Living off grid is lifestyle choice with many benefitsPosted May 26, 2011 By Stacey Roy
EMC Lifestyles - Kerri and Dave Murphy are living a modern dream for most homeowners - they haven't received a single hydro bill since moving into their newly-built home more than two years ago.
The credit for this comes down to a decision the Rideau Ferry couple made to live off the grid and build a home that takes advantage of solar power.
"It was either pay for the solar or pay for hydro," said Dave. "That made our decision easier."
The couple began to build their rural Georgian salt box-style home in the spring of 2008 after realizing the cost to install hydro poles, etc. would be similar to installing an off-grid solar power system. Prior to this move the pair had already implemented a number of conservation elements, including using a wood burning stove and putting their outlets on a power bar so that all power is cut off when not used.
"It's a different lifestyle," Dave added. "It's little things that people take for granted."
The Murphys are quick to point out that they have never been lacking power and don't have to wait once they turn the switch on an appliance. However, they are conscious of what they use and have gone to corded phones since cordless constantly draws electricity.
"We can bring it down to almost zero," Kerri said.
These slight changes in lifestyle and the need to maintain their own power generation system shrinks in comparison to the benefits the couple has seen from their system.
"It's nice to know if there's ever another ice storm we'll be the last to know," Kerri added. "We like the self reliance of it because when you do it yourself it's done right."
Solar power does have its own limitations. From mid-October to January the area gets very little sunlight. During this period the couple has installed a backup generator that can top up their batteries.
"We've never had a zero day, ever," Kerri said.
HOW IT WORKS
What the couple has had a lot of is interested folks coming up the laneway to learn more about their off-the-grid home.
The Murphys said every decision that was made during the construction and planning of their home was done to achieve this purpose. The couple intentionally oriented their home to capture as much of the sunshine coming in from the south as possible.
Known as passive solar energy, this helps to keep the home warm during the winter months. To maintain an optimum temperature inside the home the couple built it out of a concrete form known as Nudura.
"It gives us roughly an R50 wall," Dave said.
They opted to go with solar power rather than windmill because there are no moving parts, making it seem easier to maintain to the couple.
"People don't realize how far solar technology has come," Kerri said.
Nevertheless the homeowners are responsible for maintenance such as adding water to batteries each week and maintaining the collection levels by moving the eight solar panels for maximum benefit.
"You work on it and you get to know the system," Dave said.
He put to work his background in construction as the general contractor on the job, but learned a lot from trained professionals like Al Murray of Saturn Concrete and Bill Fisher of Bill Fisher Electric.
They "did a wonderful job,' Dave said.
The couple also thanks their many friends and family members who rolled up their sleeves and helped bring the home to completion. The couple moved into their dream home in December 2008.
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