.
    My wife and I have property adjacent to New Hampshire’s Mt Cardigan state forest, some 50 acres with a Pacific Yurts 24′ yurt. And we’re selling it. If anyone is interested, check out http://neren.paragonrels.com/publink/default.aspx?GUID=78bf47eb-4159-4371-9175-a774aae089f4
    No power, but not too hard to get in, there’s a good spot for a house with pretty long driveway. Yurt has propane fridge and stove, wood stove for heat. It’s recovering well from being overlogged, has a stream that could be used for high head/low flow electricity. Cell phone coverage marginally works without external antenna.
    Google |Contact Ric Werme| for my Email address or figure it out from my WWW page.

    • “I’m amazed at the number of posters here who like remote areas.”
      Cities serve less and less purpose, except as concentration camps for idiots. We’re starting to see the smart people move back to the country before the cities inevitably collapse under the weight of unsustainable idiocy.

  31. I purchased 10 acres in a remote rural area 20 years ago, $500 an acre back then. I found a 1958 Airstream in a field, filled the tires with air and dragged it 110 miles, the tires are still holding air. I had power ran to the lot for $5,500, today they want $12,000 for the same 1,000 foot run. I’m 1.8 miles from a county dirt road and purchased a grader to maintain the access road and plow snow during the winter. I have enough food storage to last months with wheat, rice, chest freezer full of chicken, pork and beef. KitchenAid 6 quart blender makes bread in seconds, fresh wheat bread from a stone grinder. I tried off grid but the existing wind generators suck and the wind around here is not predictable, none for days then 80 mph gusts. I helped a neighbor setup a solar system with batteries in old chest freezers, tracking panels but even after $7,000 they would still have to run propane generator to keep the lights on. Note: They live 3.5 miles from a power line and were quoted $146,000 to run power to their lot. I found a company that makes hand crank well pumps and purchased one, they have a DC motor that runs off solar if your lazy. My electric well pump is the main electricity cost, the local power company works on peak surge rates. As it stands I travel into town, 160 miles round trip, once a month for fresh produce and a haircut. I have a septic tank system for waste, I had to attend a week long course and get certified by the State so I could do a perk test in this remote area.
    Do I miss my house, the smog, and the property taxes in Salt Lake City, no. And I really don’t miss the ability to run to the store every time I can’t find something or want something, I’m still digging through rubbermaid containers finding stuff I forgot I owned from 20 years ago.

  32. That’s awesome Andi, and I am slightly envious as I know the area well as well as having lived in Wellington for the best part of 10 years as you know. I really dislike living in Sydney.

  33. @ Andi. The max theoretical power of an aerogenerator P = a.d^2.v^3
    where P = power in Watts, a = density of air = 1.2 kg/m^3 (at sea level), d= blade diameter in metres, v = wind speed in m/s.
    So, given that you can measure the blade diameter, you can work out the max
    power you might expect for any given wind speed. 🙂

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