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Never, Ever Invest in Solar

Never, EVER, invest in a large solar power system! NEVER!

Oh, feel free to spend a couple thousand dollars if playing with these gadgets turns you on. But I repeat, NEVER, EVER get caught up in the solar-social-justice-save-the-planet thing. A homestead needs lots and lots of tools and equipment, almost all of those can be bought for the price of a whopping solar system capable of truly powering an American family home as currently constructed. (Single men living in RV’s not included.)

Now, before the solarphiles jump down my throat: We visited a number of “solar powered, off-grid homesteads.” The dirty secret of these homesteads is propane/natural gas. They cooked with propane, they dried their clothes with propane, they heated the home with propane—and to be fair, with wood, but whenever I see a propane/natural gas furnace I get the sense that wood is used when convenient—and more importantly, they heated their domestic hot water with propane/natural gas. All of the big electricity draws of the house were powered by the detested “grid” (propane) as the practitioners took a bow for their "greenness." It was right out of a Monty Python skit. The one thing I do want to give them credit for was living without A.C. They were so close to walking the walk, it was just a bridge too far.

Most of them were trying crazy things they saw on Youtube to heat hot water—wrapping copper tubing around wood stove pipes (no one in their right mind fires the woodstove up in the house in warm weather) and contraptions for passive solar heating, that sort of thing—and failing miserably. Anyone can heat domestic hot water in the summer. A black barrel out in the sun works fine. (Somehow, water from the grid is OK; just not electric). It is another thing in cool and cold weather, especially on cloudy days. None of the people we visited seemed willing to tolerate the inconvenience of not having that hot water available under pressure (and using more electricity) at the taps in their homes.

Domestic hot water is literally half of a family’s electrical consumption (if they are not heating with electric). Over a lifetime, you could buy one of your children all of the material to build their house with the money you spend on the heating of domestic hot water.

A hot water kettle and a woodstove solve the heat, cooking, and hot water issue—provided you have access to cheap or inexpensive firewood. This is why I tell people that a woodlot is just as important as your garden or hay field on a homestead, but in the regions that make the most sense for homesteaders, there are usually large timber and sawmill operations. And they are always happy to get the tailings off of their property cheap.

A clothesline solves the dryer issue. It helps if you have a front porch to hang a clothesline for long stretches of rainy weather. In winter, a drying rack next to the woodstove works like a charm.

If you have access to grid power, I think it is better than solar power. Just don’t plug in an electric stove, clothes dryer, hot water heater, or HVAC system. Then wait for next month’s electric bill. When you see that it is only $35, you might lose interest in a $2,000 solar system. Or not. But at least you will be making a fully informed investment decision.

Here is a video of a family of seven living off-grid (click the link to see the video!). I communicated with them online when this video came out. Nice fellow. We study every single good idea we come in contact with. After looking at his solar array we decided that grid power was a better option. But if you don’t have access and you want internet and LED lights then this arrangement makes a lot of sense.

You will notice that they do it the same as we do. Hot water, cooking, heating, clothes drying is done without electricity. We use a generator for some tasks (like our 1941 Maytag) because we don’t have grid power in our workshops, barns, and outbuildings. (We just move a small, 4000-watt genny around). I imagine this family does something similar.

Anyway... I love REAL homesteaders doing it and raising a family. Enjoy.


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