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Small Cabin Forum / Off-Grid Living / What to do, got offer on my solar
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gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 11 Jun 2021 09:23 - Edited by: gcrank1
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I have a 600w solar system at our part time/rec cabin feeding some 200ah's of pretty well aged 12v FLA bats. I invert to 120vac at the bats and we have light-duty needs (hd I start the gen) and this has been working nicely for much of the past year.
Some friends bought an off-grid cabin this spring and have expressed interest in my system and their needs/considerations are much the same as mine.
The timing on this is interesting, Ive almost filed the form with our local elec utility for an est of running grid power in the 340ish feet. I know from the neighbor (who was gone most of the Covid year) that the monthly bill with no usage ran him $35. Based on that, and our low consumption I figure grid would cost us about $500/yr (but no telling where this cost will go, though).
Ive also been thinking that in the interim, since we still will have the gen, I could just shuttle a 100ah LFP back & forth to home for recharge and we could do just as well as we have been on my simple solar.
Im thinking if my friends would buy my system for the price for me to buy a LFP it would make an easy transition for us and they could start installing it all at their place soon.
Whadayathink?

WILL1E
Member
# Posted: 11 Jun 2021 09:49
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What were the reasons you were considering going on the grid in the first place? Your aging solar system? Ease of being on grid?

We are at our place in northern WI 2 times a month. Our bills have been steady between $25-$35, and that's powering our 5th wheel (Fridge, microwave, electric fireplace, lights, etc, etc.). While i think it would be awesome to be on solar, the convivence is hard to beat. I think i'd be more apt to solar if it was full time as there would be more cost savings to be had.

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 11 Jun 2021 10:25 - Edited by: gcrank1
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My system works! At some 10ish yrs old its reliable and I think fairly user friendly. It will need new bats within the next year; that means some substantial money that could be put toward grid and or factor that as at least 1yr of monthly elec bills.
Grid is 'easy'. And my solar exposure is from about 9am to 1pm only. As it is the bat-bank keeps up with our low-moderate use, but that is No fridge (we use ice chest; no prob), no AC (hey, its the Dog Days of Aug already here in WI!), no well pump But, No Well (yet) either. Planning for our future use, and resale, grid would be an enhancement I think, possibly to the tune of recovering all the annual costs of having grid power.
The 340ish feet of run, some of which should be 'free' is not too far like many here who have no choice.
Yeah, Im 68 with 'issues', easy is sounding better to me, I dont keep up with stuff as well these days and it aint gonna get better. My wife likewise, or more, because she doesnt even want comprehensive instructions on the solar system/works/considerations, she wants turn-key/flip a switch. Not that it is just preference with her, she is not 'mechanical' at all.

Brettny
Member
# Posted: 11 Jun 2021 10:25
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How good of friends are they going to be when the most expensive part of the system, the aged FLA really start to drop off after a few years?

As far as off/on grid if your only 340' from the grid I would be connecting up tomorrow. It does add a monthly expense but will raise the value of the property alone in my area. Even just a power pole with a main breaker pannel and outlets on it means they can hook an RV up.

paulz
Member
# Posted: 11 Jun 2021 10:41
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Really up to you, you know the pros and cons of each, your power needs now and future, your budget, your area, the future of solar tech..

Me, I would have gotten grid power when I started if it was feasible (would need power poles on both sides of the main road, transformer, underground wiring..) but now that I'm set off grid I prefer it.

FishHog
Member
# Posted: 11 Jun 2021 11:52
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id go for grid power if it was an option

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 11 Jun 2021 11:58
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They know going in that the bats need replacement but are 'working'. The mppt scc can handle 12/24v so up to them after initial install to functional at 12 to decide if they want to stick with 12 or go 24v.
I expect that when the prev owner put this system in his costs were probably about what running the grid in would have been, but he was a 'rebel' and only there seasonally, so probably figured saving the monthly grid fee paid off for him. I figure he broke-even and died before having to replace the 4 big agm batteries.

WILL1E
Member
# Posted: 11 Jun 2021 13:30
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When i ran my power in last year, my cost was under $100...don't recall off hand what my footage was. But, i don't recall any requirements that i keep my meter active for X amount of time. If i recall from previous properties, they will disconnect and reconnect your meter once a year at no cost. So if you know you aren't going to use it for a few months (winter?) or decide to get back into solar, that option is there. Like you and others say, adding power on property add's value...everyone knows how to flip a switch, not so much when it comes to operating/maintaining/understanding solar!

mj1angier
Member
# Posted: 11 Jun 2021 15:20
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If I could get on grid without having to muck around with county permits, I be on it like a fat kid on a candy bar! I just wanted a power pole like campers hook to but they want site plans, permits, a kidney...

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 11 Jun 2021 17:36
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I had tried to get just a rough est , the terms and conditions back last year but we had not closed on the property so they didnt even want to talk to me. There is a form online to complete, as owner, and a $50 est free that can be applied to the job if 'accepted'.
Oh silly me, I thought I could just meet a guy from the pwr company out there, take the short walk, have him explain the process and ballpark a number to see if it was feasible.......
Hadn't thought about permits either. Guess I better look at the county web-site to find out how much I gotta grease their skids with.

Brettny
Member
# Posted: 11 Jun 2021 19:46
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That $50 might be the best $50 you ever spent.

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 11 Jun 2021 20:03 - Edited by: gcrank1
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Yeah Brett, I have to watch myself, I can be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Another funny thing is happening....as it seems to get closer to this selling my solar becoming a done-deal I find myself feeling like Im giving up something special; ie, I have solar, Ive figured and reconfigured it several times with various levels of success and no disasters, I can (I think) ask intelligent questions and carry on a decent conversation regarding small scale solar electric and, well, I find it interesting to mess about with and think on.
Id lose my cache of being 'Off Grid'!

ICC
Member
# Posted: 11 Jun 2021 21:03
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The power company is maybe picky about what it is going to be asked to share its power with. That is, it needs to be in compliance with codes, or there must be permits in place to allow construction and inspection. Pickiness may vary from one provider to another. Check all the requirements in detail before letting your alternative energy system be carted away. Of course that would allow change to a higher voltage system and hardware quality upgrading.

Nobadays
Member
# Posted: 12 Jun 2021 08:41
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What ICC said... more or less. Depending on the wiring of your cabin they may not even allow the lines to be energized. My experience is the building being hooked up must have a permitted/approved electrical system before they will install the meter.

A work around may be to install a permitted meter base with a main/sub breakers that feed a power outlet or two. Something like a RV hookup.

Brettny
Member
# Posted: 12 Jun 2021 09:38
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Quoting: ICC
The power company is maybe picky about what it is going to be asked to share its power with. That is, it needs to be in compliance with codes, or there must be permits in place to allow construction and inspection. Pickiness may vary from one provider to another. Check all the requirements in detail before letting your alternative energy system be carted away. Of course that would allow change to a higher voltage system and hardware quality upgrading.

This is very true if the cabin is permanently hooked up. A power pole with a meter, breakers and outlets for an "RV".

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 12 Jun 2021 10:41 - Edited by: gcrank1
Reply 


I am in a cabin/cottage area so the RV 'pole' is quite commonly seen and was my intention. I have no service box or real wiring in the cabin, figured I could hook up to the RV Pole like we used to do with the camper (still have 50' of RV 30amp cord), wire the cabin like an RV (simple/basic) and a proper RV type wall plug. Maybe not since it is a structure?
I know of one fellow just down the road that put in the RV Pole last year. His run was way shorter than mine and it still cost him some $2500
They only do underground here now too.

Aklogcabin
Member
# Posted: 12 Jun 2021 11:50
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Our son recently had his power hooked up. Where we are the power company owns n cares about the meter and everything back from there. Everything from the meter forward is the homeowners responsibility.
There are temporary meter bases also for during construction. Usually one of the first things on the site. Hard to build without electricity.
On a remote meter base the meter side and homeowners side are in the same box. Meter on one side n main breaker for home on the other. I split our 100 amp for house 100 amp for garage.
How could a house be built without electricity being there first ? Not practical. So how could the power company require a house inspection before hookup ?

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 12 Jun 2021 12:03
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Something in the back of my mind is 'a building permit' requirement....?
The prev guy I mentioned from last year got the permit, wants/plans to build but did the RV Pole so he could move in his 5th wheel for now.
We are going up today, I will see if he is there to ask more.

ICC
Member
# Posted: 12 Jun 2021 13:11 - Edited by: ICC
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Quoting: Aklogcabin
So how could the power company require a house inspection before hookup ?


They don't. But the construction pole is temporary. They will not leave one there forever. And where I am they want to see the basic building permit before the tp pole goes in. Then, before the poco will install the meter on the home they need to see that the wiring has been passed. No permit = no inspection = no connection to the power grid. RV poles are another matter. One can run into zoning issues when RV's get mentioned. And maybe not. Depends.

There are a number of off grid cabins in my area. Many were built with no permits of any kind. Those will never be connected to the grid without jumping through hoops and paying "I'm sorry" fees and paying fines for building w/o a permit in the first place and having post contruction inspections or upgrades done to code. Electrical safety is a big deal.

The rules and methods in Alaska ate likely very different from those in the lower 48 and the Canadian provinces.

Brettny
Member
# Posted: 12 Jun 2021 15:18
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It's way dif in NY. You own until the taps off the pole. They will hook up to a main pannel I believe with just a gfci below it.

mj1angier
Member
# Posted: 12 Jun 2021 17:39
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Quoting: ICC
They don't. But the construction pole is temporary. They will not leave one there forever. And where I am they want to see the basic building permit before the tp pole goes in.


This.
County don't want folks living in sheds and/ or campers. Because if living shed/ camper, where you crapping at? So need a septic plan/ system. then where you getting water? Then you need permit for well...

For us in NC, you got to go whole hog or no hog. At least the best I can tell

ICC
Member
# Posted: 12 Jun 2021 20:54
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Yep.

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 12 Jun 2021 21:46
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Neighbor wasnt at his place to ask so I went back and did pace off the 'run' from my pole, boy, was I off. It is 440ish feet pole to front door. Could shave that a bit shorter but still its a long run.
Now, reading these posts over, I am wondering if I might be opening a bag of snakes? I will look at the county permitting info online with all your thought provoking comments in mind.
Sure looks like staying with my current system until I really know how deep this hole is makes sense; ie, selling what works now in exchange for a bag of snakes and having to maybe buy new again would be dumb.

Brettny
Member
# Posted: 13 Jun 2021 05:45
Reply 


Maybe you should be contacting the power dept and asking them about what is required to bring in power.

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 13 Jun 2021 12:27
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I did way back, they said fill out the form c/w the building permit info, give us $50 and we will work up an est.

Brettny
Member
# Posted: 13 Jun 2021 13:30
Reply 


The next step I would take is to call the building dept and ask when they expect for a permit. In my town all the electrical inspections are done by a 3rd party.

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 13 Jun 2021 14:23
Reply 


Im not trying to run under the radar but I also dont want to open a can of snakes. This existing structure was built as a 'hunting cabin, off-grid, dry' and has been on the prop tx roles; we bought it 'as is'.
Im going to be pulling up the pwr co online form again to look over. Maybe by putting in that it is an existing structure it might by-pass the 'building permit'? I'll have to see what it says, easy enough from my comfort chair when I get an extra hour.....

ICC
Member
# Posted: 13 Jun 2021 14:28
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Quoting: gcrank1
they said fill out the form c/w the building permit info


That would seem to mean you would at least need to have an approved electrical system in the cabin, even if the cabin itself was not built with permit. An inquiry might open a can 'o' worms.

Do you pay taxes on the property that are reflective of the assessor knowing there is a habitable structure? In my county, there are several unpermitted builds I know of. They all pay taxes. The assessor website even has ground-level pictures on the publically available website. They do not seem to communicate with the building department very well.

If one goes to the building permit department for a new permit for something, like adding a room or adding some electrical, who knows what will happen? I know of one old cabin where the owner applied for an owner installed service panel and circuits that was approved with no problems.

Did you build the structure or was it an existing building you purchased? If you built it the bldg dept could go after you for a post-construction permit. I have no idea what happens if someone buys an existing property that has a structure that was not built with a permit. That very likely becomes a judgment call on that department. No idea for certain.

gcrank1
Member
# Posted: 13 Jun 2021 15:48
Reply 


Prev owner who died in 2019 built it in 2011. There is absolutely nothing about it that would pass any code Ive seen..... That said, it is sound enough that it aint gonna fall down any time soon.
We closed on it last Aug1 and are fine with that. It is a part time, recreational cabin for us and in a poor township with a lot of cabins and cottages from way back.
And yes, it has been and still is being taxed as if it is 'more than it is'. We aint making waves about the over-valuation and are on very good terms with the neighbors. At this point it seems we are being treated like it is 'grandfathered in'. I think it a good thing the longer it goes on like this.
I am very aware that some questions to some entities probably should not be asked.....

jhp
Member
# Posted: 13 Jun 2021 22:22
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I have found that sometimes it helps to tell the company you are looking for a "budgetary estimate" of what the cost for power will bring in so you can get your ducks in a row. Literally tell them you are trying to figure out if this is going to cost you $1500 or $15000, and you won't quote them on what they tell you.

Generally people are willing to give you a figure you can work with - $X to get us out there and $Y a foot from the pole sort of estimate.

Something else you can try is call up another power company in another part of the state and ask them for their install costs - that should be at least ballpark for what you're going to be in for.

As far as the county goes, get a Google Voice phone number and call them from that and again, just give them your situation. If they ask for your name or parcel number or whatever, tell them you're looking at properties for sale and you want to know what kind of issues you might run into bringing power in to a place listed as off grid, but you don't want to give them any specifics about someone else's place.

Personally I wouldn't be worried about that as much. Even in my house in town if I call for an electrical inspection they're not checking out my sewer lines, fence height, and roof framing.

Unless the place is a literal visually obvious hazard I would think you should be ok. They're going to want to see that yep, the power company brought the power in, and a real electrician hooked it up to the panel inside.

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