In this video we’re meeting Art & Mary, a retired couple who set out to build an energy efficient and allergen-free home, and ended up living fully off the grid!
They have a massive solar power system for the majority of their electrical needs, they process all their own firewood, grow and forage a lot of their own food in the summer, and they collect rainwater for watering their garden!
Art and Mary are a really inspiring couple and it was interesting to sit down with them to find out why and how they’re thriving in their off-grid lifestyle.
The house is built with Durisol Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF), it's super well insulated and has triple glaze windows, which helps keep the heat in during the cold months, and keep the heat out during the warmer months.
They mainly heat with their wood stove, but they also have in-floor heating that is controlled by multiple thermostats throughout the house. The building code where they live requires an automatic heat source that can come on even if no one is home, and they also know that one day they may not want to cut as much firewood.
For now, they harvest and process all of their own firewood themselves, cutting down trees in winter, and cutting them in the spring.
hey everyone in this video we're meeting art and Mary a retired couple who set out to build an energy-efficient allergen-free home and ended up living fully off-the-grid they have a massive solar power system for the majority of their electrical needs they process all their own firewood grow and forage a lot of their own food in the summer and they collect rainwater for watering the gardens art and Mary are a really inspiring couple and it was interesting to sit down with them to find out why and how they're thriving in their off-grid lifestyle so let's go meet up with them and find out more this video is sponsored by audible we'll give you more information about them at the end plus the details to get a free audiobook and more well I don't think we really started off initially as wanted to be off-grid we wanted to build a home that would be good for Mary's allergy conditions something that maybe would address possibility of mold anything that we could eliminate that's what we looked at and then when we discovered that what it's going to cost to bring electricity into the place that's when we looked at alternative which is off-grid we had our bucket list we have things we wanted and we originally started looking closer the jus ta area where we were living and it was just so pricey so we just kept moving geographically further and further out so this was a good location you know Mary loves trees and rocks and water got those three pieces on the property she's a happy camper and part of one of my bucket list items was to make my own maple syrup one day and that potential was here lots of maple trees having wildlife close at hand I mean we've had bare beaver Fox we had it all that's all real part of what we really wanted just to be close to nature hang my clothes out garden I'd do a lot of wild harvesting so there's all of that out there I guess our checklist would be different than somebody who would say is 20 years old and just getting started I mean we're retired so there were certain priorities you know if there are challenges sometimes in getting a new doctor and we also wanted someplace where the services would be handy we didn't want to be traveling very distance by groceries there may come a time where we can't use stairs and we would like to be able to stay here as long as possible and so we decided that an all-in-one floor would be the best way for us to just stay here yeah I guess we also talked to our architect about making something easy and simple so that we could maybe have a hand in the building we have over 2,400 square feet if you look at the walls or 16 inches thick there are 40 the ceiling is are 60 and underneath the concrete floor here we have six inches of spray foam our windows are triple glazed you don't realize whether there's three panes of glass there to reduce the heat loss so in the summer it's a cool house but in the winter it's a warm house and we don't have air conditioning we just heat with wood basically and because of the orientation of the house of the way it's build has succeeded our expectations yeah both passive and active solar active solar of course the panels and the passive solar is when all the leaves are off the trees and the Sun is you know closer to the horizon and it just floods all of the concrete floor and warms it up and then that heat is you know is emitted throughout the night it's really quite dramatic how how effective that passive solar is I mean it's fresh in the morning you just grab your house cold but really and then first one up always puts a firearm so we have 12 solar panels and 16 batteries we have a 2.8 kilowatt system which in many respects is small for a lot of people but for the just the two of us it's excellent it provides enough power that we live as comfortably as anybody in the city and if you just simply came out here and didn't see the solar panels you wouldn't really know that this house was off-grid we have our computers on all day long we watch movies quite often in the evening you know like Mary does 90% of her bacon just on the counter was a little toaster oven yeah and we've we've transitioned to instant pot cooking and that really reduces the draw as well it's some quite surprising we didn't even think about a dryer we have a conventional washing machine conventional fridge freezer I like the soul and when I saw I always have my iron on and art was pretty insistent on the fact that I needed to buy one of these irons you put on your wood stove so you could heat up this Mendelson I'm like no the iron is staying and it turns out that our system completely handles up yeah now I won't if we've had a day or two of dull weather I won't iron look I won't Sol rather because I know I like my urn handy there we discovered that in the summertime by usually lunchtime our batteries were full which meant that all afternoon all that beautiful Sun energy we were not getting any advantage of it so much to my surprise we installed two electric water heaters one under the sink in the kitchen and another in the mechanical room our water from the well and our well is 200 feet deep comes into our pressure tank and because I'm trying to reduce the number of times that the well pump has to come on I had the installers put in the largest pressure tank available from the pressure tank the water then goes into the hot water heater so when the water comes in from the well let's say it's at this temperature when we take a shower you want it up at this temperature the electric heater will bring it up to here and then it comes from there into the propane heater which takes it the rest of the way so instead of using propane to heat the water from down here up to here we're only using propane to go from here to here now if you're like me sometimes you forget that you turn things on and leave them on so what we have done is rather than use the switch here for turning it on and off we have installed on the wall here in the mechanical room a timer switch so we can turn that on it will run for two hours we go away if we forget about it it doesn't matter it's not gonna drain our batteries so we don't use the electric water heater all the time but when our batteries are full and the Sun is out and we still have four or five hours of solar power available then why not make use of it why not put it into creating hot water and this is our battery bank we have 16 batteries gives us 2.8 kilowatt system and we were hoping we were expecting the batteries to last us 10 years our first set lasted six so these were installed last October of 2018 and we'll see we've made some small changes we've shortened the wire that comes from the charger and we're also put the batteries on carts so we're going to be able to move those around from time to time just to give them a different position so that maybe the different current flow will extend their life somewhat we'll see what happens well the building code requires your heating system to be somewhat independent so something had to be installed that would allow the house to be heated even if we weren't here and I know there's gonna come a day when I'm not gonna feel like cutting down trees of chopping wood that's just the reality in the in-floor heating you've got four motors running and solar is a bit of a draw there but they're all low wattage motors but then we have a generator which is controlled by the computer chips and if the batteries are getting too low lift generated it will come on to bring them up to what level they should be the in-floor heat in the hot water comes off of the propane tank you can see it here I have it closed off right now because we're not using it but the WA hot water flows into this exchange box and so then the water from the floor heats up goes back down into the floor and we've got the three pumps there that control the different zones in the house and each zone is on a thermostat we don't often use all the rooms we heat maybe the bathroom floor and if the guest bedrooms BND just we'll eat that up otherwise we depend upon our wood stove we have a well we wished for the well and the gentleman who dug for the well said well witching works if you're only going fifteen feet or something he said you just pick your spot and we'll drill well 20 rods later and he still wasn't getting a drop of water and to the tune of about 10,000 dollars we had this hole and no water and that was getting us a little bit concerned and he said oh not a problem we'll come back tomorrow and we'll frack it well the way everything was finished and they tested for the flow it worked out to five gallons a minute we've never had an issue we've never had issue with water and you also did a lot of research before we added pumps and things yeah although draw yes we'll start so it doesn't just kick on and yank a bunch of juice out of the batteries something else with the water is you've noticed we have some outdoor water storage tanks on different locations on the house so we collect a fair bit of rainwater we have a capacity right now for a thousand gallons so like in July we had some hot dry periods of time and it was just great to be able to water the gardens because we both enjoy fresh vegetables from our garden from about the second week of May till October we eat everyday from the garden so that that's pretty significant we find our grocery bill really drops [Music] [Applause] a big consideration a very big one is would the management of would and we've tried different systems we look for trees while the leaves are on and we mark the trees and then one small ones that are dying that's right and then once the winter comes the trees have to get cut down and then we tried to get them bucked as best we can you know size down and then in the spring we bring them up and cut them out but and can haul our wood up onto the porch and then it's right outside the door we started to investigate looking at solar vs hydro and we found when we had someone from hydro come up and they priced out what it would cost to get hydro and then we had someone quote us a price for a solar system that we specified and fifteen thousand dollars cheaper to go the solar route and that was we're not talking about the monthly bills we're just talking right upfront now having said that it's not free all right if somebody is out there thinking well we'll go solar and then our energy issues are going to be free from now on that's not the case the batteries do have to be replaced from time to time everything has a cost to it and you have to decide what you are comfortable with or what you can handle it's not for everybody living off period isn't with others challenges and responsibilities no you can't just pick up the phone and tell the service guys to come on over and be out of problem you had to figure out you know what this situation is fortunately we've got very supportive people you know the people that install the solar system are local so that's something that I think if you're considering being off-grid it's critical to have somebody close by that can advise you that's what I would suggest in the wintertime often just to kind of I think we're trying to a little different approach just to keep the batteries a little fresh air a little longer we're a little more comfortable having the generator run for an hour and the first thing in the morning that's when the big draw is and if we're doing the generator Mary will say well I might as well do a load of laundry because their generator will generate more power than our solar system well so it'll feed the batteries but it will also feed our system if we're we started a blog I thought the kids would be comfortable knowing that we were still alive and so there's a number of people out there who are also interested in living off-grid or living it away from the city and I think it gives them an opportunity to kind of just follow along and see what some of the challenges are what some of the benefits are something I like up here is the fact that we've got a leak just across the road it's nice to go canoeing in the evening go down and cool off for the day the opportunity to do some of the things that I've always wanted to do I grew up in that era of Laura Ingalls and had dreams of being able to you know manage all those different things for myself sewing and having chickens and gardening and wild harvesting and then you know making your own soap but just being able to do all that it's just a different life and we love it more more the longer we add the more we like it if you enjoyed meeting art and Mary you should definitely check out their blog we'll put a link to it in the description below we want to thank audible again for sponsoring this video we think audiobooks are an awesome way to reduce the amount of physical stuff you have in your living space or in your suitcase and you can listen to them pretty much anytime anywhere and on any device right now we're interested in listening to the atomic habits by James clear because we want to dive deeper into the idea that tiny behavior shifts are a great way to make positive life changes and also help us better manage our time and productivity audible also has audible originals which are custom audiobooks you can't get anywhere else you can start listening with a thirty-day audible trial and choose one audio book and two audible originals absolutely free visit audible.com slash exploring alternatives or if you're in the u.s. you can text exploring alternatives to 500 500 so if you want to try audible for the first time you can get a free audiobook plus two audible originals when you sign up for a free 30-day trial at audible.com slash exploring alternatives and if you're in the US you can text exploring alternatives to 500 500 thanks so much for watching please share this video if you liked it also if you want to see more videos like this be sure to check out our 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