Moving to an off-grid lifestyle brings with it a number advantages, but homeowners must be aware of their energy options in order to make it work.
In remote locations, including areas of Ontario and Muskoka, living off grid not only appeals to one's environmental values but it also makes economic sense. There’s no doubt about it, hydro bills in Ontario are rising and this is where alternative energy sources such as propane come into play.
A report last year by the Fraser Institute, which used data from Statistics Canada, showed that residential hydro costs in Ontario rose 71 per cent from 2008 to 2016. This was compared to the average increase across Canada, which totalled 34 per cent.
If you’re looking to move to a property that is currently not on the grid, connecting to hydro becomes even more expensive. Depending on your region and how isolated your property is, the cost of extending a power line to an electricity grid could range anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000.
The first part of our blog on off-grid living discussed what it actually means (add hyperlink), and why someone may choose to do it. If you’re reading this second part of the blog, it’s possible that you are now considering this as a lifestyle that works for you. We take a look at some of the simple, as well as complex, energy choices that could work for you.
Propane gas is one of nature’s most versatile sources of energy. It is made from the process of refining crude oil and natural gas, and since it’s a light hydrocarbon it is one of the cleanest burning fossil fuels. Propane can be used to power a range of appliances, to heat spaces and water, and can also be used as fuel for engine applications.
The environmental benefits of using propane as a source of energy are great. An approved clean alternative fuel from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), propane is non-toxic and therefore is not harmful to soil, water or the environment. As a result, it offers lower greenhouse gas emissions than many other energy options - despite its better performance.
Propane gas furnaces typically run at an efficiency rating of 90% or higher. Traditional oil furnaces, which commonly burn diesel fuel, generally produce heat at around 60% efficiency. The one huge benefit of propane is that it can always be counted on. No matter where you are, the sun will always set and the wind will stop blowing. Thankfully, your propane tank will still be there.
An off-grid solar system gathers solar energy to power appliances in your property. The most commonly used method to harness solar energy is the the use of solar panels. These panels are comprised of many smaller units known as photovoltaic cells, which absorb the sun’s energy and convert it into useable power.
The downside of solar energy is that it’s generally not a cost-effective solution to power an entire home. It could take decades to see a positive return on the initial outlay that solar equipment requires. Add to that the fact that solar power only works when the sun is shining, means it’s more cost-effective and practicable to combine this with other energy sources.
Wind systems use rotor blades to harness kinetic energy from wind, which can then be turned into electrical energy. The size of the wind turbine, along with the amount of wind in an area, determines how much energy these systems will create. The longer the rotor blades and the stronger the wind, the more energy a wind turbine can create.
Wind speeds in a specific location can vary widely, and there’s no guarantee of how much wind there will be on any given day. Just like solar power, wind systems will need to be combined with other energy sources to be a viable method of sourcing power.
Hydropower is similar to wind, in that it makes use of a turbine to harness kinetic energy. It uses the force of moving water to generate mechanic energy, which can then be converted into electrical energy through a generator. If successfully implemented, hydropower can create power 24 hours a day.
These systems are slightly more complicated for most homeowners, as not only would your property need to be located near a stream or river, but it would also need a volume and rate of flow that can successfully generate power. It gets even more complicated. Even if your property is located near a large enough stream, you will still need to get permission from the government to create a dam. This can often be tricky.
Successful off-grid properties generally use a combination of energy sources to generate reliable power, reduce costs and become more environmentally friendly. Using more than one option, say combining both propane and solar power, will give you power to fall back on if needed.
Contact Budget Propane today to find out how we can help your off-grid journey.