Reader Comments on

Seeking Self-Sustainability
Going Off-Grid
Wishes for a Sustainable Life
Ideas for a Batch Collector
Installing Your Own Septic System
Thoughts on Building Round
Building Codes and Permits
Peace, Beauty and Sustainable Farming
Passive Cooling Questions
Winterizing a Camper for Minus 20 Degrees
Off Grid Communications
Tankless Water Heaters for Solar Water Systems
Geodesic Domes in 60 MPH Winds
DIY Homesteaders
Tips for Insulating with Bubble Wrap
Solar Hot Water Tanks
Insulated Trailer Skirting
Assembling a Geodesic Dome
Swedish Insulation Standards
Long Lasting Geodesic Dome Cover
Plans for A South Facing Solarium
Electricity from Compressed Air
Self Sustaining Aquaponics Ecosystem
Off Grid in a Camper
Selective Surfaces for Solar Hot Water Heaters
Off Grid Retirement
Improvements to Trailer Skirting
Using Solar Power with Grid Tie
Sustainable Income on the Homestead
Center for Creative Ecology
Winterizing an RV
Beyond the Grid in Australia

Seeking Self-Sustainability

Comments shared by Forest of Crescent Valley, Nevada

I found your site awhile back but I am in the same boat that you are in down to the part of no phone or modern power and i love it all. I just did get broad band internet a week ago so now i can access more than once a week at the library. like you i have a vast knowledge of how to live off grid. one rule that i do have is that anything i use or make must be used or recycled if at all possible! my place sits off hwy 306 and i provide a lot of entertainment. I am retired, paid off my land and there are no building codes in this county so i am free to do almost anything i want and i do a lot of experimenting. I use your web site for ideas. my girlfriend and next door land owner is always giving me a hard time about my projects but is the first one to use the good ones to her advantage or on her place. to give you an idea how i live here i use a small 2 cycle 1000 watt generator once in a very great while a larger one as of know i have one 15 watt solar panel the other one was stolen by my grilfriend sort of that takes care of my power, composting toilet, woodstove, propane take care of most other needs for now, but my goal is to be self contained in 5 years at least near as possible with the help of the man upstairs. well got to go would like to hear from you. greatest web site i have seen on the internet about our humble life style.

Going Off-Grid

Comments shared by Anuttama of Washington State

My husband and I are planning on doing a project here in Washington and we are really interested in using methane. Our current home (3 acres in Eatonville) is on the market, and we plan to purchase land here in Western Washington to do our off-grid project when our current property sells. Our intention is to be debt-free and to be self-sufficient. We would like to learn enough to teach others, too.

Wishes for a Sustainable Life

Comments shared by Jaime and Luz of Cartagena, Colombia

Patrick and Mel

We wish for you the biggest of the successes in this idea for sustainable way of life. It is very interesting. Perhaps in the future we'll be able to share with you some personal experiences on this matter.

You receive a special greeting from Cartagena in Colombia.

Best regards,
Jaime and Luz

Ideas for a Batch Collector

Comments shared by Dale of Gulfport, Mississippi

As I found your web site looking for a good example of a batch collector, the pictures I see of the water heater casing gave me flashbacks, because I am doing the same thing. I am still in the process of building mine. From what I have seen with the old water hearter I have is that its or it was gas and from what I can see from this tank is the vent that runs through the tank will provide a good source of support for the tank by running a pipe, big enough to handle the weight, through the vent. We will see how this works. Another idea I have is to insulate it well as you have and also put some polished aluminum on the back and put a curve in it on the back side of the box to focous the sun more on the tank. I looked into stainless steel sheets as they would be the best and most durrable refector, but stainless steel is far too expensive, so I will find a way to polish sheets of aluminum to get close to the same results. The tank I have is painted flat black! and I should be able to get some recycled foam as well. There is plenty of it on my job. I will keep you posted on the results. If we get a hot summer, which I think we will, the results should be good.

Installing Your Own Septic System

Comments shared by Mark and Jennifer of Alamosa, Colorado

Hi Mel and Patrick,

I just stumbled onto your website. Thanks for putting it all on-line! My wife and I are doing the same thing on 40 acres just outside of Alamosa and it's great to see other like-minded folks out there.

I am currently in the middle of building our house and saw your note in the current newsletter about putting in your septic system. I just put in our septic myself in Nov. It is really very easy to do, although alot of work, and it all passed the county inspection. I used a 1000 gal cement tank and 12 infiltrators in the leach field, which is way easier than using a gravel bed and perforated pipe, although a little more expensive. I think the total cost ended up around $2200 for everything from the house on out, including the backhoe rental. I would have cost around $4000 to pay someone to put it in. I would encourage you to do it yourself. It is a great learning experience. I look forward to seeing how things are going out there.

Good Luck, Mark and Jennifer

Thoughts on Building Round

Comments shared by Bob & Lua Sage, Off Grid in the Mountains of Colorado

Just discovered your site while surfing for solar hot water plans. For your house, you might want to look into round instead of rectangular. The round shape gives much more interior usable square footage for the same linear footage of wall space - thus giving a much more efficient use of construction materials and your time in putting it together.

We have a straw bale cabin, stuccoed inside and out, and highly recommend it. The materials cost is less and you end up with about an r-45 structure which is warm and toasty in the winter and cool in the summer.

Building Codes and Permits

Comments shared by Leo Magpoc of Tempe, AZ.

I own some land in the same area of Arizona. I was wondering how hard was it to get permits for building in that area. The process seems very confusing. any help would be appreciated.

Hello Leo,

I received the email you submitted on our website and I have to agree that the whole building and permitting process is confusing. We have recently found out that Apache County uses the 2003 International Residential Building Codes. We have the 2003 paper back and it has answered a lot of the questions we've had as we make plans to build our home. There is also a ring bound edition of the International Residential Building Code available, as well as an expanded edition that provides additional commentary on the code that could be very useful. You can buy the books on our website at the following link:

If you have additional questions you can call the Apache County Permitting Office in St. Johns or visit their webpage:

Peace, Beauty and Sustainable Farming

Comments shared by Terry of Williamsville, Illinois.

Your site is awesome, beautiful, thoughtful and I am so glad to have stumbled upon it. I am in central Illinois trying to go passive, am a sustainable farmer with a head for peace and beauty, promoting the concepts with every step. (Kind of difficult in an area of pure politics!) but I am lucky to have found my sanctuary several years ago and have been building it "up" ever since. Looking forward to your newsletter, keep on keeping on, take care-
Terry Starks

Passive Cooling Questions

Comments shared by Rick Davis of Rowlett, Texas.

How do you cool the home? Keeping a home warm in winter and making solar water heaters work well out there. But solar won't run an A/C unit, although it may run a swamp cooler.
Rick Davis

Hi Rick,

As far as keeping our house cool we are planning to maximize insulation in our house as much as possible, as well as install our cinder block basement into the side of a hill. The thick walls will help us to maintain cool temperatures in our home and being half way underground will also help.

We are also exploring strategies for passive ventilation, which will cause air to flow through our house naturally, keeping it cool and breezy. Passive ventilation is based on the premise that hot air rises - and we will have intake vents (windows) positioned lower to the ground and outlet vents on the other side of the house positioned as high as possible. The hot air will move towards the upper vents and draw cool air in through the lower vents creating passive circulation. If the passive venting does not create the cooling effect that we are hoping for, then we will run fans to promote the circulation pattern.

Winterizing a Camper for Minus 20 Degrees

Comments shared by Douglas Graham of Southest Iowa.

I am planning to make my 30' camping trailer a year 'round experience. It does get down to -20F here. I have read the posted article on winterizing a camping trailer. Does anyone have additional experiences in these kind of temperatures? I am aware of a shrink type plastic for insulation and intend to use it on all the glass. I am also considering plexiglass replacements for the window and possibly the door screens.

Has anyone tried the spray on foam for the underside of the camper? If not I intend to glue up standard "blue" type closed cell insulation foam. Any comments on attempts to winterize campers, failure or success, would be appreciated.

Hi Doug,

I don't envy you folks in cold climates! We really like it in Arizona and appreciate the fact that we don't get extreme cold. As far as wintering in a travel trailer the best advice that I can give is to find your drafts and block them. Tape up your windows from the outside and use insulation and plastic on the inside. We've adhered reflectix insulation on walls that seem to be particularly drafty to reduce cold seeping through. We found a number of drafts around pipes, under the sink, and in closets that we successfully blocked by cramming plastic bags into the cracks and holes. Plus, we hang heavy curtains over all of the windows and doors and vent plugs in the upper vents. The trailer skirting made the most incredible difference, and allowed us to keep the space much warmer. Another thing to consider is the positioning of your trailer. Find out which side your pipes are on and position that side to the South so that it can be warmed by the sun. Otherwise you may find that your pipes freeze at night and never thaw during the day, leaving you with no running water.

If you are adding plexi glass to your widows - I would recommend making a double pane. That's what we did with the plastic, but the plexi would definitely be more durable. Also your idea about spray foam on the underside of the trailer sounds like it should work well.

Another thing that you could consider is solar heating. It may be possible to capture the sun's energy during and store it for use at night. I don't have a canned solution for you, but we've considered using solar hot water to heat our home/trailer from under the floor.

Good luck with the coming winter. Let us know how you make out!

Off Grid Communications

Comments shared by Forest Anderson of Crescent Valley, NV.

i live like you do no grids at all and best of all as of yet we have no building codes so far i ran across your site awhile back while using the local library but at that time we did not have in home internet that we could afford however we do now that our county decided to share the expense with us, we now have a really good broadband company we now have on line access and all the goodies that go with it like phone with no long distance charge fax and all that for less than 75 dollars a month anyway i ran accross an interesting item that may interest you it is called a windband it is still very new but if you type in windband on the google search engine there are several web sites just look at several different sites that is what i did even though these little guys are not real powerfull they can be connected together take a look i am hopping to get more information about them as they are developed

Tankless Water Heaters for Solar Water Systems

Comments shared by John Pfaehler of Maryland.

"Tankless water heaters are excellent for supplementing solar hot water systems and ensure hot water even on cloudy days. When hooked into a homemade solar water heating system, a tankless water heater will boost water (when necessary) to the ideal temperature before it's delivered to the faucet."

I am getting a solar hot water system installed and have read that one with a tankless heater is the most efficient system out there. Do you have any info, paricularly diagrams, etc., that I could share with my installer? They're not too familiar with such a setup, but aren't against either and are interested in learning. Thank you.
Greetings John.

Thanks for your message... good hearing from you.

We have some diagrams on various solar hot water systems on the website. The one that I think best illustrates what you are trying to do is here:

There are additional diagrams showing a variety of systems here:

The basic idea as I understand it is that you place the tankless water heater between the outlet of your solar hot water storage tank and your house. It fits "in-line" with your designed system. That way as your solar hot water temperature falls your tankless water heater adds the extra heat needed to bring the water up to normal hot water temperatures. It's the best of both worlds if you ask me.

Couple of things to watch for:

1). Make certain your installer is providing a "tempering valve" for your solution. Solar hot water heaters can produce temperatures in excess of 150 degrees -- hot enough to scald with even brief exposure. A direct feed off of a solar hot water heater is dangerous -- especially in the presence of the young or very old -- in my opinion.

2). Make sure you have adequate freeze protection for your system.

3). You might want to have a way to by-pass your solar hot water system and heat directly with the tankless water heater in case you ever need to disable the solar hot water system for maintenance, etc.

Best of luck with your new hot water system. We love our solar hot water. It literally "feels" different to us -- especially in the shower. I noticed you are in Maryland. May I ask where bouts?

Please keep in touch and let us know what your experiences are with Solar Hot Water on the East Coast. One of the questions we get asked from time to time is whether folks back East can use the same techniques that we're using in the West.

Geodesic Domes in 60 MPH Winds

Comments shared by Dennis Hahn of Seattle, WA.

Would the 20 or 30 foot dia. dome in a 4V construction using conduit be strong enough to withstand 60 mph winds? Would the conduit be ridgid enough for a dome this size? Thanks, Dennis

Hello Dennis.

I've never built a 4v dome before... but I do know that the 4v is supposed to be stronger than the 3v. And the 3v is definitely stronger than the 2v. Our 20' 2v dome has easily survived 60mph winds... we get alot of wind here.

And our friends have a 30' 3v dome that they have lived in for 5 years now. And they have survived some real serious wind storms. The frame should be fine. I think the real issue is the spam of your struts and their thickness. A 5' piece of 3/4" EMT can be bent by stepping on it or hanging on it in the middle. 1" EMT is much stronger.

The other big issue of survivability is your cover. We made our cover out of extra-strong silver tarps. After about 1 year in the sun and the wind-driven sand our cover started to shred.

Our friends with the 30' dome have a canvas cover... but even that has required some patching. And they painted the canvas cover with elastomeric paint about 3 years ago. That has really helped protect the cover from the sun.

I've spoken with some other dome enthusiasts who swear by marine vinyl... but I really don't like working with vinyl cement myself. It's the worst solvent-based product I've ever exposed myself to. Definitely requires a respirator.

In conclusion, I believe that a 30' 3v or 4v dome frame constructed out of 3/4" EMT would be plenty strong enough. If this is for a permanent installation I'd recommend upgrading to 1" EMT if you have the bucks. If it's a portable / temporary structure stick with the 3/4"... cause it will be significantly lighter.

DIY Homesteaders

Comments shared by T. Reese of West Texas.

We so enjoy your site! We just purchased our 3rd 125wt. panel today! We also use turbines (2)(air-x) to take advantage of our west texas wind. We experiment alot as we are new to the solar/wind power. last winter we built my dad a passive wall heater for his small trailer, We were impressed with the results, but have plans to make it more efficient. we have been wanting to build a batch water heater like yours for some time but have yet to find a suitable old used water heater. We feel it will work quite well for what we want to do. we previously had an out door solar shower but are planning to construct another this spring. We also designed a saw dust toilet that works wonderfully and enjoy experimenting with what ever we have on hand or dig up here and there through salvage. we were so tickled to find your site and learn we werent the only ones out there interested in these types of applications!! We look forward to seeing more!!

Tips for Insulating with Bubble Wrap

Comments shared by T. Reese of West Texas.

P.S. A nifty way to insulate single pane windows is to cut plain old bubble wrap to size of glass, spray glass with windex and press (flat side facing out tword room, bubble side to glass.) If you need to peek out, simply peel, peek, dampen and reapply. lite passes through but not the chill. We use this method every winter, it looks nice as well! and works like a charm! Come spring, peel off and wipe windows with a damp cloth. We use all sizes of the bubble wrap but the larger size bubbles seems more efficiant.

To insulate exposed pipes, buy up kids 'swimming noodles' they are the same as the foam pipe insulation covers but a fraction of the price at the dollar type stores and are even less expencive on clearance come fall.

Solar Hot Water Tanks

Comments shared by Larry Rogers of Austin, TX.

Thanks for the great site. I've learned a lot. The one answer I can't find is why an extra storage tank?

In my case I have a a new electronic ignition natural gas gas tank water heater. If the solar collector is direct to my existing water heater, preventing the heater from running except on those few really cold days wouldn't I keep the costs down, less things to go wrong?

Am I missing something on directly hooking the collector to the water heater?

Hi Larry,

I am glad that you like our site. As far as solar hot water heating goes, there are many set ups that will work well. The ideal solution all depends on what your exact needs are, what parts you have, and what climate you have to deal with. I have never personally worked on a supplemental hot water heating system in which there is a operational gas water heater. I don't see any reason why you should have an extra tank though, if you think that you can achieve the desired results with just the single tank. Let us know how your project turns out, we'd love to see a picture of your solar hot water system. Best of Luck!

Insulated Trailer Skirting

Comments shared by Scott & Kim Edwards of Colorado Springs, CO.

I really enjoy going thru your web site. I looked and learned a lot about what I may or may not have been doing wrong with our new 2008 Jayco Bungalow. Unfortunately, the highest rating Jayco offers on this 40' travel trailer with 2 slides is R7 from top to bottom. Not to bore you with all the details of what I don't have - my question is about your skirting project. Do you recommend putting an R rated insulation on the inside of the skirting? Do you feel this is a safe move? We live fulltime in Colorado, and are having an already early winter! Thanks for your response.
Scott Edwards

Hello Scott and Kim,

I think that insulating your trailer skirting is a really good idea, especially if you are living in a cold region. We did not insulate inside our trailer skirting and even so we have had much success with creating a warmer living space in the trailer. I imagine that if you lined the inside of the trailer skirt with perimeter insulation (a rigid foam board with foil coating) or even attached fiberglass batting to the skirt that it would make a noticeable difference.

Good luck staying warm in this unseasonably cold winter! Let us know if the insulated trailer skirt is a success.

Assembling a Geodesic Dome

Comments shared by Toffe of Sweden.

Hia, nice page. Tho i was wondering about Geodomes, u show how to assemble a 2Vdome but hod do i assemble the 3vDome? as there is 3 different length pipes to assemble. (And im thinking to make it out of sheets instead of the frames system ur using.) Just so i know what goes where. Thanks and merry chrismas to you.

Hi Toffe,

To answer your question about calculating the parts for a 3V geodesic dome, I will refer you to our geodesic dome calculator. Once you enter the radius for the size dome that you want to build, click the submit button and our dome calculator will determine what length struts you will need and how many. Here is the link to our dome calculator:

Also if you are thinking about using sheet material you might want to visit this site: It has info on domes constructed from both cardboard and wood.

Swedish Insulation Standards

Comments shared by Toffe of Sweden.

Hi again, i was reding about ur house design and well, if u whant a house that uses solar energy, then id recomend that u build it to swedish insulation standards. I know u whant it out of natural materials, but in then end u do more good using soo little enegry that the enegry used to produce the insulation is gained over and over. :D we use about 100mm of glass insulation in the walls about 200mm in the roof. And did u use double glased windos? tho 3 glasing is even better. :D best be to go for the 3 with the gas inside but thouse cost so much. and if u wanna chill ur house during the (presumably hot summers. id highly recommend a solar heated ammonium cooling system..uses only the heat from the sun to cool.

Long Lasting Geodesic Dome Cover

Comments shared by Robert Kelly of California.

You have a very nice website, well done! I also have a home made dome, very similar to yours. I would like to share with you a suggestion for the cover.

We made ours out of double weave tent canvas, and sewed every triangle together with a small sewing machine sold for use on large sailboat. It worked perfect, and since we used short pieces that were leftover from a tent maker who makes old fashioned wall tents, it was cheap.

No here is the important part: We coated the outside with a couple coats of an elastomeric paint that has microscopic ceramic beads mixed in it. It reflects about 85+% of the Suns UV so it stays cool inside, even in the blazing sun. We have used in the the Mojave desert no problem. The paint is made by a company called Thermo-Shield, and is also used by Pacific Domes for thier commercial domes.

We have had the dome up in all kinds of weather for about 3 years now and it looks as good as new, no leaks, breathes well and will probably last another 10 years:)

Of course we have also solar power for lights and fan, and a propane heater for winter, as well as a sectional raised wooden floor. Quite comfy actually. Best wishes on your endeavors, I'll keep an eye on you website, peace,

Plans for A South Facing Solarium

Comments shared by Bonnie Bowling of Pacific NW moving to Show Low Pines.

With the solarium running the entire south wall of home are you anticipating any problems with heat build up in home during the summer months or heat loss from home in the cold winter nights? I ask because we are considering a similar plan when we move to Show Low, but I know the summer temps can be quite high. The idea of a closed in solarium will be really good to escape the wind. Countryside magazine just had a fine article about a south-facing solarium in the Colorado mountains and the writer found the solarium too hot for normal garden vegetable, but it grew great bananas and papayas. Love to know how this aspect turns out.
Thanks Bonnie

Hi Bonnie,

Good Luck with your move to AZ! We really love it here.

As for our solarium, we are hoping to regulate the heat with passive venting. Our more recent home designs include a row of clerestory windows between the solarium and the living space. We have constructed an experimental structure that is based on a similar design and we will put it to the test this summer. Already we have noticed that when the clerestory windows are open the hottest air travels along the pitched ceilings and exits rapidly through the open windows. The biggest draw back to this plan is that presently we need a ladder to open and close the clerestory windows. However Patrick believes that he can come up with a better solution with a little time to experiment. Soon we'll be posting the plans for our experimental structure on ByExample and we'll include a report on its passive heating and cooling abilities.

Electricity from Compressed Air

Comments shared by Robert Adaconda of Maine.

Have you considered replacing your batteries with compressed air and a compressed air motor to generate electricty. Saves on disposal problems. Your might be able to do it with off the shelf compressed air storage systems. Some air compressors can run in reverse as can some generators. Making the components do double duty might make sense.

I like to get you read on the possibilities. I have just found a whole new avenue for power including a car. Compressed air motors run massive coal mining ore cars.
Have a good day Bob

Self Sustaining Aquaponics Ecosystem

Comments shared by Daniel of Colombia.

Hello ! I admire your dedication and will to move away from grid energy sources and from the wastefulness of our current civilization.

I have also planned something similar for a while. I would highly recommend the use of hydroponic systems to get your vegetable and fruit. You can also build an aquaponic system which joins fish in a tank with a hydroponic growing system into one, providing a self-sustaining ecosystem.

Off Grid in a Camper

Comments shared by Marcy of Currently SE Nebraska... soon... SC Colorado.

You are just the kind of people I like to meet! We're planning to do the same type of thing... right down to living in a camper while we build our dream cabin! I'm enjoying your site & will anxiously follow your progress. Have to ask: do your friends & family think you're crazy? We get that a lot - they just don't understand living a simpler lifestyle & think that just because it's "simple" it means we won't have ANY comforts (electricity, running water, tv, electrical appliances, etc.) Great to see this site! Thanks for making it available! God Bless!

Selective Surfaces for Solar Hot Water Heaters

Comments shared by Sanaz Jalali-Volkmann of Germany and Teheran.

Hallo, Thanks for your nice info, i was looking in internet for a Black Water Tank for my Collector, i build up a water heater and i need Stainless steel 316l and i dont now what kind of painting i can use. and after painting has to go in hot often, how can u help me.
Viele Grusse
Mrs Sanaz

Hello Mrs. Sanaz,

Our solar hot water collector was built with an old hot water heater. We stripped the outer shell and insulation from the hot water heater to expose just the tank. We sanded the metal tank with sandpaper and then painted it with regular black spray paint that we got at the store. This is working well for us and we haven't had too many problems. You can see pictures of this on our website at this link:

Here are some other ideas for other coating for your collector tank:

I have read that you can use a "selective surface". It is a material that adheres like contact paper, but is designed to trap heat inside the tank. You can also use a metallic paint, for instance graphite paint. I have looked into buying metallic paint online and it seems that it is mostly used to paint boats. Here is the article that I read that suggested these two methods:

I believe that you could also use engine enamel. It come is spray paint form, but is designed to withstand high temperatures because it is for use inside car engines. The downside to this is that it costs more than regular spray paint.

Off Grid Retirement

Comments shared by Doug and Marilyn Honsaker of Chevelon Canyon Ranch.

We have 50 acres north of Heber and are in the process of retiring from our lives in Newport Beach, CA and moving to the ranch. Like you, we are totally off grid and dependent upon Mother Nature for our continued existence. I could not agree more that this is a great way of living and not all that inconvenient if done with the right frame of mind. Love your website! We have gotten so many great ideas and tips from reading about your experiences. We wish you continued success and look forward to reading about your adventure on the website.

Improvements to Trailer Skirting

Comments shared by Jeanette Louderback of Nebraska.

I really enjoyed your article on winterizing your RV..however..we live in a 21 year old manufactured home. I had a new energy efficient furnace installed this past fall and siding put on the outside of the home. We did not have enought skirting vents in and so my husband put more in. We now have 6 vents and our home is 24x68. What I noticed this year is even with the new furnace, the outside vents are making the home much colder. What can we do? I thought of trying to insulate the skirting, covering all the vents and trying to find a humidastat type fan to vent the underneath. There is hardly any room under the house to work and I just wondered what else I can do. Any ideas? Thank you very much for your time.

Greetings Jeanette and thank you for your message.

I take it that you are concerned with venting the crawl space beneath your manufactured home because it is routinely damp?

If that's the case I recommend adjusting the landscaping around the house and your rain gutter system to get and keep water as far away from the house as possible. When I lived in WV years ago we were able to adjust the moisture in the crawl space beneath our home just by adjusting drainage around the house.

Then you should, in theory, be able to decrease the number of vents to your crawl space.

It also occurs to me that you could not only insulate your skirting -- but you could also create raised beds around the outside of the skirting. That would provide insulation and, more importantly, thermal mass. If the skirting is protected by some form of thermal mass and/or insulation I expect that you could keep the under-side of your house right around 50F year round. Please keep in touch and let us know how you make out. Be well & best of luck!

Using Solar Power with Grid Tie

Comments shared by Mustafa Youssef Duhni of Amman-Jordan.

Can one benifit from using both the grid power and solar panels to save on electricity bills since we cannot yet benefit from tie grid systems and in this case what one can do of excess power from panels and is battery bank essential.

Greetings and thanks for your message.

I believe that it is possible to use both sources of power without doing a grid-tie. But what that likely means is that you'd need to setup 2 separate electrical systems. I assume that you already have the grid-based electrical system. So next you would have to setup a small solar power system. In this setup you are setting up a solar power system that will behave like a small generator. You can either use extension cords or setup a second set of wiring for the solar power system.

This can be great for backup lighting & saving on electricity bills.

One way or another it's really difficult to run a stand-alone system without batteries of some sort. Unless you only need the power during the day when the sun shines you'll want some way to store your power for night time use.

It's unlikely that grid-tie will ever "save you money". At least here in Arizona it's quite expensive for the equipment and the power companies don't pay much for your surplus electricity. I once calculated that it would take more than 20 years of payments from the electricity company to pay for the equipment to do the grid-tie. That's not a very good deal to me.

Good luck and let us know if you decide to setup a small solar power system.

Sustainable Income on the Homestead

Comments shared by Susan of Missouri.

What sources of income did you/do you have to take this step? I would love to make the leap but am concerned about the job thing. Sorry if I didn't see it on your site already. Thanks!

Good morning Susan and thanks for writing.

The financial side of things is a tough issue for many folks that would like to make the move to a more simple lifestyle. I think the most important part of simplifying one's life is reducing or eliminating debt. Without debt payments, fancy cellphone plans, big cars & expensive tastes it's possible to live on a remarkably small amount of money. I literally can (and do) live on less money now than when I was working my way through college at $3.35/hr 20 years ago. It didn't happen all at once... took years. And every time I thought I couldn't live on less money I eventually found more expenses (and hidden expenses) that could be removed.

And I don't want to imply that we're living some sort of monastic rice and beans only lifestyle either. We eat very well (we both love to cook) and I don't even perceive that we have to "do without" anything. If you have older, smaller cars you pay way less taxes & car insurance for example. If you cook all your own meals (which we mostly do) you save more than you might think. And we've started buying our staples in bulk -- which saves us huge and vastly reduces the trash we produce (we fill about 1 regular sized trash can per month). We have no car payments, no house payments, no electricity bill, no water bill, no cable bill, low taxes, low car insurance rates, etc..

And we both work at home which means we're not spending money on gas to earn our living and we're not buying lunch out because we're able to prepare ourselves a home cooked meal anytime we wish.

I've been working for myself from home for 15 years now. For the last 11 years I've been building websites -- which can be done just about anywhere. My company,, has a modest number of clients that provide us with enough project work to meet our basic financial needs and muchly needed capital to finance the construction of our homestead.

As we move forward and develop our small-scale farm we hope to supplement our income by selling farm goods and Mel's jewelry & artwork at the local farmer's market.

So if you really think you want to make this sort of move I recommend that you find a way to make money from home -- whether via telecommuting or starting your own home business -- and make and follow a plan to get out of debt. We have several friends out this way that have full time jobs doing things like processing medical records where they telecommute with companies located in other parts of the country.

Center for Creative Ecology

Comments shared by Alex Cicelsky of Center for Creative Ecology, Kibbutz Lotan Israel.

Dear Patrick and Mel,

I found your site by searching for a drawing of a 2v geodome. I am very impressed and will pass on the link to your site to all our students. Excellent site and thanks for sharing so much information openly.

Alex Cicelsky
Education, Design and Construction
Center for Creative Ecology
Kibbutz Lotan

Winterizing an RV

Comments shared by Robert Fontaine of Upstate South Carolina.

I am living in an old camper while I renovate an old farmhouse. Thank you so much for your articles on skirting and winterizing an RV!!!

Beyond the Grid in Australia

Comments shared by Nick of Australia.

Great site guys! We have a lot in common, my partner Kirsten and I have just moved onto our block of land about 4 hours west of Sydney. We face many of the same problems as you, including no mobile coverage and flaky satellite broad band and we are documenting our progress just like you guys.

Anyway, i just wanted to touch base, it would be great to keep in touch.

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