Off-grid building may only be a small portion of the homebuilding business, but cutting the utility cord is a growing trend.
An estimated 1.7 billion people were living off-grid in 2013 worldwide. Today, in the United States alone, at least 180,000 families are living off-grid—and that number increases each year according to Home Power Magazine.
This way of living is becoming more popular as families struggle to be more environmentally conscious and financially independent. In some cases, as with some of Torrey Walters’ clients, homeowners can’t get utility power because of their location. No matter the reason, going off-grid is an expensive endeavor up front. The payoff is worth it, however.
Walters owns Peaks and Valleys Construction, which is a luxury building company based out of Trinidad, Colo. His company primarily builds custom log homes, with some traditional stick-built homes thrown in.
In the past, he’s needed to construct homes that are independent of power companies. As prices for technologies such as solar panels decrease and people become more knowledgeable on how to go off-grid, I suspect builders like him will need to build more homes accordingly.
A big part of going off-grid involves wind or solar power and battery storage. The energy produced by these technologies goes into a battery storage unit, which typically consists of six batteries.
These batteries can be 6 or 12 volts and require some maintenance. Some homes also utilize a propane generator.
“If [the homeowners’] batteries start losing too much power when they are using power during the day or night, the backup generator kicks on and charges the batteries up to where they need to be,” Walters says.
Typical batteries are about $800 each. For Walters’ next project, however, he plans on incorporating Tesla’s Powerwall.
RELATED: Tesla’s Home Battery Rollout
The home battery offers independence from the utility grid. It charges using electricity generated from solar panels and provides a backup electricity supply during outages. The 10 kWh backup system is $3,500 while the 7 kWh daily cycle model costs $3,000. Both can power most homes during peak evening hours. Multiple batteries can be installed together for homes with greater energy needs.
“The upfront price is very expensive,” Walters says. He adds that the wind, solar and batteries in a 2,400-square-foot home run about $25,000. A generator is another $7,500. “Then again, they don’t have to pay anything after that.”
For the upcoming vacation home project incorporating the Tesla battery, Walters is going to attempt to do a shared program, called net-metering, that pulls in utility power while utilizing solar.
“We’re going to sell back the power that their solar generates back to the power company, so when they come and visit they’ll pretty much have their power paid for,” Walters says.