69 Beebe Road
Knox, NY, 12023
This is our home. Before we installed our windmill and photovoltaic panels,
our December 2005 electric use was 720 KW, which translates to about
1000 watts being used all of the time. Now we are mostly off the grid, only
hooking up rarely when our batteries get too low. We probably won't hook
up to the grid all summer, but may charge from the grid a couple of times
during the winter months when there isn't much sun. We hired
Pam and Edwin Falk, (Suntric Systems), of Lyons Falls, NY,
to help take us off the Grid. It is quite windy where we live, and sunny
enough, especially during the summer months. We have had to learn how
to live within our electricity means by installing curly fluorescent and LED
bulbs, and turning things off after ourselves.
Our home is off-grid, but if you keep reading, you will see that our garage is
grid tied to support our Nissin Leaf and a couple of battery powered lawn
On the left is a picture of our two racks of photovoltaic panels. The
larger rack on the left has ten 110 watt panels. The rack on the right
has twelve 75 watt panels. This gives us 2000 watts total from these
racks. The racks each have an actuator which allows us to adjust the
tilt of the racks seasonally to maximize their potential. We used to have
automotic tracking eyes and actuators on these racks, but the wind was
too much for them and the tracking technology didn't work that well.
We added a few panels and eliminated the automatic tracking.
Here's another view of the two racks of photovoltaic
panels which were completed in May of 2006.
The Day the Bergey 1
KW windmill went up,
September 6, 2006.
On the right is a picture of our Bergey 1 kilowatt
windmill on a 100 foot guyed tower. The current is
rectified in the turbine and comes into the house as 24
volt DC current. A combination of 1 gauge and 2
gauge wire brings the high-amp low volt current to the
We have had a number of different groups come to
our home to see what our home power looks like.
These are 4th graders from The Berne Knox Westerlo
This Tri-Metric meter allows us to
monitor the status of our system. We
can see how many volts the batteries
currently have, we can see what our net
amps are at the moment, and we can
see what percent of full the batteries
are. We can make decisions about
whether this is a good day to do laundry
or use the microwave or bake cookies in
our 1500 watt counter top electric oven.
This is a not too lovely view of the battery box in our
basement. We have twelve 6 volt lead acid batteries
(Deka ProMaster 8L16 190 min 350 AH)
which are wired in 3 groups of 4 to make a 24 volt system.
This is the right side of our control panel area in our
basement, right above the battery box. The white
controller serves the Bergey 1 KW windmill. It
decides whether we have enough power already and
may put the brakes on the windmill. Display lights
show whether the windmill is running, whether the
brakes are on, and whether excess power is being
sent to our extra hot water heater.
This shows the left side of our control panel. The
inverter is in the middle. It changes 24 Volt DC current
from the batteries into 110 Volt AC household current.
The breaker box on the right sends current to our 24
Volt appliances: the well pump and the refrigerator.
This is our OutBack Power
Systems "Mate" which allows us
to set parameters in the inverter.
We have set the Mate to take
power from the grid if our
batteries fall below 24 volts. This
would be a very rare event in the
summer when there is lots of
sunlight, but can happen more
often in the winter months.
This is our SunFrost 16 Cubic Foot
refrigerator which is very efficient. It
runs on 24 volt DC current directly
from our batteries.
We removed our old 220 volt well
pump and replaced it with a 24 volt
pump which uses less than a quarter
of the electricity.
We added an extra bladder tank so that the well pump would only have to
come on half as often and provide a larger reserve. This helps to
accommodate our less powerful well pump. We have to be careful about
water use, for example, by not taking showers and doing laundry at the same
To address our heating needs, in October of 2007, we installed a Tulikivi
Masonry Stove in our living room which practically replaces our propane
hotwater baseboard heat. The open design of our house allows air to
circulate well. The Tulikivi was purchased from and installed by Mountain
Flame from Arkville, NY. One good fire every 12 hours makes the Tulikivi
warm enough to keep the house comfortable on average winter days. A
fire burns clean and hot for about 1 1/2 hours, and then the fire goes out,
the flue is shut, and the stove radiates warmth into the house until the next
In November of 2011, Sundog Solar installed a VELUX hot water
system for us. On a cold, windy, but sunny day, the glycol in the
panels will be over 140 degrees, and the water in the exchange tank
in the house will be over 120 degrees.
Two solar hot water panels outside our
house on a 9 x 12 foot rack
Glycol pressure relief tank.
Meters showing the
temperatures of the glycol
outside and the water inside
and a digital readout which
provides a variety of
The indoor heat exchange
tank showing the control
panel on the left and the
pressure tank above and to
Glycol circulates through a coil in the hot water tank
to heat the water, which never comes in contact
with the glycol. This pre-heated water is then fed
into our propane hot water heater. On a sunny
day, no propane is needed to make the water warm
enough to use.
In December 2012, we leased a Nissan
Leaf from Lia Nissan on Central
Avenue in Schenectady. The sticker
price was about $38,000, but Nissan
somehow took credit for the $8000 in
subsidies, and we ended up leasing
the car based on a price of about
$28,000. As of the end of August,
2013, we have driven the Leaf almost
11,000 miles, saving about $120 a
month on gas. Also, there are few
things to repair on the Leaf, few
moving parts, relative to a gas car, so
we think this is not only a great car to
drive, and the right thing to do
environmentally, but it makes lots of
economic sense as well.
You can see the charging station on
the wall of our garage (upper left). It
delivers 220V to the car charger, which
will fully charge it in 4 hours. We make
many round trips of 50 miles or so,
never a problem.
Our home is off-grid, except for the ability to charge our batteries from
the grid if needed. However, our garage is grid tied (see the inverter to
the right), using a new set of photovoltaic panels (see picture below).
Ray Falk of Suntric, from Lyons Falls, installed this new grid tied system.
The total cost was about $27,000 (before tax incentives) for 5300 watts.
We are more than 1000 kilowatt hours ahead of our use as of late
New 5300 watt array in center of original two arrays,
installed May of 2013.
This is the new meter which National
Grid installed. It runs backwards for us
since we are making a lot more power
than we are using.
Since we were making more electricity than we could use, we
bought a GE E12 Elec-Trak in late August 2013. These
machines were made by GE in Scotia many years ago. I am
hoping that I can cut 2 acres of grass on a charge. I should be
able to save a few gallons of gas each time I cut the two acres. I
bought this unit for $500. When it needs new batteries, that
could cost $700, but I think these batteries should last for years.
We bought this GreenWorks walk
behind mower in May 2013 to make
use of all that extra electricity we are
making. It is a 40Volt model, costs
about $350, and comes with two sets
of snap in battery packs. One charge
lasts about 45 minues, which is plenty
long for us. And, the best thing is that
there is never any problem starting it!
And no gas!
GreenWorks 40V mower
GE E-12 Elec-Trak
Off grid home
Grid tied PV pannels to charge electric car
Hot water solar