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Home Forums General Discussion Once set up, how much money is required to live each year?

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    Forgive me for posting such a vague topic, but I’m quite new to this stuff. I understand that the cost to live each year varies *hugely* depending on how sustainable a property is. Perhaps people can post how much (on average), they pay to live “off the grid”, each year (not including start up costs).

    I’m trying to brainstorm what sort of costs there would be, if a property is already off the grid:

    – land taxes

    – cost of seeds (if not collecting from what you grow each year)

    – replacing items that break, tear, or rust

    – ???

    Thank you everyone for your time.


    Our system paid for itself and its energy of manufacture in 5 1/2 years, self installed. The original 8 L-16 350 Amp hour batteries without desulfators had to be changed after 8 years. They originally cost $1,200. They were replaced with L-16S 410 Ah batteries with desulfators to last twice as long, for a total of $1,800. So that is between 112 and 150 per year. I had to check and fill the batteries 4 times per year with distilled water and use baking soda to clean up, for about $3-4/year. Our solar Staber clothes washer requires yearly several drops of 3 in 1 oil after taking off the front. I had to repair some cracks with glue once. The arrays have to be checked for tight bolts and wires twice a year of so. The full tracker requires grease and spray lube. Sometimes I have to use an extender broom to sweep snow and dust from the panels. The backup generator is used 25 hours per year costing $24 with oil change. Composters require turning and doses of bacteria for decopmp along with the septic system, seeds for new crops, other than the ones I can save seeds from. Then you have the usual house maintenance, replacing leaking toilet innards, faucets, painting, carpet/flooring, weatherstripping. Eventually re-roofing.

    So besides the approximately $15 per month for the solar electric system, it is mainly the labor. The Trace/Xantrex inverter/chargers may eventually have to be replaced, but they are doing well after 13 years, so far. If they last 15 years, then it would cost $2,400 or so to replace them, then another 16 months or less for them to pay for themselves again. The panels themselves may last 50 years, gradually losing power over time. The warranty is only for 25 years. All can be used as depreciation for tax purposes.

    Eventually, when the panels need to be replaced, then it will depend on the cost of grid electricity at that time, the cost of disposal, and the new panel costs, to determine payback time again.


    Hey thanx for the lengthy reply Dustoffer!! It seems like this is a whole lot more affordable, than I originally thought. How much did your solar panels cost? As well, did you build your house from the ground up, or renovate a previous structure to make it eco-friendly?


    I bought a small (24’x26′) cabin shell that was roofed and had septic. I could have done that myself, but it was convenient as a base of what I wanted to do. I remodeled in anticipation of the addition and added two attached low sheds custom designed for the battery banks/twin DR2424 Inverters and charge control center on one side, and one similar to fit the backup generator on the other side (2’8″ x 2’8″ x 5′, 4/12 shed). The inside was conventionally wired, and custom finished. The full tracking 8-75W array with everything cost $9,400 (w/2-24VDC desulfators). House facing was 45* to south (I would have built with the roof going E to W).

    On the addition, it was 26′ x 32′ with a 9’x 16′ part of the existing house. Using rammed earth tires on 56′ of bearing /retaining walls(R-32), transitioning to frame, using log siding removed for exposed framing 2 x 6 walls, like the house R-21, ceiling R-30. I added 4-US42s and 2 US64 panels on fixed aluminum L mounts, C35 charge control, Vector Smart Charger, 4- L-16S, ProSine 1000, and modified sinewave 800-2500 surge, w/remote selector. $2,900 total system cost(w/2-12VDC desulfators). Then I completed the Y in the rammed earth retaining walls to a 32′ x 24′ Earthship(R-32 walls and R-38 ceiling). It has a simple 3 light 2 1/2 outlet system, with 2- US64s, a C12 controller, 4 golf cart batteries, 2-12VDC desulfators, and has been through 1-140W, 1-300W sinewave inverters from the humidity, and now on a 180W. Total, counting the inverter replacements–$1,240.

    The Unisolars are on fixed latitude mounts because they take in good power throughout the day. The glass panels need tracking. Seasonally adjustable single axis trackers are less than my two axis “full” tracker. If not tracking, but going just seasonally adjustable fixed with glass panels, you need at least 40% more. If mounted fixed and not at the average sun angle, you will need to figure refectivity losses, and adjust for that. Look at the warranty for hail damage–usually at least a 30* angle of mounting from horizontal is needed or the warranty is void. Of course, if self mounting without a kit, they must be made strong enough to resist any anticipated or greater wind (and maybe snow) loads.


    You may want to read an article I wrote called Green?

    In this I give a general overview about green/off grid living. I discuss it from the broader sense.


    Home Energy Production-Electricity

    I don’t talk cost but practicality of it. If you really want to make sure it pays off, get out of debt and don’t finance anything. Use cash.

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