The mechanics of my off grid home in upstate NY
By: Lou Hall, Realtor
information about how I power and heat my off grid home. I'm
totally off the grid here, about a 1/2 mile from the closest
power pole. I do have a land-line telephone and the wire simply
laid on the ground for the first nine years until Verizon
finally buried it in 2007. My system was designed and installed
by Kirk Herander, the owner of
Solar Engineering, located in Burlington, VT. I found Kirk
to be extremely knowledgeable, trustworthy and reasonably
priced. I would recommend he and his company to anyone in the
northeast who's considering living off the grid and looking for
a reputable dealer.
Front-end loader digging
a trench for the solar panel conduit.
6 AstroPower Solar
Here are the solar
panels I'm currently using:
6 AstroPower AP-120 Solar Panels (now
on top, and
Evergreen 115 watt, 12vdc Solar Panels on the bottom.
My Trace / Xantrex SW4024 Power Panel:
250-amp breaker with enclosure for SW4024.
Sine-Wave AC Power Inverter w/high efficiency
and bi-directional operations.
60 amp AC pass-thru power at 120 VAC.
Adjustable three stage, temperature compensated
battery charging with 250 amp DC disconnect breaker.
Battery Temperature Sensor.
60-amp AC disconnect / bypass breaker in box.
Inverter Conduit Box.
AC and DC wiring in conduit.
Negative / Ground Bonding Block.
Powder coated steel back-plate
(40" H x 43" W x 1" D).
500 amp / 50 mV shunt (for remote metering).
Solar Boost 50 Charge Controller with
24 VDC nominal, Digital Display.
Auto-Toroid 3000 VA Step-up Transformer for 220vac water
Bogart Engineering 2020 Tri-Metric meter.
16 - 6v, 220 ahr Trojan T-105
Batteries / 24 Volt Battery Bank.
IES DS-500 Desulfator for 24V Battery Banks up to 500 ahrs.
Here's Some of Xantrex's
The XW Hybrid
Inverter/Charger is a true sine wave inverter/charger that
can be used for both residential and commercial applications;
stand-alone, grid-backup, and grid-tie with battery energy
storage. Capable of being grid-interactive or grid-independent,
the XW Series will operate with generators and renewable energy
sources to provide full-time or backup power.
The Xantrex XW
System is a fully-integrated, battery-based system, designed
for residential and commercial solar and backup power
applications. Engineered using a complete systems approach, the
XW System stands out from its competition, with a reliable,
clean, compact design and integrated balance-of-systems
Spark-Ignited Two Cylinder Generator Set
Model GNAA 60 Hz
Propane - 7.0 kW, 8.8 kVA, Standby
6.3 kW, 7.9 kVA, Prime Power
My old generator was also an
Onan. A four cylinder 15KW J-Series which really was overkill
for my setup. I still have it, and sometimes miss it, as repairs
were easy to do on my own.
Everything on the new one is
highly electronic and you practically need a degree to do much
more than change the oil and spark plugs. It's been relatively
dependable however, and uses much less propane to do the same
job. If I were to do it over however, I'd prefer a smaller
version of my old J-Series generator.
My Amish Coal Bin /
Generator Shed with an
Onan Two Cylinder, 7.5 KW Propane Generator New in 2006.
I use a
Sunfrost RF16 Refrigerator & Freezer
that runs straight off the battery bank on DC power. It's really
been a workhorse running continuously for the last seven years
without missing a beat. The Sun Frost refrigerator employs an
array of design innovations to achieve its exceptionally low
energy consumption. The cooling system on the Sun Frost is top
mounted. This configuration reduces energy consumption several
ways. The heat generated by the compressor and condenser (black
coils on the back of many refrigerators) does not re-enter the
refrigerator and also with a cooler running condenser, the
efficiency of the cooling system is increased.
Fewer Solar Panels
The Sun Frost refrigerator typically
reduces refrigerator energy consumption by a factor of five
compared to the typical household refrigerator currently in use.
The accompanying cost of the solar power system is similarly
reduced. The Sun Frost RF16 12 volt DC model consumes 15 KWH per
month, or an average of 42 amp hours per day. Producing the 110
KWH needed to run the typical refrigerator on a solar power
system would require an investment of around $12,000 in
hardware, batteries, and inverter. A Sun Frost RF16 will reduce
this cost by a factor of at least six because of its increased
efficiency and the elimination of inverter losses. Inverters
convert DC battery power to 120V AC at an energy loss of about
The cooling system of the Sun Frost
refrigerator contains a minimal number of moving parts. Both the
DC and AC compressors incorporate highly reliable, hermetically
sealed, brushless motors. The efficient thermal design of Sun
Frost refrigerators also contributes to their reliability. The
top-mounted cooling system runs at a lower temperature than
most, which prolongs the life of the system's lubricants and
reduces mechanical strain on the compressor. The cooling system
should provide well over 15 years of trouble-free operation.
Worth the price, but each one being custom built, they are not
inexpensive. The RF16 DC model I own currently lists at $3,215.
After 15 years of heating
with wood I switched to anthracite coal in September of 2007 and
wouldn't go back to wood if you paid me. I bought a
Coal Stove from
Stove Company and it's simply been the best stove I've ever
used. No more chainsaws, backbreaking wood splitting, stacking
or hauling wood into the house.
I built a coal bin
inside the right third of the generator shed that holds about
three and half tons of anthracite coal. The back side of the
shed is conveniently located along the edge of my road so the
coal truck can easily fill the bin from the back window of the
Throughout winter the
stove burns about a five gallon pail, or roughly 40 pounds of
coal a day, and you just can't beat it. The stove holds up to
120 pounds of coal, and the fire burns uninterrupted for hours
and hours at a time. Unlike burning wood, the temperature in the
house hardly ever varies. Cleaning is a snap, and the ash is
great to have around when my road gets icy.
Lou Hall resides
in Washington County living "Off the Grid" is an a very fine
agent for Adirondack Country Homes Realty and our partner,
Thunder Mountain Land Sales. Lou invites
anyone who is thinking of living "off the grid" to drop him an\
personal e-mail to shop talk with him. E-mail Lou at