The power grid is our umbilical cord.Â All the gadgetry of our techie lifestyle makes it seem impossible to live without it. Well, almostâ€¦because PopularMechanics senior technology editor believes that technology can lend a hand when thereâ€™s a blackout. That and, alternative sources of energy.
To prove the point that itâ€™s possible to live off the grid and keep all your gizmos going, he decided to put his family through an off the grid lifestyle challenge.Â This how to will show you how to live off the grid with all your gadgets switched on: computer, internet access, LCD TV, Wii, cold beer, and power tools.Â Should life grind to a halt because thereâ€™s no power? Not anymore.
Off the Grid Power Plan:
All the power he generated is stored by charging two orbital gel-cell deep-cycle batteries powering an inverter.
Green Powered Gadgets:
- The location: 17-acre farm in upstate New York. A site with abundant supply of sunlight and wind.
- People: 3
- The challenge: To live completely off the grid using only the electronics and alternative power sources.
Living off the grid: Day 1
Day one started well with their arrival at the location. Glenn and his family came equipped with all the gadgets and the batteries fully charged up. On arrival, the thermoelectric fridge was plugged in and stocked with cold beverages. The other battery run devices were also connected for a cycle of recharge.
Assembling the solar panel took half an hour but the wind turbine presented problems because of the weather.Â Â Internet connectivity was setup with an Acer netbook connected through Verizonâ€™s MiFi 3G wireless hotspot. Stereo music was piped from a Tivoli mini boom box. Entertainment as movies came from a 22-inch HDTV playing a Blu-Ray disc of Wall-E.
Day one ends well without the batteries needing a recharge.
Living off the grid: Day 2
Day two begins with both the batteries running out and needing replenishment. The plan was to hook up one to the Yamaha generator and the second to the wind turbine-solar array combo. The Yamaha generator charged up one battery in two hours while the solar-wind combo took up six hours.
Logistically (and physically) it was a challenge as hauling the heavy batteries from the inside to the outside and back was grunt work.
Living off the grid: Day 3 and more
Glenn develops a cycle for recharging the batteries. The batteries were charged up alternately through the solar-wind station and later it was topped up by the generators when the sun set. To prolong battery run, they also toned down the use of the more power hungry gadgets. The TV and the projector consumed 35 and 41 watts, respectively but ran in shorter bursts while the fridge ate up 50 to 60 watts all day long. So, the fridge got unplugged at the end of the day.
After three and a half days, the fuel for the generator ran out and that was the end of the experiment.
Glennâ€™s â€˜field notesâ€™ show that itâ€™s very possible to live off the grid with a mix of the proper equipment and calculated use. The use of alternative sources of energy needs to factor in the whims of weather but it is a vital source of power. Those willing to forgo a part of the high tech luxuries can easily maintain the remaining ones.
Whatâ€™s your Armageddon plan?
Perhaps our green electricity can help you get off the grid for the day.