Joe's Corner  

Joe White - Real Estate Broker
Northern California Real Estate
Northwest Sonoma County and Southern Mendocino County
Recreational And Estate Properties
We have been doing this since 1976

August 30, 2013

LIVING OFF THE GRID
Or I am probably Greener than you are.

I HAVE BEEN FORTUNATE
And been able to live in the country since 1970. It had been with electricity and either wells or springs. In 2005 we built a new compound with no physical attachments to the grid including phone lines. We have a lot of hind site and have a fairly good idea what works and what doesn't. Living green was the result.

Last night just before I went to bed I was surfing the T.V. and ended up watching Survivor Man build himself a new compound/cabins off the grid in Canada. One of the first things he said was how discouraging it was to look for property and find that the Real Estate Agents did not provide accurate descriptions of what they were selling. Duh. It also made me think about the things that I know that I take for granted that obviously are not common knowledge.

This is meant as a brief overview. Each item can take a lot more detail than this.xx

FIRE DANGER
Do not place yourself in a position where you do not have a defensible building or camp site or a good way out. A fire can move very fast. Consider the prevailing winds. I have inside sprinklers in my house as well as my 2,000ft barn and 3 car garage. I have mostly metal roofs. There are sprinklers I can turn on on the roof of the house that also cover the redwood decks. There are 100 ft. hoses in 7 locations around my 3 AC. of fenced and mowed yard. No trees overhang the house. The trees are limbed away from the ground. We also have a $100 attachment for our garden hose that sprays foam which is 5 times better in smothering a fire than just water.

WATER
It amazed me that was not the Survivor Mans first priority. With out water a property is toast. Springs are my first choice. Above your building site is best because gravity will deliver it to you. That is what we have. It gives me 70 lb of pressure at the house and 2,700 gallons of storage with visible water level indicators for the house and garden.. .If you have a spring below the house you should pump it up to storage tanks to give you adequate gravity pressure. Wells are good but if you have a problem with the pump you need to call someone who can pull the pump and then work on it.

ELECTRICITY
I hunt and my wife has a green thumb and she freezes a lot. We have 2 regular freezers and a normal 2,500 sq. ft. home with 2 different zones for forced air heat & air conditioning. We have ceiling fans in almost every room, 2 small freezers we occasionally use. I have a reach in cooler for when I do my own butchering of wild game. My hunting trips often bring home 200 or more lb of meat. We use about 30 to 35 kilowatts per day. Even if electricity is available having a back up generator is a good idea. In 1997 our power was off for 14 days. Our primary source of power is a water driven Pelton system. Gravity from a different spring powers it. There are 25 solar panels and a large battery and inverter system. In November and December when the solar is waning and the rains have not effected spring flow our 25 kw generator can come on automatically and it powers the system and recharges the batteries. Types of systems most cost effective are water driven pelton, Solar and windmill. Wind mills attract lightening strikes.

BUILDING PAD
You need at least 1 good AC. of gentle ground to do everything you need. We have 3.

ACCESS/LOCATION
You need all weather access.

HEAT
Previously I had houses from new to built in 1932. New now means extremely good insulation and a much tighter building. In our last compound I burned 5 to 6 cords of wood. In this house I set up an area that I could put in a wood burning stove. I quickly decided I did not need it. We have 2 forced air heaters using propane. We spend about $50 per month on propane and that includes cooking

BUILDING MATERIALS
You now have choices of Green materials. A possibility is creating your own lumber.

TELEPHONE/SATELITE
We started with our own micro wave repeater for phones but the vendor was not good. Recently I switched to a cell system. I have 2 separate cell directional antennas with boosters. They are mated with a Blue Tooth unit that ties them into my 8 hard line phones spread around the complex. I have had an office in my house for 40 years. It is possibly better equipped than 99% of offices you walk into in town. Satellites give us TV, Internet and FAX.

STRUCTURES
Obviously a comfortable house. My needs include a barn, garage, carports and a buried wine cellar.

A GARDEN & CHICKENS
If not why are you thinking about moving to the country ?

FENCING
Pigs are easy to keep out with a 3 ft. high electric fence of high tensile strength wire with ratchets to keep it tight. It allows me to step over it at any location. Your dog will keep 99% of the deer out.

FIXING THINGS OR CREATING YOUR OWN SOLUTINS
If you can not you may not belong here.

SECURITY
Often you are your own. I feel safer in the country than in the city.

THE NEIGHBOR FROM HELL
Meet your neighbors. He can be just as bad as if he is in the next apartment.
Joe White

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