There can be no question that setting up an off the grid alternative energy home can be quite costly. In this post, I’ll be sharing some tips that you can use to reduce your alternative energy costs.
Before you go hog wild and start spending money hand over fist to get your system set up, take a good hard look at your energy needs. I suggest that you do an energy audit. A good place to start is to pull out all of your electricity bills for the prior 12 months. With this data you can figure out how many kilowatts you’re home is consuming on average each day.
Don’t make the mistake of only using data from a month like May when you aren’t using your furnace much and you haven’t started using your air conditioner yet. To be on the safe side, you probably want to size your system to accommodate the months that you use the most electricity.
Put Your Home on an Energy Diet
Now that you have an idea of how much power your family consumes, it’s time to see if you can put your home on a diet. This is the time to look at things like whether or not you’re using energy efficient light bulbs everywhere you can. You can also look at things like whether your furnace or heat pump is as efficient as it can be. Consider whether it’s time to replace those old drafty single pane windows. Could your walls or attic be insulated better to cut your heating and cooling costs? Would it be cost effective to purchase energy efficient appliances such as washers, dryers, and refrigerators?
What I’m getting at here is if you can make your home more energy efficient, it will cost you to make the improvements on the front end but it could save you a lot of money on down the line. If you’re able to trim enough of the fat from your home that isn’t as energy efficient as it could be, you can get by with installing a smaller renewable energy power system.
Another thing to consider is that the more energy efficient you can make your home, the more power you can sell back to the electric company if you install a grid-tied system. Your system could actually end up paying you just for having it. Of course you won’t see any of this free money until your off grid system has generated enough electricity for you that it pays for itself but by being clever about how you approach this project, you can really come out on top.
Negotiating The Best Price on Your Alternative Energy System
The next tip I have for you is to negotiate a package deal when you buy your system. Instead of buying your solar panels one place, your wind turbine another, and your power inverter somewhere else, you might try negotiating for a better price on an entire package. You’d be surprised how much more likely someone will be to negotiate with you when you are going to be spending several thousand dollars instead of just a few hundred dollars.
I suggest that you don’t ask for a discount on a package deal right up front. Instead, ask them to price everything separately as if you’re not planning on buying an entire system from them. After you know what they charge for each of the components separately, it’s time to start negotiating. Add up how much you would spend for your system based on the prices they gave for the individual components. This is your baseline negotiating number. When you have this number, ask what kind of a deal they can make you if you agree to purchase everything you need from them as a complete package. If they won’t budge on their price, go somewhere else and deal with someone who really wants your business.
Negotiating The Best Price On The Installation of Your System
The next tip I have is to do any steps of the installation process that you are qualified to do yourself. This can save you a lot of money because hiring a contractor to install the entire system is going to be costly. Speaking of contractors, don’t just hire the first person you find in the phone book. Call around and do some price shopping before you pick a contractor but don’t just pay what they ask. After you get some prices, start calling contractors back and tell them that you found a contractor who would do the job for less than they quoted you. If you are able to find a contractor who really needs the work, they might actually underbid the previous low bid. You’d be surprised how competitive contractors can be if they just know the price they have to beat.
Avoid Unnecessary Costs By Maintaining Your System Properly
Going off the grid comes with some big responsibilities. You’re no longer relying on your local power company to supply your home with the electricity that it needs. You’ve now become your own independent power company and you alone are responsible for maintaining it properly. If you don’t learn how to do this or if you neglect crucial maintenance chores like watering your batteries, your system could end up becoming a bottomless pit that you have to constantly throw money into.
The bottom line if you want to reduce your alternative energy costs is to plan well, negotiate well, and maintain well. Do these three things and you’ll end up spending much less than if you don’t.