Monday, April 8, 2013

Guest Post - Off Grid Housing in Southwestern Ontario

Though he has been unable to officially join our group (for awhile at least), we were quite pleased to have Carl Bottema join us for a couple meetings as a guest.  Wanting to be engaged with our group, he oferred at one point to write a blog entry on something he was truly interested in and I happily agreed.  It's our hope that he will join us a little later...perhaps the fall?  Carl?  -- Tim Norton (President)
Off Grid Housing in Southwestern Ontario
The age old saying has never seemed so true; A penny saved is a penny earned. Although this saying is applied to a variety of applications it can also be situated in the sentence of off grid housing. When a person has decided to go off the grid, they are taking a large step in decreasing their dependency of being on the grid as well as being free from the monthly costs of energy to operate the home.

When deciding upon going off the grid, analyzing the current loads within the home are required to understand these demands.  The energy saved within your home results in little need to generate fossil fuel or renewable energy.   Even if you are connected to the grid, having these conservative and efficient strategies will equate to lower energy bills. By creating a home with energy efficient appliances and strategic building design will reduce renewable energy system expenses or eliminate the need for backup power.

Those that are aware of the appliances in which they are using and what needs to be used and when, can help you adjust habits to minimize household energy use.  In order to determine which appliances is most energy efficient, it’s those that require no energy input.  This may seem too easy but by simply hanging clothes to dry on a clothesline instead of using a dryer saves energy. The next strategy is to use energy efficient appliances.  Evaluating the key energy losses within a home are crucial for reducing the loads with these are the Electronics, HVAC equipment, and well-sealed home.

Once an understanding of the loads within the home have been determined it can be reduce by consciously knowing that their using a great amount of energy and detrimental for an off grid house.   By making this little bit of effort throughout the entire house ensures that there is little energy used for living inside the home.  Incorporating structurally insulated panels, passive solar design, energy efficient appliances and heat recovery ventilators significantly reduce your dependence on the grid.

For an off grid house to operate effectively and consistently it must be supported by a consistent renewable energy supply for the system to be seamless.  The energy supply needs to be strong enough to support the loads within the home.  There are the typical ways of generating electricity which include photovoltaic, wind energy and wood power yet the uncommon sources such as micro hydro, solar hot water and geothermal are very useful dependent on your situation.

In order for an off grid house to operate effectively there must be strategy for storing the energy until it is needed or required. In a home this can be difficult because of the inconsistency of the energy use throughout the day.  For a family household, everybody wakes up around 7 and there is a large energy use of the shower, cooking devices, lights, etc. Than they go to school or to work throughout the day when there is little to no energy use. When everybody comes home around 4 the hydro peaks until 9 in which everybody goes to bed.  Preparing a consistent energy supply for this is very difficult due to the irregularly use of the time in which energy is used. That is why it is important to have energy storage in order to store the energy when there is abundance and save it for times when it is required.  These include thermal storage, batteries and elevated water supply.

                                                                                                                                              By Carl Bottema

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