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 Post subject: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 1:06 am 
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Location: 7,000 feet, Zuni Mountains, New Mexico
It's been a goal of ours to eventually be able to go off the grid. After spending several years moving around in search of such a place, we have finally made our decision to build a cabin and go completely off the grid. We're moving much slower than I had originally anticipated, partly because we are trying to do as much as possible without a lot of debt and partly because the depressed economy has made it nearly impossible to get a loan that would support our type of lifestyle.

We have 10 acres of mountain property located at a little over 7,000 feet. The property is accessible year round with a 4 wheel drive. There are times when we might be snowed in for a few days until someone gets the roads opened up, but that only happens a few times per year. Right now I'm unable to drive onto the property due to the rapid snow melt. We've only gotten 64" inches of total snowfall so far this winter, but the permafrost didn't last long, hence why the ground is very saturated. I'll eventually have to construct a driveway with good drainage.

We recently applied for a well permit with the NM Department of Engineers. Assuming that everything goes as planned, we will have water rights for .7 acre feet/year of water. I have already chosen a well driller and plan to drill as soon as the ground dries up enough to get the well drilling equipment onto the property. Living off the grid is a great opportunity, but it's not cheap. Drilling a well could potentially be a major financial setback. For this reason, I went back to the teachings of my youth and decided to witch the property for a good water source. We actually witched the property prior to buying it, but we wanted to hone in on an area that would be conducive for our building site. After spending a full afternoon witching and marking potential drilling areas with flags, we finally selected the drilling site. It appears that we will be drilling into an underground stream or fissure.

Anyway, I will update this thread as progress is made. I'm not an expert when it comes to home construction, alternative energy, etc.. I'm completely learning as I go but I will be happy to answer questions based on my research and experiences.

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 12:43 am 
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This sounds cool and its something I have always wanted to do. Looking forward to seeing updates as they come!

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 5:16 pm 
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Location: 7,000 feet, Zuni Mountains, New Mexico
We received our well permit from the New Mexico office of the State Engineer. The property is dry enough to get the well drilling rig on it, so we’re planning to drill this Saturday before any more moisture moves in.

On a side note, Sarah and I have decided to drill a well; however, there are some people who have chosen to get their water through catchment only. The catchment system does save money and is an option for those who want to live off the grid. With that being said, we have also identified several reasons to justify the cost and need for a well.

Speaking of cost, I thought I would run down some numbers for those who are interested in cost comparisons. The well driller is estimating $19.00 dollars per linear foot to drill.

$19.00 dollars a linear foot X 175’ feet = $3,325
$19.00 dollars a linear foot X 200’ feet = $3,800
$19.00 dollars a linear foot X 225’ feet = $4,275
$19.00 dollars a linear foot X 250’ feet = $4,750
$19.00 dollars a linear foot X 275’ feet = $5,225
$19.00 dollars a linear foot X 300’ feet = $5,700
$19.00 dollars a linear foot X 325’ feet = $6,175
$19.00 dollars a linear foot X 350’ feet = $6,650

As you can see, the cost to drill can range dramatically, hence why witching the property prior to drilling is so critical. I’m going to make a few predictions prior to drilling. From the data I have gathered, it appears that there are three streams that come together to form a pool that channels into one stream. We are going to drill in the middle of that pool. I think we can hit good water within 225' feet or less.

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 6:34 pm 
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What do you have in mind for electricity? Solar isn't cheap. I've heard good things about minihydroelectric if you have reliable running surface water.

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:06 pm 
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As far as heating and cooling, Geothermal is the big thing around here. It is expensive but it will eventually pay for itself. You being in the mountains it my not work with all the rock just below the surface.

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:00 pm 
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Megalos wrote:
What do you have in mind for electricity?


I wish I had a clear and precise answer for you. Solar power is my long-term answer.

Megalos wrote:
Solar isn't cheap.


You're correct that solar isn't cheap. Historically there have been tax incentives for solar, so those tax credits should be considered into the total equation. We live in one of the sunniest places in the northern hemisphere. NM ranks very high compared to other states for direct sunlight and clear skies. Solar is a reasonable solution for generating sufficient amounts of electricity.

I have several options that I'm looking into. At a minimum, I will initially tap into the grid for the purposes to run power equipment while building. If I stay connected to the grid, I could eventually produce enough solar power to run my household. And whatever excess I couldn't store, I could sell to the utility company through a process called net metering. In this event, I would install a two-way meter and the local utility company would be cutting me a check at the end of each month.

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:27 pm 
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kskj wrote:
As far as heating and cooling, Geothermal is the big thing around here. It is expensive but it will eventually pay for itself. You being in the mountains it my not work with all the rock just below the surface.


I'm personally not a fan of geothermal heating and cooling, especially at our elevation and climate. Well designed geothermal systems on average can save the owner 30% - 70% in the heating mode and 20% - 50% in the cooling mode over conventional systems. Like solar, there are tax credits for geothermal systems. At my elevation and climate, we do not need A/C, so that eliminates the need for "cooling". Solar heat combined with the thermal mass of 10" logs will be able to sufficiently keep the home at a reasonable temperature when we are not home for prolonged periods of time during the winter. We will use a wood burning stove as supplemental heat when we are home during the cold months, otherwise, solar heat will heat our home.

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:53 am 
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Okay...what about security. I suggest a moat with a minefield beyond it. :lol:

Can you grow any food where you'll live? How's the hunting there?

Can you tell I've been watching Doomsday Preppers?

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 3:01 pm 
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Megalos wrote:
Okay...what about security. I suggest a moat with a minefield beyond it. :lol:


Much like the Doomsday Prepper show you've been watching, our property is the bug out location. Our backyard is a National Forest and the nearest grocery store is 40 miles away. We have to worry more about bears than an intruder. And unlike the Doomsday Prepper show, I won't reveal our security measures. :mrgreen:

Megalos wrote:
Can you grow any food where you'll live? How's the hunting there?


Great question. The ancient pueblo people were able to grow certain types of vegetables at this elevation. We have a very short season and many cold nights during the summer that makes growing food a challenge. I'll go into more detail once I'm at this phase, but I will say that a greenhouse is in the plans. We also have honeybees for honey production.

Megalos wrote:
Can you tell I've been watching Doomsday Preppers?


You're asking smart questions that all people from around the world should be asking themselves.

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:10 pm 
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The first episode of DP had a couple that turned their inground pool into a pond to raise tilapia (fish) and duckweed. The only nutrient input was from their chicken droppings. It seemed to work well and might be an idea for you.

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:53 pm 
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I've been in the construction industry for 24 years and the idea of being off grid really appeals to me. :SOMBRERO: I've looked into some heating possiblities with solar DIY projects. I find these sites very interesting. Check them out and let me know what you think.

http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/WaterHeating/water_heating.htm#1KSolarWater

http://www.americansolartechnics.com/index.html

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Sun Mar 24, 2013 10:37 pm 
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dieselenthusiast wrote:
I’m going to make a few predictions prior to drilling. From the data I have gathered, it appears that there are three streams that come together to form a pool that channels into one stream. We are going to drill in the middle of that pool. I think we can hit good water within 225' feet or less.


My prediction was partially correct and partially incorrect. We did not hit good water within 225’ feet like I had originally hoped for. As a matter of fact, we didn’t hit water until 240’ feet. We first hit an estimated 1/2 gallon a minute at 240 feet. Every 10’ - 20' feet thereafter we kept getting more and more water. It went from an estimated 1/2 gallon per minute to an estimated 3 gallons per minute, to an estimated 7 gallons per minute, to an estimated 18 gallons per minute, to an estimated 32 gallons per minute and finally an estimated 60+ gallons per minute. The well driller wasn't equipped to measure the gallons per minute accurately, but his estimations are well within ballpark. We stopped drilling at 330' feet.

Keep in mind that 400 gallons per day is adequate usage for a 4 person household. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Americans use large quantities of water inside their homes. The average family of four can use 400 gallons of water every day”

Take a look at this chart for a comparison:

1 gallon per minute X 24 hours = 1,440 gallons per day
5 gallons per minute X 24 hours = 7,200 gallons per day
10 gallons per minute X 24 hours = 14,400 gallons per day
15 gallons per minute X 24 hours = 21,600 gallons per day
20 gallons per minute X 24 hours = 28,800 gallons per day

I stopped the chart at 20 gallons per day because I’m not going to put in a pump that is capable of pulling more than 20 gallons per minute. This is where I’m in a dilemma. Yes, I have excellent water and the source should be plentiful for a lifetime, however, I need to take into consideration how big of a pump to put into the well and still be able to use solar as needed. At this rate, I have enough water to take a shower, run the dishwasher, flush the toilet, run the washing machine, and irrigate a large garden all at the same time.

Anyway, pics to come.

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Last edited by dieselenthusiast on Sat May 04, 2013 8:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Sun Mar 24, 2013 11:31 pm 
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Not quite like here, 70' to good water. That's still a pretty good guess Rhett.

Wow post # 2000 only took me almost 5 1/2 years.LOL

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 12:06 pm 
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Image

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Drilling through sandstone

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Got water

Image

Got lots of water

Image

4” well casing

Image

There were three shale traps used. They are used to keep falling debris from dropping further into the well.

Image

Image

Bentonite was used to plug up the hole. It’s made from naturally occurring Wyoming sodium clay

Image

This is what the bentonite looks like. It will expand 7x’s it’s size.

Image

The well casing is in and the dirty water is being flushed out. Nice clean water.

Image

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Last edited by dieselenthusiast on Thu Mar 28, 2013 8:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 7:48 pm 
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I was hoping you'd strike oil!

Congrats on the well.

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:44 pm 
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Bentonite works really well drilling in sand also. Used it many times (in powder form) while drilling holes for elevators.

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 8:59 pm 
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Here are the final numbers:

The well is 330' feet deep.
The static water level is 105' feet.
She flows 200 gallons per minute.
Total $7,327

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Last edited by dieselenthusiast on Sat May 04, 2013 8:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 9:16 pm 
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Very nice. 8)

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 9:50 pm 
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Not bad. How long did it take them?

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 Post subject: Re: Going off the grid
PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 10:12 pm 
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kskj wrote:
Not bad. How long did it take them?


It would have been done in one day, but they ran into a lot of wet clay causing the bit to gum up. We let the well sit over night and fill with water. By the next morning they we able to drill through the clay. There was enough water to keep the bit cool and also keep the hole flushed out. They drill using the air lifting method.

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