Off-Grid Living- The blog

Over the past few years, an informative, engaging and sometimes amusing blogs about off-grid living and the country lifestyle, were written by ORI Advisor Richard Copeland. Although Richard has retired from his blog writing, we have made a selection of them available as downloadable pdf files below.

A special blog set of MicroFIT blogs are an interesting and informative journey with real people through an innovative Ontario Government MicroFIT Program. These are titled with the first word MicroFIT, to assist in finding them.

Richard’s first blog, ‘Off-grid Living…an Introduction’ is below.

Off-grid Introduction

26 February 2009 Richard & Audrey

This is a blog which describes the daily living in an off-grid environment. We, Richard and Audrey, along with our youngest of five children, retired to the Madawaska Highlands in July 2001, our off-grid system now well into its eighth year. We have done very many unexpected tours of our system as well as a couple of planned tours, and find that questions arise of not necessarily a technical nature, but also along the lines ‘of what is it like?' By checking in daily we can perhaps address some questions or even create an interest in others for living in a most satisfying environment. Beyond the hybrid electrical system there is a ‘sustainability' intention which as yet beyond our reach and remains a goal and inspiration.

We inhabit 40 acres of mixed land, bush, marshes, garden; scrub and are experiencing some of the forces of nature as she reclaims pieces of the land that we conceded to the greater force. The Village of Matawatchan is small, located within the Municipality of Greater Madawaska. Our expectations were to live in a sparsely inhabited area, and that too is changing with the population growth of Greater Madawaska being the largest in the province.

How the energy system came to be, what living with it is like, and other aspects of our sustainable desires will be revealed through subsequent blog entries. For now I will describe the systems we have. The next couple of paragraphs may be too technical for some, it is for Audrey and she wants it placed somewhere else, so feel free to skip this detail some of its relevance will appear down the road.

The electrical system is a hybrid; that is there are 2 renewable inputs: solar and wind. The solar main system is comprised of 15 of 120Wp photovoltaic (PV) panels arranged in three sets of five, each set of 5 having its own charger/controller. The wind component consists of four 400W (that rated at 28MPH winds) wind turbines, each turbine individually connected having internal electronics to monitor battery conditions. Thus we have 1.8KWp solar and 1.6Kw wind. The panels are connected for 24VDC and the turbines are 24VDC to match the battery arrangement. The batteries consist of 6 of 8VDC lead acid units arranged series parallel with an Amp-Hr capacity of 2350.

A small (85Wp) 12VDC panel is used to charge a number of 12V sealed batteries which we use to power the canoe (when we're lazy), a small fishing boat, drive pumps to water the garden, electrify fencing, and to drive small motors through an inverter at remote locations.

Our Solar Domestic Hot Water system (SDHW) wasn't installed until 2006 (another story) and was made from rebuilding 25 year old panels, a heat exchanger of our own manufacture and quality pumps and controller. The heat is stored in a 270L preheat water tank which supplies a propane heated unit. The preheat tank is also connected to a hot water heat exchanger in our wood cook stove.

Solar hot water showering is also supplemented with a passively heated outdoor shower built with a raised breadbox collector containing a 30gal water tank. Water can be pumped in as rain water or well water.

We heat with wood, pretty much exclusively. The propane furnaces have not been used for over 7 years. The downstairs wood stove is a high efficiency stove and heats the entire house most of the time. The second floor has a wood cook stove with water coil, oven, cook top, warming oven and glass-in-door for enjoying the fire. This stove is fired when it is cold (generally below -8C) and not sunny and given its versatility we wish we could light it more often. The south side of the house has the largest surface area with a high percentage of glass allowing for passive heat on sunny days. The passive solar will heat the house at any outdoor temperature, but there is no thermal mass storage of significance.

Our active electrical system is about eight years old, and there are now better products technologically, on the market that can simplify operations. The home has a floor plan of about 2000 sq. ft. with the lower level below grade and a walk out to the south. The layout was to accommodate a yoga studio, weekend workshops and with a 6th grandchild on the way space for visits from our expanding family.

Presently Audrey and I occupy the home, our daughter having graduated and now engaged in her own life.

Richard & Audrey

The Off-grid Living blog entries archived below as pdf files include the following entries:

Part 1: Part 3: Solar + simulation, Part 2 Design Scramble, Design Considerations Flashback, Just Another Day, Morning After the Wind, Windy Wednesday, Battery Maintenance, Just another day

Part 2: Universe Unfolding, Update + Composter, Passive Hot Water Shower, SDHW Workshop in Renfrew, Bring on the Black Flies, More on Slab Wood +, Wood Slab Raised Beds, Black Pig Tilling, Dodging the downpours

Part 3: Shuckin' Beans, Back to It, Frost Maybe, Is this the Anthropocene?, Frosted, Back to buying green, Canning Switch, More preserves, Work of Fall

Part 4: Sun, Sap & Paleo Snacks, End of Feb and the Olympics, Newsy Stuff, Happy blog-a-versary, Clouds, MicroFit, food & Wal-Mart, February Picnic & Liam's Birthday, Good weather - good food, Feb RE & more coal, Greener with(out) Toyota

Part 5: OPA's emailed announcement of July 13/10, MicroFIT: Rant of my Own, MicroFIT: Another hung out to dry, MicroFIT : Tom's letter referenced yesterday, MicroFit: JP writes, MicroFIT mayhem : OPA as Green Energy Killer, Back to normal my !#@&, Back to normal, MicroFIT Ground Mount Solar Review Part 4 of 4