We want to have land and a house and a place to have a garden to grow our own food as well as some animals to reduce our dependency on anyone else. We have a meager income, but if we can reduce our bills, we can have more money to save for future issues and to expand our homestead to be truly off grid and self-sufficient. It is our goal to be as independent as possible. Of course in order to do that, we need to generate our own power.
Regardless of where we end up, the bulk of our power will be generated by solar energy. I did find a place that can sell solar panels pretty cheap, though I’m not sure what their shipping costs are yet. It’s come down a lot in recent years though so that the cost for panels is somewhere around 50 cents a watt. It used to be a few dollars a watt, so finally getting under $1 is a great improvement.
Right now, we use about 2kWs a day, give or take. A big part of that load is from climate control as we heat with electric in the winter and cool with electric in the summer. We had many days the past couple of months where we did not need any climate control and had the windows open, but we still averaged around $100/month for electric. During the summer I expect it to go up since we will be using the A/C much more being that we are in Florida.
I hope we can build a home that does not need an air conditioner at all. That means using passive heating/cooling, building into the ground and having thermal mass to keep the temperature constant. If we can add intakes from the shaded side of the house and outputs up in the rafters, we can keep air circling through the house and get rid of the hot air up in the attic which will also likely be where the bedroom loft area is.
For heat, we will have to rely on something other than electricity. That means either wood or propane. While wood may be plentiful, we can’t cut down all the trees on our property to heat our home. It would just be unfeasible to do all that cutting and leave us with a barren, treeless landscape. So that means a large propane tank is our best option.
If we use propane for heating the house, then it is also efficient to use propane for cooking and heating water. I have sent out queries to get an idea of how much propane would cost though, so we should be able to get a rough estimate of that cost at least. It does require using propane appliances though, but since we are already in an RV, I have some knowledge of those at this point. We could possible run the fridge on propane as well, which opens more electricity for use elsewhere.
Food Storage and Preparation
It appears that even with going for a scratch and dent fridge, it will likely cost $1,500 for a propane fridge of a decent size. We use a small fridge now and do okay with it, along with a separate freezer, but if we are starting from scratch, we might as well go for something larger that we can use more efficiently and not have to upgrade and change things around in the future.
Another option is to go for a 12v DC powered fridge. While they are smaller in capacity, they are also cheaper and come in at around $1,000. That’s easier to swallow and set up, since we will be having solar power already and running as much off 12v is the most efficient way to run things.
For a stovetop and oven, we can get by with something smaller. While we cannot run an induction cooktop since it would use so much power, having a builtin propane burner would be good. We could reduce the amount of electric we need and reduce appliances by doing as much that way as possible. A stovetop and oven combo unit comes it under $700. Again, more expensive than a traditional house oven, but still possible.
Water heaters are all over the place for capacity, BTUs, and cost. We do not use much hot water now, but we also use the campground facilities for showers. That will have to change when we have our own hot water, but we can get a stationary, propane water heater for about $400.
That really only leaves electronics. Some of them can be powered directly with 12v DC, though most of them are going to be AC powered. I have to catalog everything to figure out how much power each one uses, but many of them use a surprisingly large amount of power. If we can run as much as possible off of DC power, then that puts less demand on our inverter.
For small devices like the Raspberry Pis, they can run straight off DC that has been reduced to 5v/2.5a. Our hotspot is around the same range. We have a cell booster that we will likely keep that is AC-powered, along with TVs, computers, and TVs. Other than that are small devices like fans, a coffee maker, and occasional use items like kitchen appliances. The last thing then is lights.
I also want to make the house as smart as possible, which both adds complexity to the design, and increases functionality for us. If I can set up a small network of DC 5v/2.5a outlets around the house and have them all connected, then we can plug in our phones or other devices anywhere to charge them. I will have to color code and keep them separate though.
We will be eventually upgrading our computers to newer laptops that can be charged over USB-C, so we might be able to add those outlets in key areas as well. Finding ones that have enough watts for one computer has been difficult though. I assume most of our other devices will be USB-C soon enough as well.
Of course, we will likely have a central closet for things like the water pump, a small water tank, the electronics like servers and smart home hub, and the batteries and electrical system. I envision a roughly square house with a room in the middle and a bathroom next to it, leaving an open “U” shape around it for the rest of our needs. We can have either a loft for our bedroom or have it on the ground floor, depending on cost to build it. Because the solar panels will have to be angled pretty steeply, we will probably leave those on ground outside instead of putting them on the roof.
That’s really all there is to, not just have to find a way to make it all work as seamlessly as possible!