Living Off the Grid What Does It Mean?

When we talk about living off the grid, we are referring to using our own renewable energy sources and not needing to draw power of the electric companies’ grid. Every day you hear things like, there is a power shortage, the demand for power increases daily, non-renewable energy sources are being consumed rapidly, and environmental warnings every day about the pollution. This should be enough to tell us that the time has come to do something. So we ask, what can we do about it? Well, this is where living off the grid comes in, if everyone were to use renewable energy sources we would lower the demand on our natural resources thus making them last longer, it would help the environment because renewable energy sources do not pollute, and we could cut down or eliminate our monthly power bills.
Advantages of living off the grid are numerous, first.  We can reduce our dependability on our quickly depleting natural resource. Do you like to depend on public utilities for your power needs? If you are living of the grid you would only need to rely on your renewable energy source and would no longer need to rely on the electric companies. What’s wrong with relying on the electric company? Have you ever had a party or maybe even just watching you favorite tv show and in the middle of it the power goes off? Now you find yourself cursing the power company. This wouldn’t happen if you were using an alternative power solution.
A big advantage is the amount of money you could save every month if you didn’t have to pay a power bill. Think about how it would feel if you didn’t have to worry about paying that monthly bill. With solar and wind power solutions at home you could free yourself of the power companies. In some places the excess power you produce can be put back into the grid and the power company would have to pay you for it. Wouldn’t it be great to get a check from a power company instead of having to mail them one?

Another advantage of living off the grid would be that you would be helping the environment.
Most electricity is produced by burning our natural resources like, oil, coal, natural gas, and in some cases even wood. We already know that we are nearing depletion of our natural resource so, if everyone were to start using solar or wind power solutions at home we would greatly reduce the consumption rate making the non-renewable resources last longer. Our children would not have to worry about power shortages knowing we left them renewable energy sources that will be here for a very long time.
Many people think that renewable energy sources are expensive to implement but the fact is that with the advancements in technology the costs of solar power solutions at home as well as wind power solutions at home have become affordable as well as very cost effective. In a short time these systems would pay for themselves, they are low maintenance so, they require very little in the way of maintenance expense and they will most defiantly free you from the power company grip on your check book.
If you have never given solar power solutions at home or wind power solutions at home a thought then the time to start thinking about them is now. At our present rate of consumption of  nonrenewable energy sources will be depleted in about 30 to 35 years, leaving our children in the dark.

Original article posted at

 

What constitutes homesteading?

Homesteading has been used to describe different lifestyles for a number of years. Today homesteading is used to describe those people living off the land or living green.

Historic Homesteading

Pioneers in the Appalachians were the first homesteaders. They lived within the valleys and hills of the mountain range, surviving off the land.

First Homesteads

A swath from Southern New York through Mississippi and the Southern states bordered the first homesteads of farms, spring houses and root cellars.

Current Homesteading

Homesteaders have houses, running water and indoor plumbing. They produce off-grid power with solar or wind. Gardens and farms provide the needed food.

Reasons

Peaceful open space lends to a healthier lifestyle, and many prefer no pesticides nor additives are in their food. There also is more control over one’s life in general.

Sample Homestead

A homestead is simple and small, made with natural materials such as straw, clay and rocks. A pump for water and solar or wind power provide the utilities for the homestead.

Source:

Homesteader.org: The Homesteader’s Free Library

Homesteading Today

Modern Homesteading

More Information:

Homesteading With Ozarkguy

Self Sufficieny and Homesteading

 

Opower to Save One Terawatt Hour of Energy by 2012 | Business Wire

ARLINGTON, Va.–()–,

the home energy management software company, today announced that its

software platform will help US consumers save one terawatt hour of

energy by the end of 2012 – the equivalent of taking 100,000 average US

homes “off the grid” for a full year. Moreover, the company’s energy

savings rate—which has been increasing exponentially since its first

energy management program launched in 2007—will be high enough at end of

2012 to keep those homes off the grid permanently. Upon the achievement

of its goal, Opower’s energy savings rate will surpass the rate at which

power is generated by the entire US solar industry.

Opower announced its Terawatt Hour savings goal with the launch of a new

company website ().

The site offers a rich visual environment where utilities, regulators,

and consumers can track the impact of Opower’s energy savings driven to

date. One terawatt hour of energy is equivalent to:

</p>

<ul>

<li>

Enough energy to power 100,000 average US homes for a year;

</li>

<li>

Abating the carbon dioxide produced by 100,000 cars in a year, 11,000

cross-country flights;

</li>

<li>

Abating enough carbon dioxide to approximate the creation of 6,500

acres of rainforest;

</li>

<li>

Saving US consumers more than $100 million on energy bills.

</li>

</ul>

<p>

Currently, Opower is more than a third of the way toward its goal,

having saved more than 380 million kilowatt hours of energy through more

than 30 live utility deployments.

</p>

<p>

In addition, the company announced the release of a new report by The

Brattle Group outlining best practices in measuring the impact of

informational-based energy management (IBEM) programs (such as Opower).

Recognizing the potential for information-based programs to drive

large-scale gains in energy efficiency, The Brattle Group report

outlines statistically rigorous measurement and verification guidelines

for utilities and regulatory agencies to use in determining the actual

impact of information-based programs.

</p>

<p>

Opower’s measurement methodology and program results have been

independently measured and verified by leading industry analysts and

non-profit organizations, including the American Council for an

Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), The Brattle Group, Navigant

Consulting, Power Systems Engineering, KEMA, the Environmental Defense

Fund (EDF), and established academics from several leading institutions.

The company’s measurement protocols follow the guidelines specified by

Public Utility Commissions across the country, including the California

PUC’s Measurement & Verification Guidelines and EPA’s National Action

Plan for Energy Efficiency (NAPEE) guidelines.

</p>

<p>

<b>Resources:</b>

</p>

<p>

To see the latest energy savings driven by the Opower platform, please

visit

To download a copy of The Brattle Group’s “Measurement and Verification

Principles for Behavior-Based Efficiency Programs,” please visit:

</p>

<p>

To download a copy of the Environmental Defense Fund’s “Behavior and

Energy Savings,” please visit:

Quotes:

“Home energy management is one of the most exciting sectors within the

clean-tech industry, because households use more than a third of the

energy consumed in the United States. Utilities across the country are

deploying information-based energy management programs like Opower’s as

a first step toward realizing large scale energy efficiency benefits.

For years, economics has been concerned with the effect of price on

consumer behavior. While price effects are important, Opower

demonstrates the importance of using information to shift the demand

curve inward, resulting in less use even without changing prices. The

energy savings from informational programs are real and measurable and

every bit as important as those from other programs. We expect to see

more and more of these programs implemented by utilities across the

country, perhaps as part of a broader smart grid strategy.”
- Ahmad

Faruqui PhD, Principal, The Brattle Group

“Energy efficiency is a great resource to reduce pollution and our

dependence on foreign energy resources. Our research has shown that

giving people information allows them to take control and save energy

and money.”
- Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental

Defense Fund

“The future of home energy management hinges on our industry’s ability

to deliver measurable energy savings to all consumers, not just those

with access to high-tech devices or funds to make substantial changes to

their homes. Information-based energy management programs are designed

to engage all customers and help them make the level of investment in

energy efficiency that makes sense for them. This customer-centric

approach is the key behind the large-scale savings we’ve achieved to

date, and gives us the opportunity to continue the conversation with

millions of consumers, helping them manage their energy consumption on

an ongoing basis.”
- Alex Laskey, President and Founder, Opower

About Opower

Opower is a leader in home energy management software, providing the

industry’s only multi-channel customer engagement platform proven to

deliver of energy efficiency gains and other strategic benefits to its

utility partners on a sustainable basis. Using cutting-edge behavioral

science and patent-pending data analytics, the Opower platform enables

utilities to connect with customers in a highly targeted manner,

motivating reductions in energy use, increasing energy efficiency

program participation, and improving overall customer satisfaction. More

than 50 utilities—including 8 of the US’s 10 largest—have partnered with

Opower to improve the effectiveness of their energy-efficiency

portfolios significantly while providing an enriched customer experience

that leads to higher customer satisfaction rates. For utilities with

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), the Opower platform represents a

cost-effective way to convert hourly data into measurable energy

savings, delivering the value of the Smart Grid directly to customers.

Founded in 2007 and privately held, Opower is headquartered in

Arlington, Virginia, as well as a second office in San Francisco,

California. For more information, please visit .

 

The Current Status of World Hunger

Where does starvation exist in the world today? What are some of the causes of world hunger? Are citizens of developed countries donating monetarily to the ongoing relief efforts? In this article I will address these questions with the hope that by creating an understanding of the current world hunger situation, morally conscious individuals will do their part in contributing to the eradication of this unseen suffering.

It is a well known fact that there is enough food in the world to feed every human being on earth. Sadly, malnutrition and hunger still afflict one out of every seven people in the world today. Or, from a slightly different statistical perspective, the current world population is 4,712,200,000. The number of malnourished is 797,900,000. Therefore 17% of the world population is currently malnourished or starving. No matter how you examine the issue, a current crisis is at hand. Why is this so?

The causes of starvation are complex, but there are some common threads that seem to be associated with this problem. First and foremost, starvation is caused by poverty. To address the problem of world hunger then the problem of global poverty must be addressed. Therefore, the question that we should examine is what are the causes of poverty. A thorough discussion on the causes of global poverty is outside the purview of this article. Entire textbooks have been written on the subject. For our discussion, it is suffice to say that one of the major causes of poverty is governments pursuing policies that inhibit self sufficiency.

Areas of starvation are also characterized by persistent problems in cultivating food from lack of seed, arable land, and tools. Those that can grow food, must deal with insects, drought, floods, and war, which can result in complete destruction of crops. Historically, areas of Africa have experienced periodic locusts infestations, which can completely destroy crops.

Other causes of world hunger are related to the globalize system of food production. The globalize system of food production and trade favors a reliance on export crops while discriminating against small-scale farmers and subsistence crops. Many third world countries export out to much food while concomitantly not keeping enough food to sustain their own people.

AIDS is a significant cause of hunger. In societies affected by AIDS, famine is more deadly and difficult to combat. Why is this so? AIDS attacks the most productive individuals within society. Fewer productive people within society means fewer individuals to work the jobs that involve food production. This is one contributor to the starvation currently taking place in Africa.

Weather plays a major role in terms of the prevalence of starvation. Areas of drought leads to non-useable land with subsequent famine. This is well known. But less well known is that floods can also lead to starvation. Crops can be flooded and therefore destroyed, which in essence produces the same result as drought. In both cases, weather can produce a complete lack of self sufficiency.

Military conflicts, both internal and between neighboring countries, can lead to starvation. These conflicts can result in destruction of crops. Government money is directed at funding the conflict at the expense of the starving people. Funds are diverted from social and economic development. Military conflicts can also result in the displacement of large groups of people, removing them from their farms and their way of life. People can end up in refugee camps, completely dependent on relief aid.

The causative factors of world hunger are numerous, and certain factors change from year to year, therefore at any given time, some areas may be more prone then others. The extent of drought, flood, internal conflicts, and war with neighboring countries can vary over time. Therefore, these factors incorporate a variable affect on the degree to which inhabitants of susceptible countries suffer from starvation.

A combination of these causative factors in a particular region is a formula for disaster. When this occurs, large scale starvation can take place. A case in point. The Horn of Africa has seen severe drought coupled with internal conflicts. This is leading to the development of a tragedy. In this region currently 11 million people are on the brink of starvation.

Historically, certain areas of the world have had a high prevalence of hunger and starvation. These areas are the central region of South America, large areas of East, Central, and Southern Africa, and regions of South Asia. As of 2006, the current hot spots, those areas which are suffering the greatest degree of starvation, are as follows:

Niger:

This area in central Africa has been struggling to cope with the devastating impact of drought and locusts infestations.

Haiti:

In this region extreme poverty has been further exacerbated by a political crisis, floods, tropical storms, and hurricanes.

Horn of Africa:

An estimated 11 million people in the Horn of Africa “are on the brink of starvation” because of severe drought and war. Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia need food aid, water, new livestock and seeds. This is a major hunger crisis in development.

Afghanistan:

Poverty in Afghanistan, made worse by drought, has contributed greatly to their hunger problem.

Pakistan:

The recent earthquake coupled with a severe winter have produced starvation conditions. Recently, mud slides have hampered relief efforts.

North Korea:

Food insecurity caused by the countries economic problems, is compounded by unpredictable and severe weather conditions. To date, the North Korean government has failed in its duty to provide for it

 

Powerless Against the Electric Company

A couple weeks ago I was driving down the road and saw a hand-written sign on a post prompting passers-by to protest the rising cost of service from the local electric company. The sign didn’t surprise me. Our own electric bills in March and April last year were astronomical due to our need to use electric space heaters when the cost of buying firewood for our wood-burning stove or getting oil deliveries for our radiant floor heating became too expensive. The high cost of electricity is pervasive, but especially during the colder months and in colder climates. If nothing else, you can always break the ice in a business meeting by talking about the weather, the latest local football game or the ridiculously high cost of electricity.

Electricity is not the only example of rising utility costs, but it is the one people tend to complain about the most. Why? Because even though electric bills are not consistently expensive throughout the year like mobile phone bills, electric bills during the winter for people who have electric heat can be as costly as a rent or mortgage payment, easily surpassing that mobile phone bill or car payment. Even though electric bills are comparatively low during the spring and autumn months, the electric bill is the first choice I would make if given the opportunity to do away with one of my utility bills.

The cost of electricity has long been a source of frustration in society. Ever since humans began treating it as a necessity rather than a luxury, we feel it is our right to be able to receive it as inexpensively as possible. We complain that electric bills are high because we cannot afford to pay them and still buy luxuries, or to pay them and still buy a sufficient amount of healthy food. To be fair, the cost of electricity per kWh is indeed high and arguably inappropriate. Electric companies have a stronghold on society because we feel that we need electricity. We have lived our whole lives with it. It is a part of our daily fabric like food, water, getting dressed and using the restroom. We don’t know how to live without electricity. Most people cannot fathom going off the grid or figuring out how to purchase and set up a solar power system. It is just easier to accept the status quo. Electric companies know this and capitalize on it.

But let’s not forget that the greed of electric companies is only one-third of the problem. Another one-third of the problem is the products that require the electricity. These days, we power more things in our homes than we ever powered in history: lights, heaters, washer, dryer, water heater, refrigerator, range, microwave, coffee pot, blender, toaster, waffle iron, bread machine, flat-screen TVs, cable boxes, DVD players, gaming systems, computers, printers, wireless routers, tablets, phones, smart phones, iPods, rechargeable batteries, power tools, hair dryers, electric garage doors. The list is endless. While efficiencies are constantly being researched and introduced to reduce the amount of electricity used by many household devices, these efficiencies are relative to the product itself. We must not forget that the devices themselves are bigger and more powerful than predecessors from bygone decades. Refrigerators are bigger and now come with built-in lights, ice makers and dispensers, and water purifiers and dispensers. Many ranges now come with built-in convection ovens. Light bulbs come in brightness variations. Washers are bigger since people now prefer to wash clothes after every use, whereas people used to wear clothes several times in between washes. Microwaves are now industrial-sized. Coffee pots have built-in timers and temperature settings. We have become a society that cannot see the forest for the trees. So, for example, while a new refrigerator may be 30% more efficient than a 1970s refrigerator, the fact of the matter is that it is still bigger, more complex and with more bells and whistles, and ends up utilizing more electricity than a 1970s refrigerator, thus making it more expensive every month. Appliance manufacturers like to dodge that fact.

If one-third of the problem is the products that require electricity and one-third of the problem is the companies that supply the electricity, the final one-third of the problem is us. Yes, us. We are who we are. We like electricity. We like the dependability of it. We like to know that an alarm clock will wake us up in time for work. We like to know that the coffee pot will fuel us to get through the day. We like refrigerating food for longer food lifespan and storage of leftovers. We like cold drinks. We like hot drinks. We like to get lost in Facebook or the latest episode of the popular police procedural television show of the moment. We like to wear clean clothes each day. We like to be warm in the numbingly cold months. I like to watch reality television shows like “Risking It All” and the many Alaska-themed shows. I fantasize about how cool it would be to sell most of our possessions, move into the sticks and go off the grid entirely. At the same time, though, I understand that it is just a fantasy, and that the reality would probably be horrific. I suspect that other people who entertain such thoughts balk for the same reason. We like what we like. We justify it as being necessary. And we begrudgingly pay the price every month.

So if we want to save money on the cost of electricity, where do we begin? Who has to budge first? Do electric companies need to stop being so greedy? Do electronic device manufacturers need to come up with devices that use even less electricity than these companies are already trying to make the devices use? Do consumers need to learn how to live with less or go off the grid entirely? Do solar power systems manufacturers need to do better about marketing solar energy to consumers? Do federal, state and local governments need to expand consumer awareness on tax incentives to set up personal solar power systems? Do those tax incentives need to be better than they may already be? Do device manufacturers need to align with solar panel manufacturers in cross-promotional campaigns? If you take away supply, it may reduce demand. If you take away demand, it will certainly reduce if not eliminate supply.

There is not a single solution. If there was, it would have happened decades ago. If the progress made with electricity efficiency, sustainable energy and rechargeable batteries is evidence, we will soon arrive at a day when the electric company will no longer be the evil we currently pay it to be. You are not powerless against the electric company. Continue to fight for sustainable energy progress.

 

Living in an Off the Grid Home

The recent economic downturn combined with natural disasters occurring around the world is making many people look at how they could live with more autonomy and self-reliance. More often in recent years are people looking to live off the grid. Living “off-the-grid” (or OTG) is basically living without public utilities; this can be done in varying degrees of self-sufficiency from not being connected to the local electrical grid to the more extreme having no connection to public utilities at all.

There are many reasons why home owners might choose to live off-grid but the most common reasons are to live in a more eco-friendly way or because they want to live in a rural area where there is no access to electricity or sewer hook-ups for the home. For home owners who live in areas that see more frequent incidences of natural disasters, living OTG can help home owners return more easily to regular life because they're not reliant on public utilities that can take days or weeks to recover, depending on the disaster.

Most home owners who are looking to live off-grid build a home with that goal specifically in mind before they start planning. A lot of planning has to go into an off-grid home before it is built if you're looking to put together an optimal system; many home owners have successfully renovated pre-existing homes to be off-grid as well, however you will likely have less options in design if you go off-grid in an existing home.

Off-grid homes often combine a combination of systems into their homes to independently deal with the amenities that public utilities usually give you like: electricity, water, and sewage. Off-grid homes commonly use solar or wind energy generation to fulfill their electrical needs. Many OTG home owners use well water or streams to supply their water; though rain water is also a viable source as well. Some common types of OTG sewage systems are septic fields, septic tanks, or composting toilets. Not all options will work for all home owners or all areas, be sure to research what options are available to you in your area.

Not all home owners will find it doable to live completely off-grid for a variety of reasons. Living completely off-grid can be expensive to set up and due to restrictions in your preferred area, it just might not be feasible for your lifestyle or your area of the country due to weather, terrain, or land use restrictions.

 

Prepper Gardens, Urban Homesteads, And Bulk Seeds

It used to be said, “How do we keep ‘em on the farm, once they’ve seen the city?” Now people sentenced to live in the city are hankering to go back to the farm. When they can’t physically relocate to the farm, many city dwellers will try to recapture a bit of its rustic authenticity by micro-gardening. Others become homesteaders within the city by planting gardens, raising small quantities of livestock, and recycling leftovers by way of worm farms. These people are major purchasers of bulk seeds for their vegetable and herb gardens.

All farms start with seeds, and the best bulk seeds we can choose are natural, non-genetically modified seeds of an heirloom variety. These have been around for a long time, used on farms for centuries or longer. They weren’t whipped together in a corporate lab by white-coated Merlin; these bulk seeds are the real deal. They can be collected by planters and re-used for generations without diminished yield or nutritional benefit. They produce food with color, scent, texture, taste, and nutrition. They are food, not product.

What heirloom bulk seeds should you select? Well, grab as many as you can, using the rainbow as a guide. The more visible colors you find on the table, the better off you’ll be. This is ancient wisdom, handed down by health experts from time immemorial. Growing a wide veggie variety from bulk seeds will help you avoid the curse of pseudo-food coming from a container that, if eaten, might actually do you less harm than the contents.

In terms of nutritional yield – protein and fiber content in particular – beans are hard to beat for someone looking to build up an essential store of bulk seeds. Beans have been grown in the Americas for as long as people have been here, and many Native American communities actually used them as currency, in addition to being high-yield, low-bother sources of sound nutrition. All varieties of bulk seeds– from pintos to navy beans, from green beans to the much-under appreciated lima — can be prepared in delicious, colorful meals. Planting beans next to other garden staples such as squash and corn – which are also good choices for your bulk seeds collection — will get an urban homestead off on a good start.

Much of the urban homesteading trend is an outgrowth of the “locovore” movement, which emphasizes the health benefits of eating locally grown food. But a lot more of it is inspired by the horrors contained in the typical household’s grocery bill. Whether dictated by fad or necessity, urban homesteading is a trend that is likely to grow – and for those interested in starting a homestead, getting a good supply of heirloom bulk seeds is a good place to begin.

 

Raising Backyard Pigs for Meat: What Not to Do; Learn from my Mistakes



An amateur uses her experience raising pigs to teach others what not to do or to do with their pigs. It’s hard to be sucessful, raising pigs. We’re not interested in breeding or commercial farming here. We raise two female pigs for meat and look at housing and soil problems, as well as what to feed pigs, what we hope to get out of the pigs, why she’s raising pigs, and possible solutions to problems. We discuss the slaughtering process briefly and the expense of keeping pigs. We aim to be realistic, farming pigs in the wet clay soil of downeast, coastal Maine….where it’s hot one minute, then snows the next….