Power on the Survival Homestead

BOUND TO COME! We recently read in a daily newspaper that an Indiana company proposes to sell electricity at a reasonable rate to farmers along the lines of its electric roads.

The churn, the chopper, the thresher, the pump, the saw, the forge,—everything that makes an up-to-date farm, may be operated by electricity; and the experts contend that there will be economy in doing the farm work with a power that never stands in the stable eating its head off and doing nothing for the farmer.

The electric roller, the electric plow and electric vehicles for farm work, may come, too. In fact, there seems to be no farm problem which the electrical experts are not ready to answer.

And they feel assured that the farmer’s wife will be their greatest ally in the electrification of the farm, because it holds out great benefits for her—electric cooking, electric light, electric heat and electric washers; it may run the ice-cream freezer, the sewing machine, the sausage mill, the dough mixer! And even baby’s cradle may be worked by electric power. All of which will greatly add to the comfort of farm wives, and make rural life more attractive to them.

Speed the day!

The above piece comes from the January 1906 issue of the Farm Journal. It’s interesting that just 100 years ago that what we have come to take for granted in our everyday lives was then just a new way of doing things. Many homes, predominately rural ones, still used old fashioned labor to get things done, and the ability to flip a switch to get electrical power was a wondrous dream for most. We’ve come a long way in these 100 years, but the same chores still need to be done, no matter how we get them done.

So how is it we are now at a place where we need to examine alternative means of getting these chores accomplished on the homestead? We’ve become much too attached to the ease of life electricity can give us, and because of that we tend to panic over the loss of grid power. So what do we do to alleviate the problem? The answer is pretty simple. One way to eliminate the concern of loss of grid power is to simply delve back into the past and live without electricity. It sounds like a romantic way of living, but in reality, life without power is a hard life. A very hard life.

The second way to eliminate the concern of losing grid power is to simply eliminate the need for grid power. It’s more expensive in the short run to develop your own electrical system, but think of the monthly bills you can avoid, along with the hassle of power outages, equipment damaging spikes, surges, and dips in the power supply. But if you plan ahead, and plan smart, you can minimize your need for power, and reduce the cost of going off grid.

What are some of the ways we can keep the costs down? Let’s take the water supply for one. Instead of an electric pump on your well, how about an old fashioned windmill? They’re purely mechanical, and as long as you have wind, they will pump water. Or, if you have a brook or stream on your homestead, why not install a ram pump. They work effortlessly 24-7, and can pump water steadily into a holding tank for your needs. Raise the tank, or install it above the level of your home and you have a never ending supply of water under pressure. You can install a self standing solar system as well if you are in a position where you have to rely upon a drilled well. Use the well pump to fill a storage tank, just as if you were using a ram pump, and you’ll have that same never ending supply of water under pressure.

Design or remodel your home to take advantage of the sun for light and warming the interior of your home. Reducing the need for artificial lighting can remove much of the need for electricity. Utilizing solar heating systems, wood stoves and other non-electric means to warm your home can substantially reduce that need for electricity. Heat and light are the two largest consumers of your electric bill, so it only makes sense to figure out ways to utilize an alternative means of providing for these two needs.

Unplugging your electronics, such as TVs microwaves and other appliances when not in use can also substantially cut your usage of electricity. It’s amazing at how much power these things consume when not being used. The disadvantage in turning them off is the loss of your programming in their memory, so you have to weigh convenience and economy, and decide which you can do without.

There are some problems inherent with whatever you decide to do, but getting off the grid makes more sense today than does being connected to a utility company and the increasing costs the monthly bills present to the homesteader. Photovoltaic’s, coupled with a battery storage system make a lot of sense, in spite of the costs involved with setting up such a system. Especially in the northern climes when adequate sunlight can be hard to find on some days. But you can supplement that photovoltaic system with a generator fueled by diesel or gas to make up the shortcomings of solar power.

The key here is to plan your needs around not the solar panel, but around the size of the battery bank needed to store the electrical needed to run your homestead. Solar power is great, and clean, but it is hardly an end all solution to your power needs.

Remember the ADD to survive formula. Analyze, Develop, and Deploy. Look into your needs, see what requirements need to be met to achieve your goals, and then make your plan to achieve those goals, and finally deploy that plan. You more than likely will have to start out on your journey to self reliant living on the grid, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

Keep checking back here as I’m planning on a series dealing with setting up the power needs for your homestead later on this summer. And also check out the site where I’m migrating this blog to at www.survivaltimestoday.net.

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