Saturday Part II
Yesterday I talked a little bit about saving money. When you shop you have to look at things from the perspective of a want or a real need. When planning your house you need to use the same reasoning. People have been programed in the past twenty years that the American dream is an oversized house with rooms that are rarely used. Remember that when you are living off grid a large house requires more solar power and that means more expense.
When we planned our house we wanted to keep things as simple as possible. That includes the gas lines and water lines. We built a single story house with all the plumbing lines on one side. Meaning the kitchen and bathroom plumbing are on the same side of the house instead of opposing sides so that if we have a leak the repair should be simple. You won’t have to slither all around the crawl space to find the right pipe. We used well insulated 2×6 walls and metal roof and siding. The metal should be low maintenance. No painting required and it can easily be power washed.
We designed an open floor plan for the main part of the house. Since it is only Sonny and I we don’t need closed in bedrooms. The idea behind this is to keep air flow and light through out the house. The mudroom has a window positoned so that it is in line with the door to the main house. By opening that window and the door separating the two rooms air can flow from one end of house to the other. I will post pictures tomorrow. An open floor plan also makes a small house seem larger.
Our mud room is large and so a double bed fits in there nicely. Originally it was not going to be used for a guest room but it has worked out pretty well. We may just keep the bed in there. If your guests need more than a place to lay their head maybe they need to go to a motel. We all want our guests to be comfortable. Do you really want to spend your hard earned dough on building an extra bedroom and bathroom for guests who only visit a few times a year?
Our floor plan may not be for you, especially if you still have children at home, but that doesn’t nessasarily mean you need a huge house. Do your kids hate each other so much that they can’t share a room and a bathroom? It amazes me when I see home shows where each child regardless of age needs a room the size of my house and their own bathroom. Again. Want or need. It is up to you.
When building your home you can save a substantial amount of money doing things yourself and enlisting the help of friends or relatives that have a skill you need. You can also do projects in increments as you save up for them. I still don’t have flooring in the main house. I opted to paint the subfloor with porch and floor paint until we can pay for floor coverings. We do have vinyl flooring down in the mud room and bathroom. But for now we have bigger needs like the out buildings.
Being off grid means managing your power. Our house is 1152 sq. feet and we have a 2.5 kw solar system. Solar works well when the sun shines and even on partly cloudy days the PV array still absorbs energy and fuels the batteries. It is the cloudy rainy days of Spring that drag on into a week and the dark short days of winter that need the most power management. A back up generator is a must. We haven’t stayed here full time through the winter yet, but have experienced the rainy days of Spring. In those instances we run the generator for about an hour or hour and a half in both the morning and evening. Keeping watch on the battery levels and the weather will let you know if an extra boost from the generator is needed. It is not all that complicated and becomes old hat after a while.
We bought all energy star electrical appliances. Our stove is propane and so is the heater. We plan to put in a wood stove this fall. I don’t care for the propane heat. It seems to be dirtier than wood and puts too much moisture in the air. I know wood heat is drying but it beats having moisture drip off my ceiling.
Managing power tips:
If you must use a hair dryer use it when you have full sun or when the generator is running. Hair dryers use coils and suck up energy like a dehydrated man sucking down water. Other energy alcoholics include, toasters, microwaves, dish washers, irons and multiple 24 hour televisions. Laptop computers tend to use less energy than desk tops.
If you have a window in your bathroom you don’t need to turn on a light to use it, unless you are applying make-up. Natural light is usually enough to do whatever tasks are needed in any room. I think we sometimes take electricity for granted and turn on lights out of habit when we don’t really need them.
Planning wash day is important. You want to run the clothes washer early in the day when the sun is shining. We all know that wash day usually includes multiple loads. You may even want to break up wash loads between days.
Sonny put a timer on the refrigerator. It is set to go off at 9:00PM when it is in least use. It is off for two hours then on for an hour until about 7:00AM when it is in constant use again. This works great. Your refrigerator and freezer will stay cold just fine. We have a small chest freezer but have not put it in use yet, but when we do we will use the same system with it. These are just a few tips and I am sure there are a hundred more out there. All these things are not an inconvenience at all. It is just a routine that you get into the habit of doing. And just think, you don’t have an electric bill lurking in your mailbox.