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November 2014

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Sustainability: Cutting Ties to Hydro

Written by , Posted in Heat, Power, Sustainability, Technology

Sustainability: Cutting Ties to Hydro

I was asked the other night what you have to do when you go off the grid when we’re so dependent on energy. My neighbour’s propane furnace which is only around two years old won’t work at all if the batteries in the thermostat die. Ya, that’s right. The energizer bunny could mean the difference between having heat this winter or building an igloo in the snow bank.

The question got me thinking and when I saw a commercial for one of The National Geographic Channel’s “take me off the grid because I’m a crazy old coot who wears my pants on my head” shows I wondered why everyone defaults to thinking going off the grid means living without. Why do we have to live without? We can think outside the box without actually living out there in a tent, can’t we? To go off the grid in style we’ll have to put some things in place first. But what things can we establish to make going off the grid not such an onerous task?
4 things you can do to your house to make going off the grid easier.

Reduction

Doing with less doesn’t have to be doing without. Reducing your energy use is the easiest way to shed the power company ‘s vampiric embrace. You don’t have to be a minimalist of course. Try changing your light bulbs, using a smart strip to cut power to energy hogs like the TV and dvd player while you’re not using them, and replacing dusk to dawn or motion lights with lights you switch on when you need them because raccoons don’t need the light to see.

Education

It goes without saying that you have to start educating yourself and your family about what’s needed for sustainability. But what I mean here is educating your home. Smart homes take care of what not so smart people forget. Radio left on? Click. Lights left on? Click. Or better yet, auto dimming lights or self adjusting heat for rooms you leave or rarely use. The possibilities are growing as technology increases. And all of is at at the tip of your fingers if you have WiFi in the home. You can learn what uses the most energy and act accordingly. Personally I’m not really afraid that Skynet is going to become sentient and start the robot revolution so I wouldn’t worry about you appliances trying to eat you.

Self-reliant power

Economies of scale and battery capacity currently dictate that you purchase you hydro and then sell power back to the grid if you have any generating capacity be it through solar, wind, or poo. With the proper set up you don’t have to sell it. You can turn that power inward and supply yourself. One time cost and then standard upkeep and then no more bills from hydro as they lie to you about the cost of power. Hey hydro, the “delivery cost” is a line item you can’t ignore when calculating the average cost for the consumer. Shame on you. With your own power generation, you won’t be paying debt back incurred by former Hydro execs who used to take their kids to work in limos. Yes, that happened. Having a battery capacity to store the energy is a must if you’re trying to cut the ties completely, but there are ways to segregate some of your appliances.

Heating

I’m not going to suggest you start wearing a parka indoors, but it might be time to think outside the barrel. Propane, furnace oil, and natural gas all have the same consequence: someone’s well manicured hands digging deep into your pockets. When you’re furnace kicks it, cut the ties to the oilfields and think about true renewable energy. Sometimes it’s about the high technology like geothermal and sometimes it isn’t such as a woodstove. Heating your home can cost a lot to set up and maintain. Some have higher upfront costs while others have higher up keep. Wood can be replanted. Geothermal uses what the earth already has.

 

These are just a few of the more common technologies that you can look into. There are hundreds of other options you can explore if you’re so inclined. I read once of a paint that can be used to coat a surface and turn it into solar heat induction surface. You could use the geothermal to heat your water. And don’t forget the oldest technology ever: the root cellar. It’s a fantastic machine that runs with no power at all and keeps your vegetables in good condition for months like magic.

In the meantime, imagine the power just went out. What are you going to do? It may be too late by then, but if you start today, or perhaps when your appliances and furnace kicks it, then you could be prepared. And at least in the mean time you won’t have to watch hydro execs with their smug grins try to explain that our cost of hydro is less than a cell phone and satellite bill and the delivery cost shouldn’t be considered part of the bill. Ya Hydro, why don’t you take your delivery cost and deliver yourself somewhere where the sun doesn’t shine … so you can’t get solar. What do you think? Do you have other technological suggestions?