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How can we get people off the grid for less than a thousand dollars?

  1. May 9, 2013 #1
    This is a small experiment I would like to conduct. I was told if you can give a scientist a problem, they will always have an answer. No matter how unrealistic.

    I am here to ask all of you to ponder a practical and realistic way to get people off of the power grid. The ideas expressed should not have any selfish or greedy intent. I would like to think that as a community of knowledgeable people a solution can be found to help all of humanity.

    Anyways, I am not 100% sure how this experiment should work. All that I know is that it is an experiment that could have a historical impact on our world. Collective thought is an amazing thing.

    I assume a good starting place would be brain storming ideas of how to generate or conserve electricity.

    After there is no debate about which idea for generating and conserving electricity is best, the ideas of how to make them the most sufficient will be needed.

    After discussing the ways to make this idea sufficiently generate and collect energy we would need to learn how everyday people can integrate it into their homes.

    I am hoping that this discussion will bring forth 2 things. A cheap and reliable source of energy to everyone who needs it. As well as reshaping the way we think about online socializing networks.

    Thank you to everyone who reads this. I appreciate any feedback, even if you think I am delusional.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 9, 2013 #2
    motor, alternator, batteries
  4. May 9, 2013 #3
    Convert them to be Amish. Cost = $0 and it gets them off the power grid.
  5. May 9, 2013 #4


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    Most of human history contradicts the idea that electricity is even necessary
  6. May 9, 2013 #5
    Would you mind to elaborate?
  7. May 9, 2013 #6


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    The easiest way to get people off of the grid is to destroy the grid. What they do after that is their problem.
  8. May 9, 2013 #7
    I don't disagree. What they did after they destroyed it and what we can do now are probably the same tho.
  9. May 9, 2013 #8


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    I believe that if the grid vanished, there would be thousands of different independent approaches taken. As with biological evolution, the strongest would survive and merge (or co-exist amicably) into a new widespread infrastructure. We'd probably end up back where we are now, but not in a good mood.
  10. May 9, 2013 #9
    Assume people found a way to power their home for less than a thousand dollars and their source lasted for 5 years. That would average their power bill to be $16.67 a month. If we could do something like that, it would be much more affordable than todays market. Therefore we would not not end up where we are at today.
    Last edited: May 9, 2013
  11. May 9, 2013 #10


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    No; I'm a firm believer in fusion power, but we would have to have our current level of energy sufficiency in order to create it.
    I should specify that I'm thinking of a post-apocalyptic sort of scenario rather than a gradual weaning from the grid. It just doesn't seem to me that the latter will happen voluntarily. Sure, some people do it and lots more would like to, but it's never going to work for someplace like London or Hong Kong or New York City.
    What we have now is just a large-scale version of what people would do on their own. The Niagara Falls hydro generating plant is the same thing as a farmer putting a paddle-wheel in his creek, but a tad bigger.

    edit: I should probably just back out of this conversation. You're looking for solutions and all I have are opinions. That's not helping you any.
    Last edited: May 9, 2013
  12. May 9, 2013 #11
    It never hurts to state an opinion. I can PM you my response if you'd like. I appreciate you not derailing my post.
  13. May 9, 2013 #12


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    Sure; that'd be cool with me. (As long as you're not working up to trying to sell me something. :biggrin:)
  14. May 9, 2013 #13
    A few issues I see here.

    I think you need to be a bit more specific about what you want this off grid system to do. If you want to disconnect from the grid and yet still live the same way as when you were on it, that is pretty much impossible with any idea I have ever heard or thought of. If you are willing to accept some life style changes it may well be possible to build a house with so called, "passive solar" that will supply all the heat and air conditioning that would otherwise be supplied by natural gas or electricity.

    Most people are unaware that most of the energy used in a home is for heating and hot water, not for electric appliances (unless the home uses electric heat and hot water), so a passive heating and cooling system would eliminate about 75% of the energy presently used in a home. Unfortunately, due to the much higher cost per KWH of electricity vs. the cost per KWH of natural gas, even though such a home would reduce energy consumption by 75% it wouldn't reduce energy cost by 75% (except on an electrically heated home).

    I am working for a company that is designing an integrated energy system for homes that would not increase the cost of a new home but would supply all the heat, hot water, air conditioning, and electricity used in the home. Though the system doesn't raise the cost of a home it would cost more than your $1000 target to retrofit it to an existing structure.
  15. May 9, 2013 #14
    I believe I know what you are talking about. I have seen a couple of videos about a new type of window that allows more heat from the sun in during winter months and lets heat escape during the summer while keeping the heat rays from the sun out.

    Though this would be a great addition to what I'm trying to accomplish, it doesn't fit the criteria of the needs we have today.
    There are lots of alternative energy ideas today that weren't thought of a decade ago. Sometime this year I read about a steam engine that could turn water into steam in less than a few seconds using an electric coil to heat up the water.
    I wish I could find the source for that information, but alas I can't remember what even lead me to that page.

    There are plenty of ideas out there, quite a few good ones. I'd like to think that we can turn some of those ideas into great inventions.
  16. May 9, 2013 #15


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    Steam engines generate electricity, they don't consume it.

    I like your enthusiasm, but what you are trying to accomplish here isn't possible to do here.
  17. May 10, 2013 #16
    I appreciate that you like my enthusiasm, but I must say the only thing impossible is finding an answer to a question that is not asked.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  18. May 10, 2013 #17


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    Right. You can probably get off the grid for $1000 if you have an unlimited supply of free fuel!
    Rhetorical nonsense. Sorry, but this forum exists in the real world and in the real world, some things really are impossible.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  19. May 10, 2013 #18


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    My wife and I live in a log house in a remote area. We heat with wood, which is plentiful and cheap. However, if you want minimal electricity, some Internet access, and maybe some satellite TV (no cable out here) it's going to cost you a lot more than $1K/year to keep things together. If we didn't want electricity, Internet connectivity, and some TV channels, we could pull it off, but it wouldn't be fun.
  20. May 10, 2013 #19
    It was impossible for us to see atoms at one point in history as well.
    I'm not saying there aren't limited possibilities. I'm saying once a goal is defined and knowledgeable people start discussing about ways to obtain it, the goal can be achieved within our physical limits.

    Why can't we come up with an idea that uses a little electricity to create an abundance of electricity? Why is that impossible?
  21. May 10, 2013 #20
    The problem you are asking an obvious question that dozens of companies, thousands of scientists/engineers, and millions of dollars per year are being spent trying to answer.

    So while the question might not be impossible to answer, the chance that the solution is found by someone quickly typing out an answer on an internet message board probably is...
  22. May 10, 2013 #21
    I am asking people to put aside doubt and start using constructive discussion to find answers.
    What has become considered educated science without discussion and ridicule?
    I don't think it will be a "quick" answer. I do think that the ability to gather thousands of peoples written thoughts, inside a forum like this one, should be considered a reason to assume that a solution can be reached.
  23. May 10, 2013 #22
    See, I'm not really an expert, but isn't there a little scientific law about not being able to create or destroy energy?

    Sure, you can use a step-up transformer, but that's absolutely useless if you can't increase the current or power (Which you will never be able to do in this universe). You're not going to be able to power your house with a 9-volt and an industrial transformer.
  24. May 10, 2013 #23
    Sure, but wouldn't that be more of an implication that the energy is and has always been here?

    I assume an electric motor can make an alternator spin fast enough to power the motor and generate electricity for other things as well.
    The only issues with that is the alternator and motor would need to cool down and can't run continuously. The alternator may not produce more than enough electricity to keep the motor running, though I am sure there is a motor/alternator pair that could make this idea possible I haven't found one yet.
  25. May 10, 2013 #24
    You haven't found one because one doesn't exist. See, what I'm getting from this is "Why can't I make a perpertual power device?" (which, if I recall, is against forum guidelines)*.

    i.e. You want the alternator to power the motor... that's running the alternator... which is, again, impossible for more than a few hours (of continuously losing energy the entire time). Not to mention the fact that you also want the alternator to power OTHER things besides the motor powering IT.

    *EDIT: as a matter of fact, it is (about halfway down).
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2013
  26. May 10, 2013 #25

    Just because I presented my thoughts about how we may conclude a solution to the stipulations in my OP does not mean I am asking people to make a perpetual power device, it just means I assume it is possible.
    Don't try to make this post about something that it isn't...

    Not to mention what I described shouldn't be considered perpetual motion because as I mentioned it would have to stop to cool down.
    Last edited: May 10, 2013
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