Off The Grid Living

Off The Grid Living & Zero Energy Loss Homes

In recent years the "extremes of Global Warming" are being felt on ever increasing basis. We at Home Energy Loss Professionals (H.E.L.P.) are connecting with other companies and groups to make these occurrences' less troublesome. A normal home in a heavy snow storm, ice storm, hurricane, tornado or any natural disaster, that can take your home "off the grid (OTG)", can make for extreme discomfort for your family and yourself. For prolonged periods of time, being off the grid, could even be life threatening.

This page is designed to give advice on the many ways that modern technology, advances in energy efficiency, and Federal & State Stimulus rebates and Utility incentives can all HELP to make being off the grid a reality. A truly (totally) off the grid (OTG) house can be expensive and with existing construction, maybe impossible, but there are many ways that this idea can be near reality. Whether your home be a condo, row-home, colonial or rancher construction, all homes can be improved upon.

First and foremost, many searches on the internet do not include "weatherizing" your home for reasons of "emergency situations". True, many do not like to think of "worst case scenarios", but with Climate Change, we must begin to incorporate "self-sufficiency" in our everyday lives. Weatherizing your home has many facets, but the main ones are "Air Sealing" (see see air sealing) and "Insulation" (see insulation). These are the main ways that energy escapes from your home. Your homes supplier of energy also must be properly maintained, but the heating and cooling unit does not have to be new or replaced to work efficiently (LINK). H.E.L.P. has created Energy Guide Pages for this purpose (see home energy guide).

A home "Green Energy Audit" is the best way to start this process. A good energy audit must at least include a blower-door test and even better would be an Infrared Scan jointly. As stated earlier, it is our intent to couple with other sustainable energy reduction groups to create a "total off the grid (OTG) package".

An example of retrofits for OTG would be "air sealing" (see air sealing). Hot air is drawn to colds air in a vacuum in nature and you do not always have to feel a draft to be losing energy. A "Blower-Door" test reveals these losses. Sometime the loss can equal having a door open year round. In an emergency situation, having no energy being loss to the outdoors, if the energy cannot be produced, can be the difference between discomfort and comfort. The reverse of this is also true, if outdoor air becomes unhealthy to breath, and by being air tight, this air cannot enter the indoor environment.

Another example of retrofits for OTG would be "insulation" (see insulation). Energy is absorbed through walls, floors, ceilings, water pipes (boiler also), hot water heaters, ducts, windows, doors and many other. If this absorption is stopped or at least slowed down, this will make the energy systems work less and in extreme cases, if the system is not working, the stored energy will last much longer. Again, can be the difference between discomfort and comfort.

We intend to explore other avenues being OTG, such as solar energy, wind energy, wood heating, green roofs, and the much needed back-up electric generators. Back-up generators can be of many forms, such as: solar that feeds back to the grid and can be returned when needed, or battery cell storage (the best, but most expensive) and fuel fired (which must be vented or outdoors. With this back-up electric, anything from the bare necessities of light and refrigerators can be used, to some energy units being able to function. Some of these would work automatically and other would have to be started, but in all cases, being maintained is a necessity. We recommend drills or mock situations that HELP your family prepare for OTG times. Just as all families should have a plan for fire or carbon monoxide emergencies, in today's changing climates, OTG drills should also be conducted.

Off The Grid Living & HVAC Upgrades

As the weather of The Planet become more abnormal, Off-The-Grid (OTG) Home Energy Retrofits, Low Energy Usage HVAC Systems and other types of Residential Energy Production are becoming more necessary. Along with these strange Acts of Nature, Mankind is becoming more apt to create situations where long-term energy independence, or low energy usage per home is slowly coming to the forefront. They can include what some may call as conspiracies, but we @ HELP call these "what ifs" that we should all be aware of and be ready to protect our families for. H.E.L.P. has prided itself for decades for being ahead of the Energy-Savings Curve by implementing new technologies as they come off the drawling-board. Thus, this OTG Page and the embedded Links are being given to HELP Readers master their energy future, no matter what Acts of God or Man may throw into the Planet's Climate Arena.

Air-Sealing & Ventilation: The Federal Energy Efficiency Codes in 2016 are calling for tightening up residential building shells as tight as possible and then adding "make-up air" to alleviate and air quality problems that this tightening may produce. "About 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption provides heat, cooling and power to buildings." Building energy codes are widely seen as cost-effective policy tools to combat emissions, lower homeowner utility costs, and increase home comfort and value.

2016 Safety Standards

For many years before 2016 the minimum air sealing limits were .35 air changes per hour naturally (ACHN) (being ~ 1/3 of all the homes air leaving per hour) and now there are no minimum limits, but as a safe guard to health issues, new national ventilation standards have be place to insure that no harm is done to occupants by BPI and other standard organizations. HELP is keeping up with all of these changes by continued education, seminars and classroom training of all Team Members to be ensure no harm is done also.

One of the biggest home retrofit that the standards are calling for is continuous fresh air ventilation. This does sound counter-productive to tighten a home through "Air-Sealing". This additional air is a necessary trade off for a super energy efficient home though. Some major fresh air source ways are: whole house full-time ventilation, via a bath type fan full-time (or on a timer / calculated), energy recovery systems (HRV & ERV), and duct work adaption for part-time fresh air (HELP's #1 Choice). The full-time bath fan style systems almost speak for themselves but you can see this for further FYI's. A little about the HVR's & the EVR's is: There are two types of energy-recovery systems: heat-recovery ventilators (HRV) and energy-recovery ventilators (ERV). HRV systems draw fresh air into a home while simultaneously exhausting stale air from the home. During this exchange, the two air-streams pass through a core within the unit where a portion of heat from one air stream is transferred into the other (usually the indoor air in winter and the outdoor air in summer). An ERV works similarly to an HRV, except an ERV allows a portion of the moisture in the more humid air stream (usually the indoor air in winter and the outdoor air in summer) to be transferred to the dryer air stream.

One of the best and least expensive ways in which the home's can be protected is by adding make up / outside air via "the Return Side"of a HVAC Duct System . To HELP these seem the most cost effective additional ventilation retrofits. Adding fresh air to a heating or cooling system accomplishes two primary indoor air quality goals: It pressurizes a building, and increases indoor air quality by diluting polluted or stale indoor air. Outside air enters the system through a roof or sidewall vent inlet that collects air from a clean outside location. The air is pulled into the system through a filter, and then a duct connected to the return plenum. Smaller systems usually use the suction side of the air handler fan to pull in the outside air. The air mixes with the return air, and then is dispersed evenly throughout the building through the supply duct system. Thus, every time the HVAC comes on, some fresh outside air enters the home...

So to summarize the newest National Energy Efficiency Method, or as it is called ASHRAE Standard 62.1 to bring greater comfort to families; With more advanced technologies and advances in Home Comfort Air-Sealing (see Guide Air-Sealing) more strict controls have been implemented to ensure safety to occupants, therefore be sure that the Energy Savings Contractor that you choose is aware of the 2016 Guidelines and that they do not cut corners... for you families health and safety can be at risk!!! Calculating tools have been given and ignorance is no excuse for not abiding by the Safety Standards that are now in place. We hope that you enjoy you super energy efficient home and do not stop with just the basics of Air-Sealing & Ventilation, but take your dwelling to even higher Energy Star levels by installing the most advance technologies at hand to bring your home as Off-The-Grid as possible. We hope that the above HELPed...

Super High Efficiency HVAC/Geo-Thermal

Super High Efficiency HVAC Systems: With a higher plateau being set for Energy Efficient in the general market place, as with none gas guzzling automobiles and electric cars, the Home Energy Sector is also benefiting with super efficient HVAC System, some said to be 150% efficient. Just as when you buy a new refrigerator or dryer, an Energy Star Label is required now on all new HVAC (see Furnace Guide) and Hot Water Heating Systems. Thus when purchasing a home comfort system it is in your best interest to do your homework when spending from $2,500.00 to $25,000.00 on a product that may last for 20 years or more. Articles like this and Web Search are invaluable when choosing a system for installation and when choosing a Installer, who keeps up with all of the latest Technologies and Utility, State and Federal Rebates. This HVAC OTG FYI with briefly go into the best ways to condition your Home's Air, Water and even Electric Production, to keep your family as far from the Grid as possible. We @ HELP make it a point to HELP our customers be as informed as possible with our Home Energy Savings Guides (see Energy Guide Link). We have a lot of information on HVAC Systems in general @ our Furnace & Duct Guide, but we are expanding this here for the High Efficiency Systems and such. Some of the basics from the other Pages are terminologies as SEER, COP and HSPF that many Federal Energy Star Labels refer too. I will just touch on these terms as to not to detract from the "meat" of the systems types, but do research these yourself for they are important when comparing units: This is from one of the better "SEER, COP and HSPF"

Search Pages I found... ""Is this correct?: SEER is BTU cooling / watt hours needed. So divide this number by 3.412 to get the COP. Thus a 16 seer unit would have a COP of 4.7 or so. HSPF is BTU heat produced / watt hours needed. So take a heat pump with a HSPF of 10, which is supposed to be pretty good and divide that by 3.412 = a COP of 2.9." "Both the COP and EER values for groundwater heat pumps are single-point (valid only at the specific test conditions used in the rating) values only. This is in contract to the seasonal values (HSPF and SEER) published for air-source equipment. COP and EER are not the same as, or valid for use in comparison to, SEER and HSPF. #4 (good FYI) "SEER & EER are related to the cooling/AC side of heat pump (or AC) and HPSF/COP are related to the heating side of a heat pump. The SEER & HSPF numbers are supposed to be a seasonal or average of an entire season. The EER & COP are a "snapshot" at a given outdoor temperature. EER's are rated at 95 deg(F) and COP's were rated at 47 & 17 deg(F). Many standards now look at muliples of these such as the $1,500 tax credit looks at SEER, EER & HSPF. I always did like the COP because I was taught that a COP equated to a ratio of for every dollars worth of electricity that was consumed, you got $X dollars worth of heat."

Also noteworthy is this very good Link to the "Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute" Now back to the Meat & Potatoes of System Types... But as note here is that with any of the super efficient system, the home's conditioned envelope (see Guide WAP?) must be tight and the home must be well insulated (See Guide Insulation). I refer to these pre or post shell requisites as "Icing-On-The-Cake". The HVAC System we see being installed much more is Geo-Thermal, which pulls the heating and cooling from the Earth's Constant Temp of ~ 55 deg, as opposed to Heat Pumps that draw these from the Air. Both of these system are said to be ~150% eff, but Geo can abstract the heat at much lower outdoor temps. Geo-Thermal does have a high purchase price, as Solar but between Federal, State and Utility Rebates this price can come down well over 50%!!! Thus, Do Not let the "Sticker-Shock" scare you away. Again, do you homework with these and the EER's and COPs are the important ratings that you should be comparing and the higher they both are the more efficient the models (Best are about 25.3 EER and 4.3 COP). This Water-Furnace Link is very HELPful.

Solar Panels

Along with Geo-Thermal, another high price tag to start-up system is the Energy Generating Solar Collector. Again do not let the first price you see give you Sticker-Shock until you have done your research. Solar Collectors for electric have really transformed in the past couple of years to a point to where it is now possible to keep the electric that is produced within your dwelling, via a Tesla Rechargeable Storage "Powerwall" Battery. Though these collector are quite expensive now, the prices will come down, as when computer where first introduced till today. These collector will give a dwelling true energy independence for OTG Living. Presently the way most units are designed, power is sent back into the Grid, to be reused later and in some State this power can be sold back to the Utilities. There are also options to outright purchases as: Leasing, Green Energy Loans that pay themselves back, Renting and even Borrowing, with the option to sell back the energy to pay for the unit. The longevity of the units has also increase dramatically to possibly providing a life-time of use and upgrades, as has the efficiency of collection. It seems "the sky is the limit" (sorry for the pun) for Solar Collectors and the trends will only grow with the rising cost of energy. When these collectors are used in tandem with super efficient HVACs, OTG Living can be a real possibility to even to the average homeowner...

Thus the HELP buyers pick for Off-The-Grid New Home Construction or Existing Home Energy Retrofits would be: 1) Have you home made as air-tight and as insulated as possible (Energy Guide Insulation). Have the Insulation upgraded to the next colder climate above your via the Energy Star DOE Chart. With this Chart Maryland is recommended to have R-38 Attic Insulation, but 1 State up the levels are R-49, thus choose R-49 for for Insulation Upgrade. Historically as the Energy Codes have changed, one level up is always in the new Codes. When I started 30 years ago our Insulation Levels were R-30 and today R-38 to R-49 are recommended. Note: Any levels above R-60 are a waste, for at this level, even with a -30 deg outdoors temperature there will be Zero Energy Loss through the attic. 2) Choose the most efficient heating and cooling unit you can afford and do your homework to make sure your dollars go the furthest If possible, Geo-Thermal is the HELP choice of choicest. 3) Try to purchase a Solar Collector that can withstand future upgrades, be them additional collectors, in dwelling storage and a unit that in the long-term you will own.

With Solar Installs, also look for a Company that has been installing these for a while and a company that is not just looking to make a buck and place a unit on your roof asap. Make sure they inspect your roof's material for longevity, be it your shingles. the plywood beneath and the strength of the wooden beams that support your roof, a Detailed Report on the Energy Produced and Saved "compared" to the money you will spend, as well as any local ordinances that could come in effect in the future that would force you to disassemble your collector... as well as "the fine print". Thus, be a wise Energy Efficiency Shopper and strive for the best "Savings-To-Investment (SIR) (see SIRs Guide) possible for your money and try to get Off-The-Grid as soon as possible, while the Government and others are offering extremely invited Rebates and Tax Credits Packages to HELP your family do so.