Off the Grid Electric Lessons

by Kathleen G. Lupole

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Living off the grid, I have many people contact me to ask how they can cut the cost of their electric bill, without changing over to alternative energy sources. For anyone who is trying to cut energy costs, here are some ideas to get you started.

Main Energy Users

You can apply some of the same principles an off the grid home uses, but use it to drastically cut your electrical power usage. Of course, the main energy hogs are the ones that use heat, such as electric heat, electric hot water, electric stove and oven and the electric clothes dryer. There's air conditioning, as well. These appliances use huge amounts of your electric power, eating up your watts as soon as they are turned on. Switching to propane or natural gas for water heating, home heat, cooking and clothes drying, along with more efficient refrigerators and freezers will offer savings. For an air conditioning alternative, there are evaporative cooling systems. Changing to these appliances will instantly cut off more than three-quarters of what you usually pay for electricity.


The very first thing I tell them to do is to change all their light bulbs to the newer compact fluorescent bulbs. Screw in light bulbs should be mostly compact fluorescent, using about one quarter the power of regular bulbs while giving the same brightness and color. Timers are great for children's rooms or any room where the light is usually left on.


And especially for anyone who is thinking of replacing a computer. Replace your big desktop computers with laptops. They use much less power. We run two laptops over 12 hours a day on very little power. A desk top (actually it is the monitors) uses as much in a few hours, as ours do in a week. The monitors are what you have to watch.

Cooking Ranges

Newer gas cooking ranges have what is called a "glow bar" in the oven. It uses electricity, so even if your power is out, you can't use the oven. This is an electric red-hot glow-bar pilot in the oven that consumes 400 watts all the time the oven is used! Instead, look for one of two types of pilot light ovens. An oven with regular gas flame pilot light is the simplest. Better is an oven pilot that lights by electric spark when the oven is started and goes off when the oven is finished. Propane or natural gas stoves with gas pilot lights need no power connection at all.

Another option would be no options! Yes, that's what I did when purchasing my brand new Premier propane range. It has no timer, no oven light, no light on top and no clock. You can purchase a separate timer for a few dollars just about anywhere. And most people already have a clock in their kitchen anyway. The same is true with lighting. Remember that you do pay for all those little options. And they are electric users.


Ordinary AC refrigerators and freezers run on over 200 watts AC, and run many hours a day. Most have less than 2-inch insulation. Fortunately, special refrigerators and freezers are available, which use less than 30% as much energy. Sunfrost refrigerator products have 4- to 6-inch insulation, and a quality compressor on top where it can't put heat back into the box. The RF-12 model runs 50 watts for 12 hours a day, totaling 600-watt hours a day. Compare that to the standard models, which use around 3000 watt hours each day. Just think how that would cut that electric bill down!


It goes without saying that another big saving for any household is to hang your laundry outside. I do that and even in the snowy cold winter of New York State. It is no big deal to me, and I admit to liking the way my home looks with my laundry hanging on the line. You could use a gas dryer and that would give you some savings, but of course, there is the price of the fuel, and it still does use some electricity, as well.

The Staber washing machine is also built with the off-the-grid family in mind. But what a savings for the family on the grid as well! It is a simply designed machine with under 200 watts running power, with only a larger surge at the start of the spin cycle, which means that 165 watts per load is much less than any other regular washing machine uses. It's a double plus, as it uses less than half as much water per load as other machines as well. Spins faster than others, saving more energy in faster drying on the clothesline or in your dryer. So if you do a lot of wash each week, this is a good way to save on the electric bill every month.

Ghost Loads

There are some appliances that consume your power twenty-four hours a day, even when you think they are turned off. Televisions, stereos, office equipment, garage door openers and many, many others. These appliances really need to turned off when you are not using them. By turned off, I mean the plug pulled out or they should be on a outlet strip that is turned off. Remember that little things count when you are trying to cut your usage back.

So you see, you can drastically reduce your bill, but you have to work at it. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Once you start living this way on a regular basis, you should see your power bill drop to about 100-300 kilowatt hours a month. At 15 cents a kilowatt-hour, that would be just $15 per month. That would be a welcome change I am sure.

Kathleen G. Lupole is a successful online entrepreneur.

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