Aztext Press

Life Off-the-Grid

Zero-Carbon House

(This entry was first published on Jan. 14, 2009 at

Wow! The Detroit Auto Show is receiving lots of publicity right now and what a change from other years. It’s very subdued with many automakers clinging to life. It’s also a Hybrid/Electric Car Fest! It’s like all of Detroit just read “The Zero-Carbon Car” and they finally get it. Let’s hope it’s not too late for them. It’s very sad to watch “Who Killed The Electric Car” and realize that General Motors was a leader in electric cars, and basically cornered the market. But instead of running with it and becoming a market leader they put all their efforts into destroying the California Clean Air legislation that mandated cars like their EV1. Sort of makes you wonder what was going on in their minds. It is very hard to be up on current news and not have had some inkling that we’re close to peak oil, and that building monster trucks might have helped your paycheck today, but wouldn’t help your retirement if you bankrupted the company when the price of oil finally went up.

Bill Kemp’s “The Zero-Carbon Car” book outlined a brilliant strategy for transportation and provided the tools for people who actually wanted to make their own Zero-Carbon Car. The great news is that Bill is working on updating North America’s most popular renewable energy resource “The Renewable Energy Handbook” and it will basically be “The Zero-Carbon House” (although we’re not changing the title).

When most people move “off-the-grid” and pull the plug from the electricity lines, they also go “on-propane” and switch most of their most energy-intensive loads to propane. These are thermal or heat loads, such as cooking and producing hot water. In the past, most off-gridders simply didn’t have enough electricity to handle these loads, or they couldn’t rely on them because of the variability of renewable energy sources.

The revised and updated “Renewable Energy Handbook” will show you how to be even more aggressive in reducing your footprint on the planet, and making yourself more independent in the challenging times we find ourselves in.

In our off-grid home we are trying to move in this direction, although we’re still a way from being “zero-carbon”. Right now I am working to plumb our new solar thermal system to help us use less propane for hot water.

Our addition of extra PV panels and the new wind turbine has allowed us to shift much of our cooking to non-propane appliances, such as our convection toaster oven, electric toaster, electric kettle and electric hot plate. Our electric hot plate doesn’t look upscale or contemporary, but it’s a great way to burn off extra solar power and it doesn’t add to carbon dioxide and mercury in the atmosphere from burning coal to produce electricity, and it doesn’t leave a legacy of nuclear waste that no one has developed a long-term strategy to dispose of.

We heat with an EPA certified woodstove and burn only dead trees from our property. Many of the trees I cut in the bush I now drag back in large sections and cut with the electric chain saw into fire log lengths. We’ve added this woodstove top oven as well, which is doing an excellent job of baking for us, with heat that’s carbon neutral and free. Zero-Carbon Car. Zero-Carbon House. It can be done! There is a solution!


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