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How to Get Off Grid From Here: Step 1 – Heat

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How to get off grid: I am taking a look at my place and I am going to take, in my opinion, the logical steps to get off grid. I have a 2-story house; my level is upstairs and it is around 1000 square feet with 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a laundry room/pantry.

The downstairs is a massive 1300 square foot garage and a 3-room guest quarters. I live in Northern Arizona and this will affect some of my decisions.

Our weather is mild; even in the summer it never gets over 105 for very long. We do at times hit 107 or 108 and yes, that is too warm for me.

Living off the grid

Anatolii Lyzun/Shutterstock


To start, I already have a deep, clean well with water that has a wonderful taste. I also have a septic system that has been trouble-free for the 2 1/2 years I have been here. So as you know this is a great start to going off grid and these are a couple of reasons I chose this property in the first place.

So what is next? Well, at this writing it is late November and a little chilly out.

So I decided to start with the heat. I am told this is the largest energy user in any home. I am not sure that that holds true here in Arizona. Our winter seems fleeting and our summers seem almost endless. So it might be the AC that uses up the most energy around here.

The first thing I need to do is reduce the amount of electric power my house requires. The reason I want to do that is that solar power is great, but the upfront costs are very high. So If I can make some deep cuts in the amount of electric power my home requires I can save a big chunk of cash by not having to purchase such a big solar system. So I have decided to start with the heating of my home in the colder months.

I want to get away from electric heat. I personally like burning wood or pellet that is made from waste product or is a renewable resource. The easiest choice would be propane as a source of heat. But to me having a propane tank that is filled by the gas company using their truck is not much different than being dependent on the grid. It is just another form of dependence, so for me gas or propane is not a viable option. So I started looking at pellet stoves.

They are very efficient in that they make use of almost all the fuel that we put into them. They are also cleaner to use than wood burning stoves; the pellets are neat and tidy and come in bags.

Wood is heavy and pretty dirty, it can also attract spiders and mice. So to me, the pellet stoves were really looking pretty good, until I started seeing how complicated they were. That is what makes them so efficient and convenient, the complicated nature of this heater.

What this means is that at some point down the road the heater will need a trained technician to keep it in good working order. Then the big negative came to light. In order to use the pellet stove, I am dependent on the flow and availability of the pellets. There is not a do-it-yourself pellet farm, or alternative source of pellets.

So in the end I would be dependent on the pellet store. Not a good choice for me. My goal is to become self-sufficient, independent of the supply chain. Therefore, the pellet stove is not the best choice.

So for me, it looks like the choice will be a good old-fashioned wood-burning stove. Wood is a little heavy and a little messy, but it is available just about everywhere and at a reasonable cost. I can also take a truck and cut my own wood if there is none available for sale or I can not afford to buy the wood I need.

Wood stoves are not like the ones your grandparents used when you were little. They are more efficient today and burn up the creosote that used to be a hazard. So the bottom line is today’s wood stoves produce more heat from less wood and are cleaner burning and safer. I do not plan to spend thousands of dollars on a wood stove; I am looking in the $500 to $600 range.

I might consider spending more if my house was bigger or I lived in Alaska, but for me, a five or six hundred dollar wood stove should be more than enough to meet my needs. Of course, that is just the stove. The pipes are another big expense in installing a wood stove. Then you are likely going to need protection for the walls around the wood stove. Laying brick might be a comfy option, but the screw-on panels that look like brick are much quicker and easier.

Looks like when all is said and done it could cost more to install the stove than to purchase the unit. The pipes must go through the ceiling and out the roof, so some mess is unavoidable. I am going to have to dig in and roll up my sleeves, but in the end, a warm living area, heated in a sustainable and renewable way will be a huge comfort. It will also be a giant step toward going off grid.

Once the heating of my home is accomplished without electric power, my goal of running my home without the use of the power grid will be much closer to reality.