Off Grid Home Forums Technical Discussion Off-grid with or without a generator

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    To some people off-grid means doing totally without any support from municipal services and to some people going off-grid involves a total avoidance of fossil fuel use for anything. However unless you live in balmy climates requiring neither heating or cooling go to bed at sunset, and rise at dawn, there comes a time when you need light, heat or fans for ventilation. Electricity is still the most universal method of energy use because it is readily converted into some other form of energy such as heat, light, or motion.

    Electrical energy can be stored in batteries but sun, wind, and flowing water can occasionally fail to provide sufficient energy to meet your needs. This is where a generator comes in handy. Those people who for whatever reason eschew any sort of fossil fuelled generator may want to cover all possibilities by having all three; wind, sun, and water power sources of electrical energy. This rapidly becomes very expensive. Not to mention which, present day technology means the controllers of each such device does not play nice with the other types when charging batteries. The end result is you end up duplicating your entire power generating system for each method. Doing so is very costly.

    The alternative is to have some kind of motor driven generator. If getting totally away from fossil fuel dependence is your objective, there is an option of making your own methane gas from manure and the methane can be used as fuel for an internal combustion engine to drive a generator to charge batteries for storing electrical energy.

    If you have a large enough farm with enough livestock, you may be able to generate enough methane gas to be totally self sufficient. Methane gas can be used to cook with, heat the house and even give lighting provided you used mantled lanterns. Methane burns with a near invisible blue flame that is not good for light. However as is done with propane camping lanterns you can run such lanterns on methane. In the past there have been demonstration projects involving farms that already have large quantities of manure. several of these projects became completely self sufficient by generating their own electricity and even compressing the gas for use as fuel in their farm vehicles. Fuel tank capacity puts a limit on driving range so at present it may not be practical to do this for vehicles leaving the farm and driving long distances to town. It may not be feasible to find a place for an emergency refill.

    Creating methane is quite simple. It forms naturally from decomposing manure and rotting vegetation. Collecting and storing it becomes slightly more complicated.

    Modifying a regular gasoline fuelled motor is relatively simple. There are companies that sell conversion kits. Unlike with propane, there is no internal modifications required to convert a motor to run on methane instead of gasoline. Even a quick Google search will yield enough results to keep you reading for hours and YouTube has a lot of videos showing running generators.

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