The Editor of Home Power magazine says there are 180,000 off-grid homes in the US. But there’s a bidding war going on. William Kemp, author of Renewable Energy Handbook, and its urban sister publication $mart Power says there are 250,000 off-grid locations in the US.
It’s the battle of the experts. Home Power has a formidable reputation, but the thoroughness and technical expertise in these two books, puts Bill Kemp up there with the industry leaders. If he says there are a quarter million of us out there, then there probably are.
The difference between the two volumes is that the Handbook is aimed at solving energy requirements in off-grid locations. $mart power is aimed at grid-connected urbanites. They do overlap, so you certainly would not want to buy both, and I consider the Handbook the better of the two. But most people live in towns and cities are grid-connected and they will need $mart power. The key information is on page 8. Wind turbines and solar panels are not $mart. They may be smart as in good for the environment, or as a protection against a collapse in civilisation, or your local power station being taken out by Al Quaeda, but you are never gonna save cash that way (at current and predicted energy costs). The same is true of solar water heaters. The same is also true of wood burning stoves, although if you love the sight of fire and you want to scavenge for your wood in the street and building sites, then that would tip the score heavily in favour of the stove.
The place that urbanites (and people living off-grid) can get smart about power, is in energy-efficiency designing your home so that it needs less power, and buying products that consume less power, like low-energy light bulbs. Kemp’s book does the math, and lays out the massive savings that can be made. He also describes exactly how to modify your home in order to reduce energy use.
It has to be said that The Renewable Energy Handbook and $mart Power are in no way a fun read, and feel more like Bill’s lecture notes in book-length form. That said, they offer great value in terms of the depth of information given. They are absolutely fact-crammed and largely reliable guides to most of the technical questions you are likely to ask about renewable energy systems to generate electricity in the home, whether off-grid or on. Both books also covers Water heating and space heating, and cooling.
People actually living off-grid, whether full time or part-time, will want The Renewable Energy Handbook rather than $mart Power. When it comes to understanding and installing the essential elements of off-grid power, from whole energy systems to the heating unit in your hot tub, Bill Kemp is The Man.
The books make no claim to cover off-grid water systems, or anything else. Just Energy, like it says on the cover.
Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site
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