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Home Forums General Discussion tips and tricks for the very poor

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    i live in the middle of a smaller town and our family makes just enough to cover most of the bills. the house we live in is a rental and have been told by our landlord that they are willing to work with us on buying it. i see alot of potential for the property as is but would work alot better if the house were given a couple of additions (ex. greenhouse, solar and wind generators, etc). with a very small amount of disposable income how can a family way below the poverty level make its way to the off grid world?


    You can start a garden first of all no matter how small so you will save on food, and can what you have extra don’t give it away.You will save on food purchases. If you have cable TV get fid of it. One less bill and you can watch TV on the less bill. Go to sleep when the sun goes down get up at sunrise save electric not using lights. Cook out side when possible saves gas and does not heat up the house in summer. Make your own cooking charcoal by packing a metal bucket or barrel that has a tight fitting lid with wood and burn untill all is ignited well put on lid leaving 1/4 open till smoke goes from yellow to gray and then cover tightly to starve the fire of oxygen to stop burn..After it cools, remove lump charcoal.It may take a couple of trys to get it right but it works well once you get it down. You will not need to buy charcoal to cook with. Build a rocket stove mass heater to heat your greenhouse and grow winter if your in a cold climate one can also be built to heat your home also if you buy it..Hopefully with these tips you will be able to buy the rental you living in..larry


    You can also change the lighting in your house to 12 volt lights instead of 120 volt. Just use a car battery to power them and recharge with a small battery charger.

    Duke Joe

    I make $95.00 a week and also raising a teen age boy with that income!all I can tell you is that you must watch every penny! Urban poaching, fish traps, eatable weeds, gardening, scavenging recyclables and reusables start locating free items for a solar batch hot water heater it can be built for nothing than look for solar air heaters that too can be built for nothing check out youtube on how to build them!


    urban poaching? is that hunting and trapping squirrels and such? an idea i had when i bumming around a while. i have a large family now (6 kids and some pets) and we also get some help from the government so food isnt that big of a deal at the moment. i am planning on doing some aquaculture and stuff to make the help im getting go a bit further and eventually not need it at all. i do like the cooking outside idea. definitely have to try out the homemade charcoal idea. what kind of wood do you use? sounds like something you could make a little money on the side with. we do not have cable here. we do spend our fare share of time watching stuff on the internet and dvd. we even have a few vcr’s too. our local goodwill has vhs 5 for a dollar all the time.


    Rich, my hubby and I live on very VERY little, we live 100% off grid, and we do quite well, you can read some of the articles I have written here on that very subject, there might be some things in them that can help:

    Hopefully there is something that will be useful. You can also read my other articles, they are mostly about living off grid on the cheap :)



    Slightly off topic, but the point was brought up.

    While I point no fingers, nor do I attempt ridicule or any other form of offence, over population has ALWAYS been one of societies greatest problems. For a thoughtful and well articulated (though somewhat repetitive) work on the subject you might read the classic work by T.R. Malthus entitled “An Essay on the Principles of Population” (Available on Amazon). Other than the fact that population can now be controlled by modern contraceptive methods, everything in this classic 152 page essay written in 1798 is still true today. In fact as oil and food prices continue to rise the problem of feeding over seven billion people will likely become untenable. As gruesome a thought as it is, I would not be surprised to see half a billion people starve in third world nations by the end of the decade.

    As for the original question. I am sure someone at your income level has already found ways to cutback. My suggestion would be to find a way to increase that income with a side business. Go to yard sales looking for bargains to sell on ebay, learn to cut hair for other low income families, put up filers for house cleaning, , mow lawns, anything you do well someone will likely pay you to do it.


    I wanted to drop you a quick note to express my thanks.

    I have been following your blog for a month or so and have picked up a heap of good information as well as enjoyed

    the way you’ve.


    get rid of unnecessary gadgets, especially energy sucking ones. Take advantage of natural resources. spend more time outside instead of staying at home


    Home Energy Production-Electricity

    At the bottom of this article I list some points of conservation which will make living offgrid more feasable.

    •Live in a passive solar home if possible. (This home is the most energy efficient design)

    •Upgrade your home to be as energy efficient as possible (This is more than simply adding lots of insulation)

    •Use gas for anything that you could possibly use gas for in place of electricity including lighting, a/c, refrigeration and freezing. Or at least have this alternative available.

    •Use heat exchangers on your ventilation and outside air intake.

    •Use LED and Compact fluorescent lighting instead of incandescent.

    •Use sky lighting as much as possible.

    •Use window lighting as much as possible (without overdoing it, too much window space means too much heat loss).

    •Solar heat water first with backup on demand gas heating of water.

    •Have on/off switches on all power outlets (vampire repellant)

    •Use only 120 volt for appliances (no 240, usually for electric a/c, heat, stoves and ovens, washer/dryer, arc welder)

    •Minimize your use of water if power is required for running/pumped water. (see my post on Home Water production and storage).

    •Watch out for vampires! These are home appliances that constantly use power even when turned off.


    Larry I agree with all your statements except one. Cost of natural gas varies with suppliers. When we moved in to this place we deliberately shut off the gas on the advice by friends and neighbors. They had found the gas too expensive. They switched to being 100% electric. We live in a region where the electric power is from hydro-electric power dams so it is cheaper. This will definitely vary region to region.

    There are ways to make either electricity or gas at home so this is still an option.

    I do wonder why you recommend: “Use only 120 volt for appliances (no 240, usually for electric a/c, heat, stoves and ovens, washer/dryer, arc welder)” This runs counter to the physics law of I squared R losses all electrical system must obey. Why would you recommend wasting energy in the wiring?


    Well I see your point on the gas, but the idea is that in lowering your electrical need the solar panels and batteries will work and keep you off grid at reasonable cost. Thats why I have gas at least as an option to electric. It may be in my article where I said this.

    240 appliances don’t consume far more electricity than 120? Electricity in this case being amp hours of battery life? And I didn’t mean not to use 12 or 24 volt apliances. sorry. I mean for a/c appliances use all 120 volt.


    would obviously want to use wood in place of gas where you could as well.


    Larry you are perpetuating a myth when you question the issue of 240V appliances using less power than 120V

    I am a power system designer so this is an issue I have to deal with every day.

    watts is calculated by multiplying volts times amps.

    howeve voltage drop in a wire is calculated by the formula current squared( multioplied by itself then multiplied by the resistance of the wire. Most often this is verbally short handed as I squared R

    120V X 3 amps = 360 watts or roughly what a small fridge uses.

    But if that fridge was 240V the current is only half as much, or 1.5A.

    Even without doing any calculation you can se that with half the current the I squared R losses will be less.

    This is why new solar and wind instaallations went to 48V. Less losses in the same wiring.

    A new wrinkle is the latest generation of grid tie systems. They use 240V not 120V and for much the same reason.

    ther are additional factors but not germane to this discussion.

    For a new off grid system I would design for a 48V battery storage bank and a 240V inverter to drive deep well pump, washer/dryer combo and possibly a few big occasional use appliances. To over come the unbalanced neutral issues and attendant losses I would spend the money to install a step down transformerr to deliver 120V to all the utility power outlets.

    With mass consumer sales the cost of a 120V V appliance is far cheaper than the equivalent 12V model and they last a lot longer. If you can repair them the cost of repairs is less.

    Using a Kill-a-watt meter I have measured and proven many of the new generation of kitchen appliances are more enegy efficient than old fashioned appliances so don’t hesitate to use them with some common sense.


    I see your points, I’ll do some thinking and research on the matter.

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