Alternative Systems for Remote Locations

For those wishing to be completely independent of utility grids, oil and gas companies, etc., there are some fairly reliable systems on the market for the adventurous and creative property owner. Few of these systems are fool proof and most are harder to use than the city-slicker's ability to call his or her local utility company and demand service at all hours of the day or night. These alternative systems include:

  • Photo voltaic systems for power generation. Depending on the amount of electric power use and the size and complexity of the system, there are some relative affordable methods of converting sunlight into electrical energy and ways of storing that energy for sunless hours. Don't count on powering an electric stove, heat pump, arc welder, or even a refrigerator with such a system,. If you need some lighting, limited use of your personal computer and other low amperage usage of electricity, this may be one way of avoiding the power grid in remote locations.
  • Passive solar design features are an excellent way of minimizing the need for air and water heating resources. Passive solar design principals are also an excellent way to cool the house in the summertime and reduce the amount of artificial light needed during daylight hours when supplemental lighting might be required in more traditional structures. Remember, passive solar installations require an almost unobstructed southern exposure plus careful and expert design of the structure itself.
  • Composting toilets can reduce the size of a septic system, however, most county health departments will require a septic system for the gray water (i.e. drainage from showers, sinks, etc.).
  • Cellular phones can sometimes work in remote locations with a fixed directional antennae. Recent advances in electronics and changes in FCC regulations promise to bring other wireless communication systems onto the market in the near future.
  • Propane powered refrigerators are available and commonly used in many parts of the world and in most recreational vehicles, etc.
  • Gasoline and propane powered electrical generators are a good backup source of electricity; however, these generators are relatively noisy and rarely used as an ongoing power source. They are a good source of power for construction and when the power grid is down (a more common condition in rural areas).
  • Wood heat can be used for space and water heating as well as cooking. It may be more romantic than the flip of a switch, but its a lot more trouble. Recent restrictions aimed at protecting air quality may prevent the use of wood heat as a principal heating source and local regulations may specify stove features.

Other alternative systems (some even more exotic than the ones listed above) are also available. All such systems require extensive investigation and careful assessment of the potential benefits and shortcomings.

See also Topics: Producing Electricity at Home